Monday, July 4, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

BROKEN MIND Box art If you’ve not played many indie games previously or know much about them, BROKEN MIND may be what you initially envision, a game with basic visuals and audio, possibly even from a single developer, just like this has. BROKEN MIND is the epitome of a true indie game, built as a passion project from a solo developer over the course of multiple years, so kudos to 2BAD Games, specifically Tony De Lucia, as while it may not be the most visually impressive or leave much of a lasting impression, you can sometimes tell that a developer puts their heart into their creation which come across in this action survival horror game.

You play agent Frank Morgan, a grizzled detective that is in a dark place after having to deal with a severe family tragedy. He’s broken to the point that he’s having nightmares and seems to be living some weird dream or illusions in his head, but when a young teenage girl gets abducted during a livestream, Frank feels compelled to do something about it, no matter the cost.

As you start your investigation, you’ll first need to find out what exactly happened by watching the recorded livestream of course. What was really interesting was that once you unlock this section, this livestream is actually a level you play through as the girl that’s kidnapped. This is where many of the gameplay elements are introduced, especially its light puzzle elements and stealth sections.

Everything seems normal until the power goes out, so as this young girl goes to investigate things of course seem weird. She hears noises and other sounds, people in her chat are asking what’s going on but to get the items you need to progress you’ll need to do a little investigating. As this scene culminates, the girl is abducted and Frank has what he needs to start searching for her. Her phone is sending a single from a forest a few miles away so Frank has to act quickly if he wants any chance at saving her.

Given the game only lasts around two to three hours I don’t want to spoil much else of the story, but it won’t unfold exactly as you might assume at first, especially when certain levels have some supernatural elements and play out in Frank’s head at times. The story is decent overall and kept me interested enough to want to find out its conclusion, and the whole inner-mind parts of Frank help keep an ominous tone, even if the gameplay is basic and rough.

BROKEN MIND has you solving puzzles in front of you, though this is quite light in nature. Essentially every puzzles boils down to needing an item, but to get that item you need a different item, and so on. Find item A to get B to get C, etc. Taking place mostly indoors, you’ll explore hallways with some minor branching, but fairly linear. If there’s a side hallway to take it usually ends up leading to one of the items you need like some bolt cutters, keys, clues or other lore items like newspapers or notes.

Being an action survivor horror game, there’s a portion of combat you’ll have to learn to handle given the very limited ammunition count for your pistol. If you run out of bullets you’ll have to fend for yourself with some melee attacks against your enemies. Music kicks in whenever there’s an enemy nearby so you’re not generally taken by surprise, though there’s only two types of enemies: people in some scary ‘fox-like’ masks or some otherworldly shadowy figures with sharp claws, so there isn’t much variety.

As for its core gameplay, you can expect a first person shooter akin to a classic DOOM, as it’s that same sort of aesthetic style with 3D environments but you and objects are 2D as you move through it. The more I think of it, BROKEN MIND’s level design is quite DOOM-like, as the items you need are essentially the different color keys cards you needed to progress in the classic. There’s even a boss fight at the end, though this felt so out of place given there was nothing else like this previously in the gameplay.

Ammo is quite scarce as you’ll only have a half dozen bullets at a time, so you need to make every shot count, so aim for the heads. You have a health and stamina meter as well. While there’s not many health kits you’ll find around, when you do, you generally will need it at some point. You can briefly run for a few moments before your stamina runs completely out, but it’s such a short distance that I’m unsure why it’s even included. This makes Frank seem like he’s completely out of shape, though he doesn’t look like it, as you’ll become winded and unable to run again after about three seconds of sprinting.

BROKEN MIND is completely handmade, down to the individual objects and characters being drawn, apparently numerous times over until De Lucia was happy with the final cel-shaded outcome. While the visuals aren’t going to impress by any means, again, you can tell that BROKEN MIND was a labor of love, so there’s a certain charm to it, even if it wouldn’t normally impress. The music is quite decent and fitting for the environment and backdrops, and while I commend the fact that every line is fully voice acted, the performances themselves are a bit left to be desired. For a small indie game from a solo developer and I can only assume a microscopic budget, it’s also hard to hold it against them. Completing BROKEN MIND’s story gives a brief but fascinating look behind the scenes from early concept to finished product.

I absolutely commend a small solo developer for actually being able to create a passion product to completion for others to enjoy, and while it may not appear visually impressive, you can feel it has some heart and passion to it despite its flaws. While there’s not really any replay value aside from trying the harder difficulties, the low price makes it more bearable of an experience.

**BROKEN MIND was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 5.5 / 10
Gameplay: 5.5 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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