As 2022 becomes clearer in terms of the game release schedule and the lack of the big guns coming out, we once again turn to the indie game market to save the day. Broken Mind is a true indie game, coming from the mind of the one-man army, Tony De Lucia. He has put his heart and soul into this game, so much so that when you complete it you get a chance to look at a behind-the-scenes feature including a heartwarming tribute to his cat and a lovely mention of his wife’s photography. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.
Broken Mind is a narrative adventure game that puts you in the shoes of Detective Frank Morgan. He is a grizzly veteran of the police force with a dark past and a dedication to finding answers to a case. The case in question here features a teenage girl who during a live Instagram broadcast is kidnapped. Frank chases down her location to the middle of a forest and a strange medical facility where there is a history of evil wrongdoing. At the same time, Frank is haunted by his past and a horrible event that happened to his family. The story moves between reality and the inner workings of his mind as he tries to keep his sanity together.
The story is good, even though at times it feels a bit like trodden ground in terms of a grizzled cop with a dark past. But there are moments in the narrative that are clever and well crafted. The fantasy sections within Frank’s broken mind are nicely composed and intriguing and there is a whole segment in which you are watching something through a live broadcast; this is a great bit of clever game design, intriguing as well as ominous.
The gameplay works much like any first person exploration and shooter. There is a lot of exploring to be done in the levels, but the journey is fairly linear with some backtracking to be had. There are many moments which focus on the likes of getting items to unlock a door or move the story through to the next beat, yet nothing is too complicated and it all makes perfect sense as you move through. There are puzzles too – like the old familiar pipe puzzle that appears – whereas in other moments you’ll be left to guess passwords in order to do some research.
There is combat in Broken Mind, letting you shoot or action a melee attack, cutting down things blocking your pathways. The thing about the whole combat is that it’s so simple and not the most enjoyable part of the game. I collected a host of ammo, but in my initial run only shot a couple of people. There’s a whole boss battle at the end of the game which feels a bit strange and out of place too. Yes, it works fine, but it doesn’t seem to fit.
What is most interesting about Broken Mind though is when you read about the backstory of the game’s development process and how De Lucia went about making the game. Originally the visuals of the game were going to employ a pixel art format, but as it progressed things changed to the cell-shaded graphics that are in the final game. This was a brilliant move because I think this style fits the nature of the game. It helps that it is pretty to look at with some great use of shading and colour. The adornment around the levels may be simple – mostly due to the budget – but what they achieve within that is great with some brilliant attention to detail.
The soundtrack is again, simple. But for that simplicity every beat is very effective and works brightly with the action on screen. Broken Mind uses voice-over throughout too and whilst this is super campy and slightly OTT, it seems to work perfectly with the rest of the game.
When you take into account the price tag, Broken Mind fits perfectly. It is completely compelling to play and will hook you in from beginning to the very end of the four or five hour running time. The tools utilised may be basic and the budget austere, but what the developer has done with it is amazing and it will certainly be fascinating to see what they do next.
Broken Mind is available to download from the Xbox Store