Well that was an experience! Fractured Minds is a very difficult game to review. Largely in part because I feel the type of experience you get depends entirely on who you are.
I won’t go into details about the gameplay or the mechanics, nor will I really touch on the story itself. What I will say is that this is a game you really should experience at least once.
There wasn’t an enjoyment playing through Fractured Minds. If anything I felt uncomfortable throughout as the game stirred something in my mind that took me through the wringer.
Whether some of these things were intentionally done by Emily Mitchell, the game’s BAFTA Young Game Designer award winner. Or whether it was my own mind filling in gaps, I don’t really know.
Yet from the very first second the game started, I felt inner pain. There seemed to be negative reinforcement all over the place. Some was very much obvious and in your face. Yet others were not, coming from within, rather than the game itself.
Early on in Fractured Minds there was a section set up like a Birthday party, which kept calling me out for doing the wrong things. For not doing things in the order the game wanted me to. It actually really upset me.
Why? Well most game are designed to reward you at all times, constantly giving some kind of positive feedback. They all have different ways of doing this of course, but that is how they function. Yet my expectations were completely flipped here. I was being vilified for exploring and even in completing an action in the right way, there was no positiveness.
The game mirrors the way my own mind works. I do this wrong! That isn’t good enough! Why do you keep on failing! Oh look, you finally did it! The game was reflecting all of these things.
Again, I don’t know if that was the intention, but that is the effect it had on me. Even in the way the game controls and how some things are interactive, yet others are not. It all feels really uncomfortable.
The game is in first person mode, but the movement doesn’t feel smooth. Well, sometimes it does, sometimes it felt as though control was being wrestled away from me and I was having to fight for it back. Was this my mind playing tricks on me? I honestly don’t know, but moving throughout each chapter again felt uncomfortable, nauseating in place even.
Then there were the puzzles, most of which were actually really simple. However there were no hard and fast rules as to what could be interacted with and what couldn’t.
This led to exploration and trying to interact with everything. Yet as stated previously, the game didn’t like you doing that. It would let you, but there would be negative reinforcements for doing so.
One level in particular (and I won’t spoil which one) really restricted you movement and freedom and kept restarting if a mistake was made. Which led to me at one point standing in the game frozen to the spot. Becoming scared of moving and being sent back again.
None of this at any point felt like bad game design, if anything it felt intentional. As Mitchell has crafted something here that plays on how an individual mind works. More than anything though, more than any other game I have played. She has managed to project how Mental Health can effect us in an interactive experience.
Managing to do this in a way that doesn’t sugar coat anything, nor be overly extreme or play up to certain tropes. There is a lot of subtle things going on here and whilst the game is very simplistic at a base level, what it does to you as an overall experience must be applauded.
For just £1.79 on the Nintendo eShop and a similar price on other platforms. Fractured Minds should be picked up and experienced by as many people as possible. It is a short experience, but one that will stay with you long after you finish it.