Remothered: Broken Porcelain is like playing a video game adaptation of The Shining mixed with a bit of Misery. Throw in some mind-controlling hypnosis moths for good measure while you're at it. Our preview covers some of the early-game plot, so be sure to read up on it for a somewhat spoiler-free experience. Since this is a character-driven horror game with a rather complex plot, beware of graphic content and spoilers. Broken Porcelain looks and sounds great, and is tense, nerve-wracking fun when it works.
Broken Porcelain, Broken Façade
The Ashmann Inn is run by Stefano Ashmann. A charming, rustic inn, it might have a cozy, welcoming feel in another setting. It has spacious, pleasant-looking rooms. The in-game lighting is gorgeous, bringing the characters to life. The models are lovely, especially Lindsay and Jennifer's. Andrea Massino's malevolent stalking contrasts nicely with her otherwise-plain demeanor, her design a clear homage to Kathy Bates in her role as Annie Wilkes in Misery.
Jennifer works as a maid at the Ashmann Inn, and the atmosphere is gorgeous. It's wintertime in 1973, and a massive snowstorm rages outside. Jennifer is trapped inside with murderous bosses and coworkers. This literary device is known as a "closed circle," limiting the protagonist's contact with the outside world. No cell phones, no external calls, nothing. The walls, carpeting, and furniture have muted, cold tones to them, driving home the sense of isolation and dreariness. The light from the howling blizzard outside illuminates most of the interior, making it feel unwelcoming, sterile, and disquieting. Staff areas are somewhat dilapidated as well, suggesting that beneath the surface the entire Ashmann Inn is in a state of disrepair, not just the old wing ravaged by a fire.
If there's one thing Broken Porcelain captures perfectly, it's mood. Tormented Fathers' use of symmetry and architecture was effective, and many of these principles were kept in the sequel. The starting section with Andrea (above) features many closed-in rooms, giving a feeling of claustrophobia as she stalks you with a pair of scissors. Stefano's brief gameplay introduction in a spacious office next to the lobby gives him a great sight line. This makes it easy for him to line up shots with his revolver. The Inn and its employees work in a weird sort of symbiosis. Escaping a meat locker early on pits you against three enemies at once in a restaurant packed with tables, giving a powerful sense of being trapped. Death scenes, like from Porcelain's spine-sword, are gruesome. Despite Jennifer's tough talk and will to survive, it's clear that she's filled with terror, confusion, and pure adrenaline.
Last, but not least, Luca Balboni returns as the composer. The soundtrack is excellent, really capturing the supernatural eeriness well. One of the recurring motifs features a creepy, drawn-out whistling. Andrea's chase theme (simply titled "Andrea") sets the stage for the perils to come, with a sound akin to scissors snipping as she stalks the player. Many tracks feature anguished vocals, a testament to Broken Porcelain's bittersweet ending. Elsie Lovelock (Jennifer) and Abigail Turner (Lindsay) provide fantastic voice-overs, bringing their characters to life and making their relationship charming, humorous, and heartbreaking all at once.
Broken Porcelain features a complex plot, and it does a good job of connecting events and details from Tormented Fathers. A recap video at the start can catch players up, but it's no substitute for playing Tormented Fathers first. There's a lot that isn't quite covered, and these omitted details explain much of the fears and character motivations in Tormented Fathers. Since the first title left players with many unanswered questions, Broken Porcelain tries to address them.
Enemies have a moth-infested "stalker mode," activated by the ticking of a metronome. The juxtaposition of them suddenly looking and seeming completely normal is chilling. The first time this happens, Jennifer screams when she wakes up and sees Andrea reaches towards her. Andrea and Stefano attempt to gaslight her, assuring her that it was just a bad fall. Elisa, another maid, claims that Andrea was with her the whole time. Lindsay, however, believes her. She returns later to wake a drugged Jennifer, urging her to flee. It turns out the inhabitants were looking for Jennifer's true identity, Celeste Felton.
After her cryptic non-explanation, Lindsay heads through a door and leaves Jennifer in the lobby. Celeste is captured by Stefano shortly thereafter, who threatens her with a gun and knocks her out. Wielding her new Moth Eye powers, Celeste makes her escape from the Inn's restaurant, avoiding Andrea, Stefano, and Elisa. She learns she is the biological daughter of Richard Felton, an antagonist in Tormented Fathers, and Stefano Ashmann. Ashmann sexually assaulted and impregnated Richard, who was assigned female at birth, out of spite for "stealing" Arianna Gallo through an arranged marriage. Richard's high doses of Phenoxyl, an experimental and dangerous drug, before Celeste's birth made Celeste a Mother Acherontia. These "queen bees" are able to control the parasitic moths flitting about and infesting the Ashmann Inn.
Things only get more wild from there, and these revelations come rather early on. It's clear that Remothered: Broken Porcelain was inspired by Dario Argernto's Phenomena as well as Stephen King's The Shining and Misery. Since Remothered began as a Clock Tower remake, itself heavily inspired by Phenomena, this is no surprise. Clock Tower, Remothered, and Phenomena all feature a girl named Jennifer as a focal point, and Broken Porcelain is the closest to the original drafts of the 2007-2012 Remothered prototypes.
Andrea Massino's malevolent stalking contrasts nicely with her otherwise-plain demeanor, her design a clear homage to Kathy Bates in her role as Annie Wilkes in Misery.
While the voice direction and word choices are occasionally a little odd, it's clear that there's good story direction at the core. While much has changed from the decade-old alpha versions, there has been a lot of time to refine the characters and plot. While Tormented Fathers had a somewhat-clumsy rush of exposition at the end, the plot of Broken Porcelain is paced better. There are some shocking swerves, but on reflection they fit perfectly into the mystery of whatever happened to Celeste Felton.
In contrast to Tormented Fathers, Broken Porcelain makes players weigh aggressive action-oriented approaches versus conserving supplies. Celeste can press up against cover to better hide herself, she can call out and make her presence known, and she can sneak attack unaware or stunned stalkers with her Defense Items. Moth Keys scattered throughout the Inn can be used to improve her abilities at Moth Boxes. These upgrades allow her to do all sorts of things, though the best is probably being able to hold another Defense Item. They also carry over between save files, so once you're fully-upgraded the game becomes very easy.
Celeste is more willing to take the fight to her pursuers than Rosemary was. When facing Andrea in a "boss battle," she resigns herself to taking her out one way or another. What follows is a frantic chase to find weapons and distractions to catch the housekeeper off-guard so Celeste can knock her out and steal her keys. There are a couple other boss battles with different mechanics. The second Porcelain fight in the garage is probably my least favorite, since there's little room to maneuver. Celeste also takes forever to reload her nail gun with a whopping capacity of three shots. She slows down considerably while reloading, you can't do it early, and Porcelain's reach is deceptively long. This is much different from Tormented Fathers, where your best bet was almost universally hiding and avoiding conflict. The pace is much faster compared to Rosemary's slow, deliberate steps, though she returns for a brief playable segment towards the end of the game as well.
Once you get some upgrades, however, the regular stalkers cease being much of a threat unless you get trapped in a corner or tiny room. This usually spells death if you can't push past them. When you know how a stalker works, though, they're easy to take out in a long, wide hallway. Stun them with a bottle or brick, then sprint behind them to stab them in the neck. This won't occupy them long, even if it knocks them out, but it's an option.
Most of the challenge then comes from boss battles and the restaurant segment, where you have to contend with three stalkers at once. Losing their pursuit is difficult and often I would escape one enemy only to bump into another. Grouping them up, luring them to a dead end, and then ditching them using Celeste's sheer speed to hide near the front door was the easiest way to pass it. Players could also knock them out or trap them in a room and use a cord to bind the door for a few moments, but running was usually the best option.
The Moth Eye power, as previously stated, gives Celeste some clairvoyant powers. She can use it to identify collectables, hazards, diversions, and enemies. This is all well and good, but the Moth Eye controls like a drunken bumblebee. You can only move forward and it feels sluggish. Earlier patches had it get stuck on geometry a lot and stop moving. The latest iteration at time of writing still has it collide with things, but now it wobbles and bounces away. In open areas, this is merely annoying. In cramped quarters like vents, however, it was downright nausea-inducing and frustrating to use. I frequently had to cancel it early since it would bounce around erratically with no hope of correcting course.
This gameplay loop was riddled with bugs on release, and, again, it has nothing to do with the moths everywhere. Players could lose control of Jennifer and soft-lock themselves, necessitating loading from the latest save. Items would disappear outside of segments where you lost them, and wouldn't respawn when you reloaded. Other oddities included physics issues and clumsy-looking animations. One standout is Andrea walking down the hall with a tray for Porcelain early on. She just kind of awkwardly shuffles along. With the patches out, it's in a much better state than on release. if you untangle the threads, there's a gut-wrenching story of love and loss among the shades of gray. Most of the most serious bugs have been patched, but the 1.0.0 release was nearly unplayable with game-breaking bugs. After nearly two weeks of patches, I gave it another go from the beginning. This review reflects this second attempt, as of version 1.0.8.
In the end, Tormented Fathers and Broken Porcelain are two halves of the same story. Playing both games back-to-back brings new perspectives to the characters. I finished Broken Porcelain and, curious, I immediately played through it again, snagging collectables and discerning new details coming from lines I'd already heard. The closing segments have some of the best voice direction. You can feel their raw emotions very well as their stories end.
Putting it into a paragraph, I recommend picking up Broken Porcelain. It's a great short romp for Halloween and can easily be finished within 10 hours. Check out TechRaptor's review of Tormented Fathers, also worth a look. The games are best experienced as a whole. The visuals are great, the audio is fantastic, and the chemistry between Lindsay and Celeste feels both genuine and compassionate. There's some jank, just like the first game, but the project is a labor of love. When the game works, it's fun, hilarious, poignant, and disquieting all at once. Where the story goes from here is uncertain, but for now it's time To Say Goodbye.
TechRaptor reviewed Remothered: Broken Porcelain on PC with a copy provided by the developer. It is also available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch.
- Gorgeous Visuals
- Great Soundtrack
- Emotional, Deep Story
- Bugginess, Mild to Severe
- Rather Short, Linear
- Moth Eye is Clunky