Broken Pieces is a psychological mystery set in the fictional French coastal town of Saint-Exil. Elise and her fiancé Phillip have recently moved to this quaint little town when one day some paranormal shenanigans occur, leaving Elise the last (human) inhabitant of the town. You take control of Elise about two weeks after the occurrence as she searches for Pierre and gets drawn into a deeper mystery surrounding the once idyllic Saint-Exil. The game begins with an interesting premise featuring the mysterious disappearance of the entire village, a crazy cult, and paranormal phenomena. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough to carry the game.
Most of your time will be spent navigating the deserted Saint-Exil, with many of the interconnected areas slowly unlocking as you progress through the story. Elise’s house is where you start the journey and it also serves as your base of operations while you carry out your investigation. There is a chest to store items in but since you have infinite ammo and no healing items to find, you don’t really need to worry much about inventory/resource management. Your health is fully restored when going to sleep for the night, but if you need a boost during the day, you can rest and save your game at a bench for the cost of two hours, or you can drink something from the fridge. The fridge is useless, however, since it restores such little health that the bar moves almost imperceptibly. Time passes as you play naturally and traveling between some of the locations will skip time ahead by an extra hour or two. If you don’t make it back home before nightfall, you’ll be swarmed by enemies. Elise has a handy crab-shaped toy watch called Krabos to help keep you on track and it’s probably the most charming thing about the game.
While there are no other characters in the game to encounter, Elise is not completely alone; she has her trusty Walkman. A good deal of the narrative is fleshed out by the cassette tapes left behind by the missing villagers. Elise also has a habit of recording her thoughts overnight on her bedside tape recorder, to be played at her leisure. Sometimes you will be required to find special files or documents and return home to sleep so she can mull things over and get down the most pertinent info down on tape. Tapes related to the story are always marked so you are aware of their importance. Once you hear important info your objective list is updated so you always have a goal to work towards. I liked the Walkman gimmick a lot because it works twofold by being an integral part in driving the narrative forward and as a way to express the pure loneliness of a person stranded in time.
Another unique yet odd mechanic is Elise’s magic rock bracelet. This glowing rock she possesses has some combat applications that I will go further into later on, but it also has the power to summon a short rainstorm. This ability is usually required for solving some puzzles. The earliest example you will come across is when Elise uses an axe to weaken a tree so it keels over and forms a bridge but it doesn’t fall, so she needs to summon the storm to finish it off. Otherwise, you’ll most likely be using it to fill water reservoirs. About a third into the game another unusual mechanic is thrown at you: magic fountains. Elise discovers that using her rock with the fountains changes the season from summer to winter, drastically changing the scenery. It isn’t solely about cosmetics, however. Winter time blocks off certain pathways while unlocking new ones, adding an extra layer to some exploration/puzzles.
A small thing that grabbed my attention was how the dev team put a spin on the traditional fixed camera angles of the survival horror genre by allowing you to flip the camera to the opposite field of view with a quick button press. It goes a long way to help you see more of the area, which comes in handy because there is no map function so expect it to take a while to get your bearings. Alternatively, you can also shift into a first-person view mode to get a better look at your surroundings. You cannot move while in first-person but it’s handy for sniffing out puzzle clues in certain situations.
I have a few issues with the way the combat is handled. There are no monsters waiting to go bump in the night and jumpscare you. When strolling about town, a barrier will pop up and Elise draws her gun as the ghost soldiers swoop in, signaling the start of a fight. This arena-style combat completely negates any sense of tension that the element of the unknown can provide. The only type of enemy you encounter in Broken Pieces look like wispy shadows in the form of what looks like soldiers in hazmat suits. These shadowy figures take turns running straight at you, take a swipe, and then retreat back to the end of the screen to take another run at you. The attack patterns are incredibly predictable and the only reason they’ll be able to score a hit on you is because of the slow, lazy dodge move that is your main defensive ability. Elise can use her special rock to repel nearby enemies but it has a charge that can only be replenished overnight. Despite the automatic targeting, Elise misses quite a few of her shots but on the bright side, you have infinite ammo. You can find items around town to make high-quality ammo but I never found the need to use them. In my opinion, if the combat is this predictable and boring you might as well cut it.
Now lastly, I won’t dive into spoilers but the game ends rather abruptly and without resolving anything. I know Broken Pieces was created by a small development team so you can’t be expecting AAA quality but the way the game ends left a lot to be desired. Maybe they were trying to go for some type of arthouse type of ending but it felt more like they ran out of money and simply shipped the game out. The intriguing story is one of the main allures of the game, doubly so since the combat is so subpar, so it is disappointing that it ends the way it does. My playthrough lasted around 8 hours and for that duration, I had a decent time. So while the experience wasn’t a total wash, I do have a hard time enthusiastically recommending Broken Pieces.
Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 6/10
Player2Reviews aims to be a reputable second opinion on the gaming industry covering news, reviews, and commentary on all things pop-culture!
All 3DS Batman #BreakdownsAndBrews DLC Giveaways Google Play Hardware IOS/Android Late Night Netflix Let's Play Movies News Nintendo Nintendo Switch Original PC Player2Plays Preview PS4 PS5 PS Vita Review Reviews Steam Submissions #TBTReview Trailers Twitch Unboxing Video Games Xbox Xbox One Xbox Series X/S Youtube