Reflecting poorly on the genre
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, what is the best first-person puzzler of them all? Is it Q.U.B.E. or The Turing Test? They aren’t bad, but not quite the best. Is it The Talos Principle or Antichamber? Maybe, you are certainly getting warmer. Tell me, I must know. The best first-person puzzler has test chambers, a voiced narrator, and involves firing a gun at precise locations. Well then, mirror, it must be BLIK, the new reflection-based puzzler from DimleTeam? Oh no, you’re not even close.
BLIK is another in a growing list of puzzle games that uses the first-person perspective and takes players through a series of gradually more difficult test rooms. You’re a student in an ‘academy’ and will need to complete roughly 60 puzzle chambers to graduate. During your journey through samey white rooms—rendered adequately by the Unity engine—you’ll be annoyed by a narrator who always sounds like he’s about to sneeze. The dialogue he has to work with is hardly ideal, as it seems like something was lost in translation. There’s no story worth mentioning, apart from when the narrator tells you that you will be unable to graduate and then changes his mind a few minutes later.
Puzzles in this academy are all about reflection and this involves large mirrors that can often be rotated on the spot, shifted along a linear track, or both. But unlike many other games that use reflection, it does not involve laser beams. Instead, you will use a Blaster weapon to fire a tiny energy projectile that will slowly bounce off the mirrors. To get to the next chamber, the projectile must hit certain mirrors and then a final switch. Some mirrors will reflect depending on the angle of incidence, while others will focus to a set point regardless of the original impact angle. At least, that was the intention.
In practice, the reflection mechanics are tedious and partly broken. When moving the focusing mirrors, they will show a line to indicate which mirror (or switch) it is aimed towards, but firing at it with the blaster can see the projectile miss the target entirely. There is variability in the reflected angle that is impossible to predict. Just moving the crosshair one pixel either way can mean the difference between success and failure. And this is for mirrors that are meant to focus on a single point. The other mirrors, which account for the incident angle, are infinitely more frustrating, although nowhere near as prevalent. None of this is helped by the fact that moving and rotating mirrors is just not smooth or precise enough. The margin for error is far greater than the puzzle challenge.
Since you have to manually shoot the projectiles, there is no choice but to make minor adjustments and test them each time. That means moving to one side of the chamber and tweaking a mirror, then going to the other side and firing the blaster. This gets awfully monotonous if you are trying to setup a series of 3 or 4 mirror bounces. So it’s best to do them one at a time, working backwards. But with more bounces comes more hidden variability, and what was lined up perfectly ends up failing. Complexity, in this case, just means making infinitesimal adjustments to more mirrors.
While most of the game is about this defective reflective mechanic, there is one change that involves projectile speed. Two different translucent energy fields will either slow down or speed up the bouncing bullet, and they might also trigger a corresponding switch. Yellow fields slow the projectile down, so you can run ahead and open doors or move panels. Red makes it go fast. These speed differences compound existing problems: yellow moves so slowly that you’ll come to lament misses even more; and red moves so fast that it can be hard to see how far away it was from hitting the target. You can fire multiple projectiles at once, but it doesn’t help much.
Some of the chambers require a little bit of dexterity to complete. You may need to run between locations, jump over deadly lasers, use moving platforms, or fire the blaster at the perfect time. These infrequent elements are typically clunky and don’t bring appreciable variety.
Completing all puzzles will take around three hours and the bulk of that time will go towards making adjustments to mirrors or refiring the blaster. Aside from a handful of chambers near the end, which were also the most frustrating, none of them offered much of a mental challenge as it was nearly always a question of accuracy.
The inspirations behind BLIK are obvious, although they only exaggerate its flaws. The game is a series of weak puzzle chambers with a narrator that is neither funny nor clever. Its puzzles rely almost entirely on a flawed and tedious reflection mechanic where players bounce projectiles off mirrors. Unfortunately the bounces are just variable enough to miss their target and cause anger. There is little to learn across the 3 hour adventure, and unlike similar games, it doesn’t introduce enough new ideas. First-person puzzlers of this ilk usually turn out decent enough, but when they don’t it’s definitely time to take a good, hard look in the mirror.