What happened to Laura Palmer, I mean, Laura Campbell? The disappearance of this young girl is at the core of this peculiar hand-drawn first-person horror adventure, a game where the gameplay gets shaken up continuously. Here’s our review for Broken Mind on Xbox Series X!
Kick in the world
The game’s opening sequence is a flash-forward of sorts, anticipating some of the later dangers and gameplay elements the player will find throughout the adventure. We’re put into the shoes of agent Frank Morgan, trying to figure out what happened to the 15 year-old Laura that mysteriously vanished from her home on a rainy night. As is often the case with horror video games, however, our protagonist has to face his inner demons as well, as past traumas and broken relationships plague his mind just as much as this urgent case does.
Here, players must attempt to come to grips with Broken Mind’s rather clunky combat. Frank can kick or punch for low and high attacks respectively, with an alternation of blocks and dodges that deplete his stamina. While that may sound a bit too Dark Souls-like, it’s systems are much more basic and frankly, rather obnoxious at times. Player attacks will only connect from ridiculously close range while the game’s art style makes it difficult to properly gauge what constitutes a valid distance for an attack. Thankfully, the game gives the player a gun, but it’s rare to ever have more than a handful of bullets, making it hard to consistently rely onr. A knife comes into play at one point as well, but I’d rather have had the pistol with more ammo at all times.
A Flash of genius
Speaking of Broken Mind’s art style, the game opts for hand-drawn 2D models for most enemies (ranging from humans to supernatural monsters) and key items in the world, inside flat rectangular dungeons representing houses, parks, hospitals and other locations Frank needs to get through. The visual style is reminiscent of Flash animations from the 2000’s, and the drawings’ quality ranges from interestingly stylized to rather awkward. The intentionally blocky animation works well with the presentation, as do most cutscenes which are surprisingly cinematic. The voice acting, however, leaves a lot to be desired.
Puzzles play an even bigger role than combat does, with just about every step of progression locked behind a series of puzzles that seem ripped off from the book of common tropes. Examples include finding keys, locating passwords, connecting cables in a grid-based mini-game, and so on. What’s most annoying in these puzzles is how they usually require players to run back and forth between virtually identical locations, checking every corner as some key item may be hidden under a piece of furniture or on top of a barely noticeable object. To open a single door, the player often has to get through 3-4 different yet formulaic brainteasers.
Full of horrors, but not all of them intended
Combat is surprisingly sparse for most of the game, which isn’t a bad thing considering its relatively poor execution. One thing the game excels at, however, is offering a decent variety of scenarios. Almost every chapter of the game puts the player in largely different situations and sometimes even different characters.
As the chapters go on, things become increasingly dark and supernatural, but I’m not going to spoil any surprise. Unfortunately, puzzles also get more tedious and combat tends to annoy, especially because failing a sequence puts the player back at the start of a chapter, which in some cases can be 15-20 minutes earlier. In one instance, I lost a significant amount of progress because the game’s poor collision detection allowed me to get stuck inside a bush. There are various difficulty settings that can make the combat less troubling, but the game’s other flaws remain. In short, Broken Mind can sometimes be a fascinating experience with some interesting story beats and curious playable segments, but it’s sadly hampered by formulaic puzzles, clunky combat and uneven technical polish. The game is still worth a shot for those looking for peculiar horror games.
|Reviewed on||Xbox Series X|
|Available on||Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||21st June 2022|
|Rated||ESRB M for Mature, PEGI 16|