Remothered: Tormented Fathers starts off on an existential level. “A name is a trace,” says Madame Svenska, and old woman recounting a tale to one Mr. Manni. “It presents us to the world. But does it tell our story or really describe who we are?” Before cutting to black, Madame Svenska mentions how bizarre her confused memories are to describe — and I couldn’t agree more.
At this point, developer Stormind Games already set the stage for a horror noir. Quick and poetic dialogue, an investigator, a crime, smoking, and bleak, oppressive lighting to present it all. Despite the detail washed out from the darkness emanating from the environments, the game exhibits sweeping cinematography tied to a killer soundtrack composed by Nobuko Toda (Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid) and Luca Balboni (Mine, Watch Them Fall). Both music and visuals pair together well from the start, but presentation alone only holds so much water (or blood).
After the intro, you gain control of Dr. Rosemary Reed investigating the case of a missing child from years ago. Your task? Reach the residence of Dr. Richard Felton. Who’s that? Great question, and one I found myself still asking after the credits rolled.
A small, ominous stroll through the outside grounds of the house captures a chilling sense of tension that echoes through the very corridors of the house you’re approaching. Your attempt at entry is denied by Gloria, Richard’s caretaker, but the house says otherwise. Moving forward, the sound of an old, rusty gate creaking open is the most resistance you’ll encounter.
Once you meet Gloria face-to-face at the door, she lets you in long enough to discover there’s something not quite right about…well, all of it. You manage to meet Richard and ask about his missing child, Celeste, before being escorted out of the house. Rosemary later uncovers the keys to the estate hidden by Gloria and sneaks back into the house after the caretaker leaves for the day.
Upon entering the house, you’re left with one objective: investigate Celeste’s disappearance. Memories of You, the song featured here, sets up an eerie dichotomy between sound and visual design. After hearing that music play over and over again on a loop, it created an odd familiarity while exploring the house for the first time, but it never felt welcoming. You are not meant to be here.
The world Felton lives in is dark. Too dark. Whatever disease he contracted disrupted his eyesight, so he lives out his days drenched in darkness. A lot of the environmental detail in the house is drowned out by the lack of light, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot in the house to examine. Most interactive objects you find are objects thrown for distraction, but you can find some melee weapons (knife, hatchet, whatever you can find) to be used for self-defense. If you don’t have one, things can get real gory real quick. Eyes gouged in, nail gun to the face, impalement — even moths get in on the potential murder spree. Well, if you could see them. There’s so much terror hiding in the dark, but the darkness often dampens their impact.
Throwing your distraction object can stagger enemies, giving you plenty of time to find a hiding place. Hiding adds a complementary tension and often requires your input. None of them ask much more than spamming shoulder buttons or moving the analog stick around, but their approachability lets you focus on the environmental and cinematic storytelling.
The house is comprised of four floors with an elevator connecting each one. Of course, the elevator doesn’t work, so you’re resigned to creep up and down the stairs surrounding the elevator and leading into each floor’s main hallway. The middle two floors are the largest but are plagued by locked doors that open via story completion, making the house feel a little more linear than it looks. The top floor is by far the smallest; be careful not to trap yourself up there.
While nowhere is completely safe, the basement is the only place I felt any semblance of “safety.” There are enough hiding places and reasons to go down there throughout the game, so that was where I ran — and I ran there often, but not for fear of death, for lack of care. Even with just one measly sewing needle, Rosemary feels a bit too strong to feel any real fear.
You can dodge enemy attacks, given the stamina. You can heal your health at save points (at the cost of a cracking mirror); you can even outrun most enemies you encounter, creating a momentary game of cat-and-mouse before rolling under a couch. With that, Remothered: Tormented Fathers relies on a combination of jump scares and narrative delivery to creep you out, and the introduction of The Red Nun is a haunting first impression I won’t soon forget.
Rosemary wearing high heels while sneaking around is inherently fantastic, if not a bit mood-breaking. Sneaking around comes in handy once you know what you need to do and need to outmaneuver an enemy to do it. Otherwise, it’s a rather slow and cumbersome way to navigate the house once you learn the layout (and the idea that you’re…kind of hard to kill).
But what exactly is it that you’re doing this whole time? You rarely know. In all this darkness, you must tackle a mystery through puzzle-solving while avoiding death. Putting item A in slot B will unlock key item C, which you can use to…you get the idea. You’ll eventually discover a couple documents that help shed a little light on the story, and, possibly, a hint about where to go or what to do to progress.
Solving one in-game puzzle multiplies the amount of information needed to put the story together. The game’s narrative is impossible to condense, and its delivery can be cryptic to the point of confusion. As the first part of a trilogy, Remothered: Tormented Fathers offers an intriguing, obscure tale smothered by its own mystery.
PC Review code provided by the developer.
Remothered: Tormented Fathers is out now on PC, PS4, and X1