Broken Pieces is the debut video game from the developer Elseware Experience alongside publisher Freedom Games (Cat Cafe Manager). Two-person team Mael Vignaux and Benoit Dereau founded Elseware Experience with a focus on accurate and immersive experiences. The duo have previously made various VR experiences including You and AI, based on the Da Vinci Museum and the European Commission.
Broken Pieces is a sci-fi adventure game which is set in 1990s coastal France. We join the protagonist, Elise, who has been alone for over 2 weeks in the abandoned town of Saint Exil. As we explore and solve various puzzles the pieces start coming together about what had happened. Supernatural entities appear and attack and are possibly connected to some scientific research being carried out. Elise deals with both the entities and isolation while simultaneously being stuck in a time loop. Following the breadcrumbs and solving the town’s mystery is seemingly the only way to escape.
Originally released on PC, Broken Pieces is now available on PlayStation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X.
Solve the mystery and put the puzzle together with Broken Pieces
I was excited to play Broken Pieces after seeing the vibe of Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture meets Alan Wake. If you are excited to play too or have done so already let us know in the comments below.
Broken Pieces begins with Elise on day 18 since an event occurred in the French town Saint Exil. Elise is alone apart from occasional spirits appearing suddenly and attacking, especially at night. This leaves Elise to work during the day to figure out what happened in Saint Exil. These spirits prevent her from leaving so the only way is to free herself and reunite with her husband Pierre, all the while staying sane. Luckily time is not of the essence as the day resets similar to Groundhog Day if go to sleep or are caught by spirits. At the centre of the mysterious goings-on along with Elise are a secret research facility and a mysterious but powerful local cult worshipping some sort of supernatural creatures.
Being alone does have its pros and cons for Elise and she has mostly free reign to explore but Broken Pieces does a great job depicting the mental toll the isolation takes. I really enjoyed combining this with the use of a walkman as a key mechanic. Via cassettes, we hear in-game lore & clues, mixtapes made by Pierre as well as Elise recounting her experiences and thoughts. The mysterious story really grabbed me and along with some fun gameplay mechanics, the game was very engaging.
Much of the game involves exploring and opening up the segmented areas of Saint Exil which isn’t new for mystery games. But what Broken Pieces brings to the table is the use of weather thanks to a special gem, nicknamed Rocky, which allows Elise to manipulate weather e.g. bring on storms as part of puzzles. While some puzzles or fetch quests felt like filler, the ones solved by the weather were very interesting and thought out. I noticed that Rocky was anthropomorphized as Elise’s only companion, a little like Wilson in Castaway.
With only so many hours in the day for Elise, managing time comes into play. I learned the hard way about the passage of time to new areas e.g. 90 minutes to the beach and time taking away in general. This did encourage me to explore as efficiently as possible before nighttime and lots more spirits appeared. When spirits can’t be avoided, Elise uses Rocky and her trusty pistol to protect herself. I did find combat clunky and awkward, especially dodging blows and became more difficult than needed to be.
Graphics & Audio
Broken Pieces on PS4/PS5 overall is designed very well. I played with the standard graphics settings on the console it didn’t allow for changing them. I wish they had especially played on PS5 to say how well it could have run. The game ran smoothly enough and I didn’t come across any technical bugs when playing. The views and scenery were stunning, especially the more surreal elements you come across.
I did find however that the visual design did let the game down a little. Textures of buildings and locations around town look average, even poor when you don’t directly interact with them. I was a little let down by this and especially when it came to Elise’s character model looking a little off. I did find more depth to Saint Exil as the game progressed so I found it easy to not be too disappointed by how the game looked.
While the visual design wasn’t my favourite part, I really enjoyed the audio design of Broken Pieces. I found it easy to engage and empathise with Elise in no small part due to the voice acting. I saw this, especially in moments of coping with solitude. The soundtrack and score are a big part of what I enjoyed about the game. As the tone ranges from serene to intense the music, environmental sounds and more kept me engaged and immersed while playing.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of content within Broken Pieces. Exploring the coastal town is pleasant enough in itself but the main story and side quests give plenty to do. The game is a single-player somewhat linear story with a playtime of 10-14 hours and so there are lots to dive into. I am also very interested to revisit and see the other approaches or parts I may have missed. The rewards of the side quests are the town and its people feeling more real. Then of course for the trophy hunters and completionists among us, there are 14 trophies to unlock on PS4/PS5.
I really enjoyed my time playing Broken Pieces. It’s an engaging sci-fi adventure game with an intriguing story. The pacing of Elise exploring Saint Exil as well as the time loop element was great, especially the alarm clock reminding me of Groundhog Day. Some of the objectives did feel like filler but with fresh game mechanics such as weather, managing daytime and more as part of puzzles the game kept my attention.
I did find some of the textures around town disappointing, especially in the segmented areas but key areas and landscapes/scenery looked fantastic. Broken Pieces did great in terms of setting tone and atmosphere be it tense or serene. The score and sounds especially make the game feel atmospheric and immersive. The single-player story will take around 10-14 hours depending on optional objectives so gives plenty to do and see.
I had a great time playing and I definitely plan to go back and put the puzzle altogether. And I can’t wait to see what games Elseware Experience may bring in the future. I am delighted to give Broken Pieces the Thumb Culture Golden Thumbs Up Award.
If you enjoyed this review and are interested in another spooky game then check out my review of The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow by clicking the link.
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.