Playtest is the second episode of Black Mirror's third season, and we move from a social network theme to a virtual reality gaming one.
Warning: This review contains spoilers for Black Mirror's Playtest episode. Don't read if you are bothered by this. Don't spoil other episodes in comments, please. If you haven't seen Black Mirror yet, go watch it!
image source: Netflix
Playtest tells the story of Cooper, who leaves home to travel the world after his father death. When he eventually runs out of money, he signs up as paid playtester for a leading horror gaming company, where he's introduced to a neural device that provides the ultimate VR experience, and the ultimate horror experience, where things are not quite what they seem.
I really enjoyed the episode, but it's not without its flaws. The VR angle is awesome, so are all the video game references ("Would you kindly...). The horror bit is not bad, even with the predictable jump scares.
The beginning feels a little dragged on, and ultimately most of it is irrelevant to the main plot. This is something I felt about the first episode too.
The mansion design and ambiance is a highlight, but this section lacks something a game should have: an objective. Moving to the access point is the closer it gets one, but the journey is mostly devoid of anything actually happening. I'd trade a few minutes of the beginning for some adventure on this part.
Ultimately, the twists are predictable and the ending is somewhat of a cheat. But all this doesn't make this episode any less fun, and a very believable extrapolation of where technology is going, as usual for Black Mirror.
And if the episode felt like eXistenZ meets inception to you too, I think that might be a very apt characterization.
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