Broken Pieces Review
Developer: Elseware Experience, Benoit Dereau, Mael Vignaux
Publisher: Freedom Games
Genre(s): Action, Adventure, Psychological Thriller, Puzzle, Shooter
Platform: Xbox Series X (also available on Xbox One, PS4, PS5 and PC – Windows)
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 31/10/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Broken Pieces caught my eye as it seemed like it had the potential for a fulfilling single-player adventure. After spending quite a lot of time immersed in multiplayer games recently, this promised to be a welcome change of pace. Find out whether Broken Pieces hit the mark in my Rapid Review below.
90s Survival Horror Nostalgia
The very first thought that came to mind when I started playing Broken Pieces, was that the character movement reminded me of early Resident Evil games. For some people this might be a negative as it’s not particularly fluid. For me, whose all-time favourite game series is Resident Evil, this was a welcome trip down memory lane.
The reminiscence didn’t stop there either. It soon became apparent that I would spend long periods of time in solitary exploration, with only Élise’s – the main character’s – thoughts and her portable cassette-tape player for company. I felt a similar air of mystery and foreboding surrounding the recently deserted streets and buildings of Saint-Exil to that in the mansion from Resident Evil.
I don’t know whether this nostalgia was intended, but it does feel like there’s an influence from Resi or other games from the genre behind Broken Pieces. Particularly since a large part of gameplay involves solving puzzles that will see you visiting several areas to collect what you need.
Charge Your Batteries
Similar, but not quite the same. Broken Pieces has its own charm and features which give its atmosphere a unique flavour. One of these charms, and one of my favourite aspects of the game, is the cassette-tape player. Having found herself alone in the village of Saint-Exil after a mysterious event, Élise has taken to recording her thoughts on cassette tapes.
However, these aren’t the only cassettes you’ll find on your travels. For example, village dwellers and local cult members also leave recordings for you to find. My favourite tapes by far were the songs recorded by Élise’s fiancé, Pierre. You can play a song and continue your current quest while listening. My favourite song was a track called ‘Disparu’ (Disappeared/Missing).
I’m a sucker for listening to songs on repeat, so, once I found my favourite song, I just kept pressing play while I wandered. In true tape player style, there’s no repeat track like we’re used to in the digital age. Occasionally – ultra realism here – I even needed to rewind the track before playing again.
The sound effects for the tapes and the tape player are perfect, just how I remember them. You hear satisfying clicks when pressing buttons and loading a cassette. Then there’s that constant noise in the background, that whirring which reassures you that the tape is playing. The music itself makes an ideal accompaniment to the desolate and lonely, yet beautiful maritime landscape that you roam.
A Watercolour in Motion
Whilst Broken Pieces doesn’t showcase what the Series X|S can do visually (you can’t compare the graphics to A Plague Tale: Requiem, for example), I found the art style pleasant in its simplicity. It had a finish reminiscent of water colour paintings; detailed but also looking washed out in places. At times the graphics seemed simultaneously like they were from previous and current generations of console. I wondered if this was intentional, perhaps done to accentuate setting the game in 1993.
The sights and sounds were befitting of a French coastal village. Seagulls cried out intermittently in the background and the sea roared whenever in view. Signs appeared around the village written mostly in French. The majority of the in-game written elements were provided in English, although the cassette-tapes were still named in French. Personally, I loved this, and it was one of the things that attracted me to the game.
You have the option to listen to tapes etc. and read subtitles in English or in French. With my love for languages – and being a fluent speaker of French – I opted to switch the dialogue and subtitles to French a short way into the game. I found the voice acting realistic and expressive in both English and French. You don’t have to have the subtitles on, that’s just my preference when there’s quite a bit of dialogue in a game. If you wanted, you could have the subtitles in one language and the dialogue in the other.
Minigames and Collectibles
As well as following the clues to solve the puzzles and unravel the mystery of the main story, you’ll find a few minigames dotted about. I found that these provided a great change of pace to the core gameplay and also presented a different kind of challenge. My favourite minigame is called Trains of Rage – I spent a happy couple of hours side-tracked by playing this. The other minigames are more puzzle-based and all follow a similar theme.
In terms of collectibles, there are lots of tapes (both musical and voice) to find. These fill in the story and give you clues about where to take your investigation next. In addition, you come across inventory items to collect which are not used in puzzles. Of course, if you don’t find all of these on your first run, they can be part of the pull for another playthrough.
Ending and Combat
Whilst there is some combat, it’s not a main feature of the game. You have unlimited standard ammunition to use with a handgun and can create high-quality ammunition from scraps that you collect in your inventory. These high-quality bullets do more damage, although I found the standard bullets to be more than adequate. Battles with what I can only describe as ‘shadow enemies’ are sporadic. There are a few fights that are a little more difficult, but I think calling them boss battles would be going a little too far.
Unlike the Resident Evil games, where a great deal of the tension is created by not knowing who – or what – might be lurking behind each door you open, in Broken Pieces this is achieved by having to keep an eye on your rather quirky watch. At the beginning of the game, you’re advised to return to your house before 8:00 pm each day. I cut it a little fine one evening and it was the one time I found myself anxiously fighting my way through the shadow enemies.
The ending is the one area where I feel a little disappointed. I felt that Broken Pieces came to a sudden end which left me with more questions than answers. Certainly, I didn’t feel like there was a resolution. This led me to question whether there could be a sequel in the works. I hope so, because as things stand I feel that this lack of resolution lets the rest of the game down.
I found myself with a bit of a conundrum when choosing what rating to give Broken Pieces. Ultimately, I had to decide how much weight to give to the sudden ending in comparison to the other aspects of the game. In the end, I think that whilst the conclusion – or lack of – did feel like a let-down, there are many other factors which make this title worth playing.
I loved solving puzzles whilst wandering through haunting, and baron locales. I thought that the infrequent bouts of combat, and minigames spiced up gameplay with a variety that complemented the story. The inclusion of the cassette-tapes added a wonderful uniqueness, and I really enjoyed listening to music as I roamed. Whilst the visuals didn’t tax my Series X, I found the watercolour art style pleasing to the eye. Finally, all of that coupled with the general nostalgia the game conjured in me for Resi, means that I’m still inclined to recommend Broken Pieces to likeminded gamers.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can buy Broken Pieces in the Microsoft Store.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.