Hello, my dear readers! Well, this was supposed to be a Summer Steam Next Fest demo, so you can see how late this is. I ended up being flooded with work, though I did play this back in August.
Anyways, this time I got my demo review for BRXKEN INSIDE (Steam) by hatereallys.
Shion’s calm and measured life comes to an end when she meets Akiko. This encounter has the chance to change her life or plunge it further into the abyss of depression and hopelessness.Steam
Shion is the best student in her class and the protagonist of the story.
She won’t let anyone get close to her because she was left disappointed in people a long time ago. Her life is boring and monotonous: during the day she goes to school, and in the evenings she sits by the window and listens to her favorite music.
She dreams of changing everything, but the trauma of her past prevents her from doing so. All that remains is to try to keep a fragile balance in the present.
However, her attempts at a calm and measured life will come to an end when she meets a girl named Akiko.
Akiko is a new transfer student who quickly wins the love and acceptance of those around her.
She planned to take the title of best student to be friends with Shion, but the girl saw her only as a rival. This didn’t stop the newcomer; on the contrary, she began to look for other ways to attract attention to herself.
Why is she so interested in Shion? And how far is Akiko willing to go to achieve her goal?
Mirai is Shion’s older sister. She forbade her sibling to communicate with anyone or make friends. She justified all the bullying and prohibitions with her strong love and concern for Shion’s future.
Despite the fact that Mirai has been long since dead, her words and actions still have an impact on the main character.
Will Shion be able to free herself from Mirai’s influence and get closer to Akiko, or will she always be alone?
Before we begin, I would like to put a disclaimer here: I have played BRXKEN INSIDE back in August, so my memory is a bit hazy. I’ve taken notes, of course, but do remember my feelings are being guided mostly by what I wrote down and not born of the moment.
That being said, let’s dive in!
The story is still very bare, as this is a demo. However, compared to other VN demos I’ve played in the past, this one feels very empty. It’s mostly slice of life, but depressing. The ending of the demo makes it all a bit more eerie and disturbing, but as it ends there, I was left feeling underwhelmed.
If anything, I think the VN would benefit greatly from a slower overall pacing. Everything is a tad too fast and so the tension feels forced. It did make me curious enough to play the full version, but I’d like to see some improvements on that end.
To be fair, my expectations were not huge. Not to say I only care for the art of AAA titles, but the art seems to be one of the only aspects of the game to stand out, at least at first glance. The game’s overall presentation feels very devoid of everything, but I think that’s the point, given the context for the protagonist’s life.
This is an English release, but the original release was in Russian, as the dev themselves are Russian — and it shows. The game seems to be set in Russia or some slavic-looking setting (pardon my ignorance), judging mostly by the backgrounds and given the dev’s primary language. One thing that does irk me a little is when games — VN especially — are set in a non-Japanese country but everyone has Japanese-sounding names. I’m cool with that if there’s a fair explanation for it (maybe her close friends and family are all immigrants and prefer to talk to each other instead of blending in, for example), but if it’s merely for weeb aesthetics, it does bother me. Uniforms are like that too, especially since I don’t remember her being in a rich private school to justifiy a school uniform.
The writing is better than a lot of indie stuff I’ve played, for sure. However, while most writing in other indie games is poor, this one feels unnatural in the sense that the choice of words is a bit too… rich? Maybe it’s a translation issue, but the way the protagonist thought felt very pretentious.
Other than that, I didn’t feel anything towards the writing. It was what it was, and I’d rather care for the other aspects for this game.
Writing good characters is a hard task, I’m well aware. However, no one in BRXKEN INSIDE felt alive. Everyone was pretty much one-dimensional and Shion was insufferable to follow.
I hope the dev can expand on that and maybe make sense of her behavior and mentality.
To be fair, I’m also an adult and I’m less forgiving towards teenage behavior, but that’s exactly why I expect good character development, so even someone past their teenagehood can appreciate it.
I can’t wait for the dev to expand on Mirai and Shion’s toxic relationship, as it sounds like that will be the main focus. That, and Akiko.
As someone who hasn’t been able to escape my dysfunctional family household, I can relate to the paranoia and anxiety Shion faces even if, in her case, her sister is dead and she is living alone.
Truth to be told, I don’t trust Akiko one bit.
I feel like she could either help Shion get out of her shell, or just enable her paranoia and overall unhealthy lifestyle.
It also seems Akiko may suffer from an eating disorder, and I wonder how that is going to influence the whole narrative and how it’s going to further develop. Is it connected to Mirai?
Now, as basic as this might sound, it was the art of BRXKEN INSIDE that caught my eye first. Art first, then the synopsis.
Although indie titles are getting better-looking by the day, there is still a lot of stigma towards these titles for having more amateurish art.
The characters don’t have a lot of sprite variations (expressions), but the art is grounded and comfortable to look at, enough to make me overlook the other aspects. I especially like how soft Shion looks around her eyes and bangs.
Soundtrack & UI
This is probably what I have the least to comment on. The background soundtrack is a nice, soothing piano, but we hear nothing else throughout the game. I would like some diversity in the full release, be it royalty free music or some original tracks.
I usually separate soundtrack and mechanics, but as both were very unremarkable, I’ll just add the mechanics paragraph here. The UI is very basic, but at least it’s not ugly. It’s just… average.
Overall, I wouldn’t say it was a bad experience. I would like to play the full release and then decide if it was worth it to play the demo in retrospect. Until then, my opinions will be limited. However, this is a very short demo, so if you do not mind waiting for the full release, do give it a try yourself!
You can play BRXKEN INSIDE on Steam or Itch.