‘Remothered: Tormented Fathers’ is more than just an ambiguous word sandwich – it is a collaborative effort from Darril Arts and Stormind Games; and the first chapter in a planned trilogy of survival horror games. Rumour has it that each successive game will have an increasingly incomprehensible title.
As is often the case with survival horror games – and particularly those with an overtly psychological bent – Remothered’s storyline defies easy explanation. In broad strokes, the game follows the misadventure of the enigmatic protagonist, Dr. Rosemary Reed, as her ill-advised decision to enter the estate of Richard and Arianna Felton results in all manner of woe.
Dr Reed’s apparent objective is to investigate the disappearance of the Felton’s adoptive daughter, Celeste, who went missing roughly three years before the game’s events; however, the question of why Dr. Reed takes it upon herself to enter the lions’ den – rather than leaving it to those more qualified – is one of the many mysteries players must unravel as they move – with great trepidation – through the Felton Mansion.
The cast of characters is surprisingly small in Remothered, and as such the narrative focus very quickly becomes a question not of whether a given character is guilty, but by what degree. When Dr Reed enters the Felton mansion, her priority is to find out what happened to Celeste, but shortly thereafter her primary objective becomes simply to escape, as she realises just how out of her depth she is.
With this in mind, players must guide Dr Reed through a series of increasingly contrived ‘puzzles’ (loosely termed), which essentially involve locating plot devices and transporting them from one part of the mansion to another. Rather than being an exercise in tedium, these puzzle elements are given a certain intensity by the ever-present risk of encountering what an in-game tooltip aptly describes as ‘stalkers’; these monsters will hone in on Dr Reed’s location as she moves through the mansion, with the sole purpose of ruining her day in a plethora of sadistic ways.
When confronted by one of the ‘stalkers’, players have a number of options: turn off your flashlight, crouch down, and sneak past them – in the hope of remaining unseen; throw that glass bottle over there to distract them, and then run and hide in the nearest cupboard; or, stand your ground, and stick ’em with the pointy end of that implement you secreted away. There isn’t an offensive playstyle as such, but players will occasionally come across sharp objects with which they can fend off stalkers’ attacks. These items are invariably single-use, and are in very short supply.
Whilst the stalkers can be harmed during defensive quick time events – and might even run away to lick their wounds from time to time – they can never be killed; Dr Reed, on the other hand, suffers an agonising death whenever she is caught by a stalker. This blatant inequality of arms creates a sense of extreme vulnerability on Dr Reed’s part, and contributes to the oppressive atmosphere which makes Remothered a singularly unsettling experience.
The ‘whodunnit’ aspect of Remothered’s narrative slowly unravels as the puzzles – that are preparatory to escape – are completed. Through these tasks, and piecemeal interactions with the various occupants of la casa di Felton, players uncover the awful truth behind Celeste’s disappearance. Overall, it is a plot that shows great potential, but there are an awful lot of moving parts – too many, in my view – and it’s often very unclear how all of the pieces fit together.
The narrative is unfortunately betrayed by the somewhat stilted delivery; for example, the subtlety of the hints that arise from the in-game collectibles (defaced photographs, aggressively-scribbled notes, etc.) is incongruously set against boisterous cutscenes, which haphazardly shoehorn in obscene amounts of information. By relying on these cutscenes, in which important details are delivered at blistering speeds, Remothered risks leaving players feeling more lost than the erstwhile Celeste. Sadly, I found myself more than a little baffled for much of the game; though – for the most part – this didn’t stop me enjoying the ride.
Another, equally jarring, aspect of Remothered is that, during the aforementioned cutscenes, the character animations do not marry with the dialogue – with the result that Dr Reed and her loathsome pursuers end up looking grotesque for all the wrong reasons. Now, admittedly, this perceived problem could be a consequence of the game’s heritage; since Remothered was designed by an Italian studio, and is in fact set in Italy, the original dialogue is likely to have been in Tormented Fathers’ Mother tongue. Criticism of asynchronous facial movements, on that basis, is perhaps undue – but it doesn’t make those cutscenes any less ugly.
By and large, save for some frustrating and seemingly arbitrary foibles on the parts of the artificially-intelligent enemies, Remothered is a strong survival horror game. The game is highly immersive, meaning that Dr Reed’s fight-or-flight responses are keenly felt by players; the overall effect, as one wanders the Felton mansion, is one of unease and discomfort. The game isn’t going to give you nightmares, or keep you up at night, but nor does it debase itself – or the genre – by relying on cheap jump scares.
I have a lot of love for Remothered, as there’s a definite sense that with just a little more polish and care, it could have been something beautiful. I don’t know which direction the team will take the sequels in, but provided the animations can be tidied up, and the plot is delivered in a way that is a little more accessible, we’ll all be in for a creepy, palpitation-inducing treat.
The faults with Remothered lie predominantly in its storytelling, and the question of how important this is to a survival horror game is perhaps up for debate. One thing that is incontrovertible, though, is the fact that Darril Arts and Stormind Games have managed to create an experience in which players’ every step feels fraught with danger, as terror lurks around every corner. As a story, there a number of missteps, and things which are perhaps clumsily done, but as a horror experience it does a lot right. Provided the defects aren’t hereditary, there’s cause to be very excited about Remothered’s progeny.