Mirror – Steamed Games (Slightly NSFW)

If I have one guilty pleasure among video games, it’s Dating Sims. It’s something I’ve always hidden, because, growing up, a lot of people got mocked for playing them. You weren’t seen as a “serious” gamer, and as someone who’s won multiple World of Warcraft Arena Championships in the past, I’ve tried to maintain that I am a “serious” gamer. That said, I do love some of the new Dating Sim – Gem Elimination Combination Games that have been popping up recently. HuniePop being one of my all-time favorites for its combination of story, character, and challenge. So when this game Mirror came across my Steam suggestions, I thought I’d give it a shot.  Warning: This Review will feature slightly NSFW images. You have been warned.

Developed by KAGAME WORKs and published by Sakura Games, Mirror describes itself as follows:

This is a game that combines gem elimination, simple GALGAME elements and beauties.If you want to learn more about those beauties, you need to defeat them during the battle of gem elimination.Your plot selection behavior in the game will ultimately determine their fate.

From the beginning, it seemed to be something similar to HuniePop – a Dating Sim/Gem Elimination Game with a story that has room for my decisions to change the course of events. And the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam gave me confidence in the game. Finally, to be honest, the $1.19 price tag didn’t hurt either. That said, this game is nothing like HuniePop beyond superficial comparisons.  I think it’s a game that has some serious flaws that should not be ignored.

 

Seems like a standard game, right?
Seems like a standard game, right?

Gameplay. The gameplay is what you would expect from a Match-Three Gem Elimination game that we’ve been playing since Bejewelled hit PCs a few decades ago. Blending this mechanic into the Dating Sim (or into RPG/Adventure games) has given a simple mechanic a more engaging feel. However, I find the gameplay here to be shallow and simple with almost no strategy involved It’s repetitive and dry, but, were it simply a Gem Elimination game, it would be a great, mindless way to decompress after a long day.  There really isn’t any challenge or strategy, as I’ve said, and I only failed once out of thirty-two different puzzle screens.

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Eight Girls -Minimal Story – Heavy on the Porn

 

There is, however, another element to the gameplay that needs to be discussed: the interactive pornographic endings. That’s right, after you defeat the girl four three times in battle, you get to have sex with her, and you can direct the action to either provide her pleasure or pain. These scenes are censored by chibi bunnies who cover nipples, vaginas, anuses, and mouths – especially when penises/slime tentacles/dildoes are being inserted. The girls moan with a furor that’s worse than a parody of a fake orgasm. And, well, the player who has “conquered the beauty” gets to decide on what actions the avatar performs, and these vary from scene to scene.

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But wait, there’s more than simply defeating girls in battle!

Narrative. Mirror does not have an overarching narrative. Each of the eight girls, whom you unlock one at a time, have their own story – from the Dark Elf thief caught by a demon prince to a zombie girl in love with the reincarnation of her lover, to a dragon maid and her master, to a hunter capturing an Orc beauty and forcing himself upon her. The writing is shallow and filled with grammatical and spelling errors that suggest that the developers didn’t put a lot of thought into translation. At least, that’s what I hope when translations are less well-written than the majority of fanfiction.

Here’s where the mechanics start to become problematic. The mechanic of “battling” in the Gem Elimination doesn’t immediately strike me as a problem. HuniePop uses the mechanic as a metaphor for conversation where the goal is to increase the affection and desire the women feel toward your character. Here, however, the mechanic is used to reduce their hit points to zero. The metaphor of battle paired with a hit point reduction mechanic and the discourse of “conquering” them is something I find problematic on two fronts – it suggests violence against women – and in some cases (say the Hunter against the Orc)  the narrative suggests stalking, violence, and conquest. The woman’s consent and desire are never considered beyond the superficial hentai scenes with “pleasure” and “pain” meters. For a game released in April of 2018, this attitude of women as objects to be conquered is unacceptable.

And even the characterization of the women is shallow. They have almost no personality, existing solely to be ogled, defeated in battle, and then conquered in the bedroom. I’m not going to belabor that point, because there’s nothing else to say about that.

Graphics and Sound. The graphics are nicely done, if not filled with different styles, for anime-style graphics. I’ve seen better in games, but I’ve also seen worse. The sound is minimally noticeable, as there is little voiceover dialogue beyond a few stock phrases, screams, and moans that are untranslated. And in the hentai scenes, the sexual sound effects were clearly designed to mimic poorly written smutty fanfiction.

Final Thoughts. I cannot recommend this game to anyone. It’s shallow, overly simplistic, and heavy on the creep factor. For those seeking a Gem Elimination/Dating Sim that treats women as more fully-developed characters who have personalities, interests, preferences (that you learn in order to romance them), play HuniePop. Mirror was clearly written for those who “need” sexual satisfaction from a video game that doesn’t require them to actually treat the female characters as people with agency over their own lives. Women do not exist solely for consumption, but this game treats them as such in a mediocre-at-best video game.

This is not some, “Well, you get what you pay for,” because no matter how low the price, ignoring issues of consent, autonomy, and violence are not justified.

Rating. 1 out of 4 bats.