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Review: Black Mirror – Playtest

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By Daniel J Broadley

Following the first episode ‘Nosedive’, which took a scathing look at our obsession with social media, Charlie Brooker next tackles virtual reality gaming and the terrifying prospect of being stuck in it.

Episode two, ‘Playtest’, sees a young backpacker, Cooper, take up a job testing a new VR gaming software in London. In true Black Mirror style, things then go bad very quickly, the software being so powerful that Cooper loses sight of what’s real and what isn’t. The entire episode is like a nightmare as the horror/thriller game taps in to Cooper’s brain and uses what he’s most afraid of against him.

At one point, Cooper is attacked and stabbed and has to fight for his life, the audience sitting on the edge of their seats wondering if this is all real. The next moment, the knife in him and his attacker are gone as if it never happened.

To make things worse, the little ‘mushroom’ which is installed into the back of Cooper’s neck becomes stuck. Removing it would supposedly kill him. Just when he thinks he’s been taken out of the game, he’s still in it. And so on and so on. There are so many layers of reality in this episode that it is easy to lose track of what is real and what is the game.

SPOILER ALERT: The ending of this episode is not quite as nice an ending as the last episode. A little more far-fetched and further away from the real world than ‘Nosedive’, but a nail biting horror/thriller all the same.

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Daniel Broadley

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