Unfortunately, the further you get, the more it starts to fall to bits. There's some spectacularly awful voice acting throughout, but none so painfully hideous as that offered later in England. Imagine Dick Van Dyke crossed with a dog being drowned in a bath. Many accents swim in and out, visiting Australia, South Africa and Azerbaijan on their demented way.
Also, the translation seems to become increasingly poor. There's an absolutely stunning amount of recorded dialogue here. Every item has at least two or three descriptions, often many more, and conversations are meticulously detailed. The writing is damned fine, too. Except, the further you get, the more mistakes creep in, until you can hear the bemusement in the American actors' voices as they say something nonsensical. It all gets a bit Babelfishy, with ceilings of buildings being referred to as "lids". You can fathom the route to the mistake, but you shouldn't have to be retro-translating as you play.
Despite this, and despite the story becoming more focused on creepy curses and secret orders than people and their lives, another fantastic aspect of Black Mirror II is the scepticism that permeates it. Far too many games in this genre greet ghosts, demons and Satanic cults as if they're the postman. "Oh, hello. Got any ancient curses for me today? Ooh, you're murdering me with your mind." But here Darren remains a sceptic throughout. And more importantly, reasonably so. The mystical is significantly underplayed such that there's genuine ambiguity as to its reality, and I'm not saying which way it goes.
There's a flipping enormous number of locations, and all are elaborately detailed. It's a very traditional 2.5D arrangement, with painted 2D backgrounds and 3D character models wandering about. The animations are mostly well-detailed (although just please, could one game featuring a character playing a pipe of some sort not do that weird hip-wiggling dance?).
Best of all, you almost never have to watch Darren plodding about. Double-clicking on something to look at will ping him straight to it, as well as letting him skip straight to scene exits. Like the first game, it's one of very few adventure games that understands people don't want to sit and watch a man trudging about for 90 per cent of the time.
So, you have a mix. On one hand it's a very nicely written (if somewhat poorly translated and, occasionally, acted) game, but on another it's a collection of the most tired, clichéd puzzles imaginable. It's absolutely huge, and enormously detailed, but the further you get, the less focus goes into the characters. It begins with a smart, tight story, but by the end, the twists come so fast that it all feels made up as they went along. There's almost nothing original about it on any level, but then what's normally so tedious in Euro-adventures is delivered pretty well here.
This is a game that wavers between getting a 6 or a 7 throughout - and then comes the ending. Or, as it happens, it doesn't. A cliffhanger ending for a sequel to a seven-year-old game that most people haven't heard of just isn't acceptable. Plonk, it lands safely on 6.
Which is a shame, since I'd love to more heartily recommend this for those looking for an old-school, hefty adventure. In a world of bite-sized comedy cartoon adventuring, it's great to sink into a developed world of serious-toned investigation. This is still certainly worth getting if you're of that frame of mind, and willing to put up with the familiar foibles of dodgy translations. But with no ending, it's impossible to properly celebrate.
6 / 10