Welcome to TiC’s Indie Spotlight where we will highlight a different indie game on a regular basis that we think deserves your attention. This feature will also showcase the developers behind the magic that is put into the games that captivate our hearts. The indie game scene has seen a huge spike in support and success over the last few years. All well deserved, as indie developers have been putting their heart and soul into their projects to the point that many titles released over the past few years have arguably provided a better experience than many of the high profile AAA games being released.
So without further ado, let’s get started by highlighting this week’s game: Pocket Mirror and the developers behind this title, Astral Shift.
The twisted masterminds behind Pocket Mirror are a fresh new team. Getting their feet wet in indie development, Astral Shift opted to use video game development tool Game Maker. With the development enviroment set in stone, the team chose to create an RPG experience that lifts from past Japanese RPG’s. Astral Shift claims inspiration of the title came from similar games in the genre; IB and The Witch’s House. With their first game now complete and free to download, Astral Shift awaits eagerly as players discuss the possible interpretations of their mystery horror game as they continue on to their next project.
Astral Shift:We love secretive but intricate plots that make absolutely no sense until you try to make sense out of it yourself and we made sure Pocket Mirror could become that kind of experience.
As you download the free game make sure to keep reading.
— AstralShift (@AstralShiftDS) July 23, 2016
Pocket Mirror is an original horror puzzle adventure game. Astral Shift cites that Pocket Mirror is 80% symbolism and 20% story development. From my experience playing the game, those words roughly translate into a mature story that doesn’t hold the players hands. Most modern day stories in video games or even modern day films often deliver ideas and conflicts by spoon feeding audiences. Astral Shift does the opposite. Instead you start the game with the words “Hold your memories close to your heart.” “You shouldn’t ever let it go, do you understand?” Waking up in a dark room, playing as a red eyed girl without a name and without a reflection, you realize there are no handrails in this game. You’re on your own.
Don’t let the artwork fool you, this game is a creepy expereince
Those of you with a weak will beware the game as it sports a dark and and eerie tone. Sure you play as a typical anime inspired female protagonist but that doesn’t stop the world from being a dangerous trap infused nightmare fun house. The juxtaposition of the colorful and alluring artwork clashes with its creepy sound design and atmosphere. I love it and hate it at the same time. The Final Fantasy like sprites pull you in and remind you of your favorite childhood games. The hand drawn art depicting the in game characters are like a warm embrace giving you safety and comfort. Then just as you feel right at home the game shrieks the most terrifying sounds making you realize you’re hugging a serial killer.
Just exploring a room sends a bone chilling rush down my spine. At any corner or wrong decision death could come for you. Preparing myself mentally for the next corner, I found myself second guessing my choices. “Could helping a crying doll see once more benefit me?” I asked as I had recently escaped a room hosting a similar doll that was laughing maniacally.The only way to survive the game is to quickly become a cynic. Never trust anyone, never trust anything.
The best example I could give to share the world of Pocket Mirror is Alice: Madness Returns. One thinks fondly of Alice from the Disney animated film but most other renditions of the story depict a terrifying world that’s dark and full of terrors. Pocket Mirror also depicts a cruel and unforgiving world that will take your life at any given chance. Fantastical rooms full of talking pumpkins, killer dolls, and psychotic paintings await in Pocket Mirror.
During my time with the game I felt plenty of similarities between it and other well regarded games. Like certain Tell Tale Games, Pocket Mirror offers a strong foundation with a world full of character. The story will keep you wondering what is really going on in this horror house as you play as the nameless girl. Dialogue options often open up that will result in either life or death. Choose your words wisely.
The puzzles are far more difficult than those found in most modern games. Lately horror games have been following a trend in which gamers need to solve a puzzles in order to progress. Famously popularized by the Silent Hills Playable Teaser, Pocket Mirror also mainly revolves around puzzle solving. This can either be a hit or a miss for gamers.
Puzzle games may be fun for many but at times they can either be too simple or too difficult to solve. On the easy side of the spectrum a game like Playdead’s Inside may be brought up. Solving puzzles in Inside requires a minute or two of brainstorming. Eventually you’ll solve the puzzle and move on using factors like trial and error and perhaps some physics. Pocket Mirror does not follow this type of critical thinking. Instead the game follows the obscure puzzle solving of the Silent Hills Playable Teaser. In the Playable Teaser puzzles get extremly obtuse. Whether it be listening to a Radio or searching for pieces of a picture in the smallest of corners, PT had gamers consult with each other online for help. In Pocket Mirror you’re going to use past dialogues as hints, search obscure walls, use items in specific settings, run away from danger, and consult an online guide if you want to complete the game. That may be a negative for some gamers but for me it’s a plus.
Overall the game feels and lasts more than a lot of AAA games of modern day. There is so much to explore and the accompanied narrative will leave a lasting impression that will delight those who enjoy a good mystery. The sound design offers horror moments that will be ingrained in your brain as you try to go to sleep at night questioning whether you locked your doors. As their first entry in the gaming world, Astral Shift has knocked it out of the park and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Let us know what you thought about this feature in the comments below. Have you read our last Indie Spotlight Shantae and the Pirates Curse? Let us know what you thought about Pocket Mirror in the comments below.