I love graphic adventures. It’s not the first time I’ve said it and it’s certainly not the last. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to play The Beard in the Mirror. I saw it was a point and click game and I found it interesting enough to review. The developers graciously gave The Arcade a review key and here we are now.
The Beard in the Mirror was developed by Oh, A Rock! Studios and its founders are Paul Franzen and his wife Lizo Medina-Gray. They have released games like visual novel Cat President, but The Beard in the Mirror feels like the culmination of a lot of effort. Back when they first met, they would start writing text adventures to each other through AOL Instant Messenger, and those stories planted the seed of what many years later became The Beard in the Mirror.
What is it about then?
In this game we play as Paul, a 22 year-old college graduate currently stuck in a rut. One night he sees a strange woman in his room who talks to him as if she knows him. After that, he finds himself in a different world and he must find out why he has been brought there and what his connection to this world is.
It has the typical staples of a point and click game. You go around picking items, talking to weird people and trying to solve puzzles in order to advance. The good thing is that these puzzles make sense; sometimes people think that a retro adventure game means that all puzzles should use ‘moon logic’ like they did before. Happily, that’s not the case here. I still got stuck a couple of times, but it was nothing major; it was just a matter of focusing too much on something to the point you don’t see the obvious. The devs have a tip hotline on Twitter to help people if they get stuck, which is a cool thing to do.
I must confess that the beginning of this game confused me. It felt very strange but in a compelling way. I had no idea what was going on in this game and I wanted to find out. The game just lets you out in a strange place and it’s all like ‘Find out how to progress’, though it’s not an unforgiving game. You can die in the game, and some of the deaths are absurd, but the game brings you back to the moment before you die.
So, what do I think about it?
It took me about four hours to finish the game. To be fair I found it a bit on the short side; I was very invested in it and then it ended and I wanted more. It has some replayability value however as it has a point system. It’s not your usual point system though; it only gives you points when you do certain actions (rather than just give you points when you do actions and pick items up) and since I finished the game with about 20 points missing I’m just wondering what I missed.
The music is good, but it loops and sometimes that can be frustrating. And I found the art a bit inconsistent when it came to the characters. When I first saw Paul I thought he was a small kid, mostly because of his size. Most of the characters have similar sizes and it took me a while to get used to that. On the other hand, the backgrounds of the game are beautiful. But I don’t play these games because of how they look or sound.
I play games like this one because of the story, and The Beard in the Mirror has a compelling story. I spent most of the game wondering what was going on and why Paul couldn’t seemingly remember anything. About halfway through the game I was shocked. I thought the game would go in a different direction and it threw me a curveball. I like that in a game.
All in all, if you really like adventure games then you should give The Beard in the Mirror a chance. And even if you don’t, you should give it a chance anyway. There’s a lot of heart to it and it shows.
Angry Spaniard, adoptive Irishman. Writer, reader, tea drinker and video game player/designer.