“When the demon’s knocking on your door, you’ll still be staring down the floor.”
Well, October has come and gone with the speed of an incontinent cheetah, and the current world situation has left the spooky scenarios lacking. You can’t appreciate a horror film when you’re living in one that’s absolutely boring, and you can’t appreciate horror games when you’re playing the most dangerous one of all: life. Pretentious paragraph out of the way, Remothered: Broken Porcelain.
This is the sequel to 2018’s Remothered: Tormented Fathers, a quaint but effective horror title masterminded by Italian game designer Chris Darril. Whereas Tormented Fathers had you playing as not-Clarice Starling, Broken Porcelain has you playing as not-Suzy Bannion, a meek but troublesome girl working at an inn. Spooky happenings occur as the hotel owners begin to become murderous, and soon enough, not-Suzy Bannion can’t trust anyone she sees.
If you haven’t played Tormented Fathers but like the look of Broken Porcelain, the game has an “ICYMI” video that provides the backdrop and context to the sequel. In short, just know that Tormented Fathers was a title that reached the heights of blisteringly okay. It wasn’t a horror title rewriting the rule book on what needs to be done for the genre, but there was enough going for it to generate interest and hype for the sequel.
Chris Darril has also stated that the Remothered property is intended to be a trilogy as well, which means there’s a giant overarching plot in this, and not just any plot. The thing about both current Remothered titles is that Darril not only wears his influences on his sleeves, he loudly proclaims the inspirations he’s about to wear. It’s a formula that you can spot beat-for-beat in Tormented Fathers, almost to a worryingly prophetic degree.
Bam! The Silence of The Lambs! Bam! Psycho! Bam! Deep Red! Bam! Halloween III! You get the point. While these influences were obvious if you paid enough attention, Tormented Fathers did succeed in feeling like its own idea, like its own property. It’s a benefit that carries on in Broken Porcelain, even if the opening of the game reeks of Suspiria and The Shining.
Even when Darril takes more directly from Western influences and runs with them, it’s the Giallo-inspired sections that work out great for them. In the context of Hannibal, an Argento-inspired piece works out wonderfully due to the juxtaposition and style of it all. Even though it’s not there visually, the one place Giallo films flourish in their aesthetic: you can taste it in the atmosphere.
It doesn’t ring in properly at first, since the game’s horror does seem to be entirely reliant on jumpscares. Even though the game’s atmosphere is ridiculously thick, the audio mixing is so bad that loud noises seem to permeate, no matter how well you tweak the audio options. Your ears will be bombarded with the sound of rushing winter wind, only for the game to scream violins and a scary face, expletive-filled and frothing with hatred.
Still, the threat would be a threat if the A.I. seemed to show consistency. Broken Porcelain has the sheer shitting audacity to make boss fights out of these lobotomized knife-wielders, giving you random tools to end their suffering. The game hosts a fairly extensive arsenal of diversion and defensive items, all of which make sense in a real-world aspect.
The problem comes when the A.I. doesn’t go to it. Maybe it’s too far away, or maybe there’s an inch-high incline that really spooks their frantic mind. Maybe the A.I. does go to it, but because not-Suzy Bannion is as heavy-handed as one can be without piercing a hole through the Earth, they’ll hear you while you’re mid-animation. The most common issue, however, will be that the game soft-locked you while placing an item on the ground, forcing you to restart.
Broken Porcelain is one of the worst-performing games released this year. With a cavalcade of bugs, atrocious frame rate drops, all-too-common game crashes that require full restarts, soft-locking, repeating dialogue, dialogue that skips, dialogue that doesn’t even play once it’s supposed to be initiated, so on and so forth, this game is a masterclass in sheer shithouse optimization.
There’s no way it doesn’t directly affect your enjoyment. The most common diversion item is a music box that not-Suzy Bannion can place down on the ground, but every time you use it, no matter where you are in the game, the game will immediately soft-lock and cause you to restart. This is a game without frequent auto-saving as well, mind you! So, if you really wanna play Broken Porcelain right now, DO NOT USE THE CARILLON.
Even if the A.I. was tuned up, the game still lacks a battleground that could be considered fair. You can sneak up on your enemies and slap them about a few times with a paper knife, but even in crouching, the game still thinks you make noise, and they’ll turn around. Luck is your most reliant ally in Broken Porcelain right now, and I state that with no hyperbole.
A lot of Broken Porcelain is also caked in smug self-satisfaction, a fair trait to possess, but not when it’s so heavy. It might actually explain the murky visuals. Not-Suzy Bannion’s repeated, frightened lines seem to compliment the game’s attributes more than it seems to build her character. “Oh, blimey, my handler is now chasing me with a pair of scissors while she’s covered in moths! This is all so surreaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal,” she says with 0% irony.
See, the expository dialogue was acceptable in Tormented Fathers if you knew that this was going to be a trilogy. It made sense, but the first game’s ending didn’t leave a lot of openings. Broken Porcelain not only seems dedicated to starting a brand new narrative, but its connection to Tormented Fathers seems forced, and no amount of exposition can fix that. For a trilogy that’s ten years in the making, it seems finicky, lacking in solid footing, like not-Suzy Bannion’s complete inability to approach a set of drawers.
Broken Porcelain loves contextual button presses, and it’s there to provide the game with a lived-in atmosphere. As you hide yourself from poorly explained killers, you’ve gotta scour through shelves, desks, and wardrobes in order to find the materials necessary to beat the killers. Because of just how many desks and wardrobes exist, though, trying to grab items in a five-drawer desk with seven potential contextual button presses has you wrestling with a lethargic camera.
It’s an annoying thing to sit through, and it shouldn’t be. It’s doubly annoying that it can affect the gameplay in such a manner, too. Maybe there’s a realism to frantically searching a drawer for an item to use against someone who’s ready to use your face as theirs, only to slam the drawers closed repeatedly; I don’t know. It doesn’t make for a primarily intense experience though, does it?
It’s weird because even though Broken Porcelain is a bomb in terms of how it performs, plays, and acts, it’s still endearing. It still possesses an allure that may come from the origins of this entire Remothered palaver: a man dedicating ten years and tons of resources to see it through. Is it worth it for you to join me on this journey with Darril? No. No, absolutely not.
Despite a competent vision, Remothered succeeds only in an atmosphere that’s immediately defused by atrocious gameplay aspects. These boss fights that stink up the air of Broken Porcelain rely on mechanics too broken to compensate for a worthwhile victory. Their threat is gone when the character’s voices keep switching between quality and audio channels. This isn’t fun to play, and it isn’t fun to watch.
The breaking point was another boss fight against a meek man with an unloaded revolver. The game screams at you to use a fire extinguisher against him, but for some reason, when you pick up the fire extinguisher, not only does it equip, but it also takes the spot of a crafting item. If you drop the crafting item, you drop the fire extinguisher, and it disappears.
No. Absolutely not. I refuse. Broken Porcelain is more than just a red-headed stepchild. This somehow kills all tension and chutzpah that Tormented Fathers painstakingly built up from nothing but a terrible name. All of these atrocious, fast-paced mechanics placed into a slow-burn horror, all of these glitchy obstacles, all of these piss-poor lines of dialogue pathetically attempting to establish a threat.
Even though I’ll merrily trek on to see this hodge-podge of different inspirations culminate into a nebulous blob of poor excuses and telenovela plot twists, I’m not going to smile. I’m just going to sink back into defeat, watching as another horror game attempts to out-do everyone else. It’s not just Friday The 13th, it’s Mission: Impossible. It’s not just Phenomena, it’s the opening scene of The Dark Knight.
Read the room.
This review of Remothered: Broken Porcelain was based upon the Xbox One version of the game. A review code was provided for this purpose.
Buggy, annoying, lacking in actual fear, and boring. Broken Porcelain has kneecapped a potential trilogy halfway through.
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