The Remothered series has a complex and troubled history. Starting off as a 2D tribute to the oft-neglected Clocktower games, that initial iteration was scrapped and morphed into a more cinematic survival horror trilogy. The first part of this, Tormented Fathers, was a sleeper hit amongst horror fans, and I was really pleasantly surprised by its convoluted storyline and effectively scary atmosphere. Fast forward two years and it’s time for a follow up. Could this be an early Halloween treat or a devious trick by the publishers to pre-empt other big scary releases like Amnesia: Rebirth? Read on, if you dare…
First things first, the initial release build of Broken Porcelain was widely criticised for being unfinished and buggy. My first playthrough was littered with annoying bugs, non-functioning mechanics and a lack of polish. However, by the time of writing there have been several patches for both PC and console versions – this review is based off the PC version – and given the goodwill I had from the first title, I immediately began a new game post-patches to see how much they improved matters. Thankfully the biggest issues are now mostly fixed, though there are still a number of rough edges.
Continuing on from the events of Tormented Fathers – a handy story overview is there for newcomers and those who may have forgotten – Broken Porcelain fills in many of the larger gaps in the background of that game’s narrative. It functions as both prequel and sequel, with the playable events taking place in the past while the present events are largely delivered through cutscenes and dialogue. It’s an interesting approach, and one that works for the most part as it successfully maintains an air of uncertainty and suspense.
Both cutscenes and gameplay benefit from decent graphics, albeit not on the cutting edge. Faces are pretty realistic, but lip synching is not great and there were still a few anomalies like floating cushions and upside-down chairs in my patched up playthrough. That being said, on a suitable PC, Broken Porcelain is a good looking indie game.
Audio is a key aspect of any horror game and Broken Porcelain certainly has the eerie music, threatening ambient noises, and unsettling bodily effects to fit, although there is still room for some improvement here. Some noises didn’t trigger properly every time, and the panic-inducing chase music was an unreliable guide as to whether you were still being pursued or not. Given the game’s focus on stealth and hiding this was a bit of a shame. Too often I emerged from a wardrobe thinking the danger was passed, only to walk right into my pursuer who was just out of sight.
The voice acting has a slightly hammy quality to it that suits the low-budget horror feel, whether deliberately or not. There is a surprising amount of swearing given the child protagonist and this didn’t always have the desired effect but the writing is mostly pretty strong for the genre.
Playing as a mysterious young girl named Jennifer, you have been placed in the care of the owners of a Hotel and must work as a maid. Things quickly unravel, however, and you soon have to escape from the horrors of the drug-induced nightmares that straddle the line between reality and hallucination. The series’ name is a convoluted pun on REM sleep, mother, and othered, focusing as it does on family bloodlines, nightmares, and trauma, and this game certainly continues those themes. In the more narrative sections, you continue as Rosemary Reed, the protagonist from the first game, as you discover the mystery behind that game’s events. Gameplay largely revolves around stealth, with a few puzzles and some combat sections.
Audio cues aside, the stealth aspect of Broken Porcelain is fairly well handled. Jennifer can sneak and hide with hiding places well spaced out across the various locations. In this sense it was more successful than the recent Maid of Sker, but lacks that title’s overall polish. The puzzles and combat were more reminiscent of the outstanding Song of Horror, a game that should be high on everyone’s Halloween playlist. That being said, the combination of these two approaches works well in distinguishing Broken Porcelain from its most obvious comparisons. Add in a strange ability to control moths later in the game and there is certainly enough here to stand on its own.
The focus here is on survival horror rather than action, so your offensive capabilities are highly limited. You can only carry a single use defence item at a time (although this can be upgraded) so the boss fights insist on you hitting and running to collect another whilst making good use of the hotel’s layout to stay safe. There are also distraction items to give you some respite and, more importantly, to set the enemies up for a sneak attack. Initially rather wonky, the patched game is much improved with enemy alertness and damage being much more balanced, especially with the various upgrades now working.