Fragments of Him review code provided by publisher
As a medium, games don’t usually deal with the subject of loss with much grace or subtlety, often resorting to clumsy melodrama, or using it to motivate protagonists to tear down Mount Olympus (as you do). It takes expert hands to really nail it without becoming an internet joke, and Fragments of Him is such a game that comes oh so very close to handling the subject excellently, with writing and performances that sing. The only drawbacks are that the game that envelopes that is a touch hit and miss.
Fragments of Him’s tale of loss concerns a young man, just on the threshold of settling down and maturing when his life is cut short. The rest of the game is made up of the recollections of the three most important people in his recent life and newfound acceptance of adulthood. The man;s Grandmother, his ex, and his current partner. From this, you see the man grow from his uneasy youth to the man he was before his untimely death, told from three different perspectives.
The way that happens is that you act as a spectral entity (so not technically a walking sim!) interacting with objects that have a connection to the story. A pretty standard manner of interactivity in this genre, and in all honesty, not the best example of it. Items to interact with are pretty much limited to one per area, and sometimes suffer from being a bit hard to see, thus causing some needless padding on a game that should suit being nice and short (the game is a mere two and a half hours and that feels over long). It’s an odd feeling to want more to do in each area, yet also feel like the fumbling about in certain places drag things out unnecessarily.
It’s unfortunate because when you do get a nugget of info from an area, there’s a good chance it’s quite superb, if a touch repetitive in getting points across. The aforementioned writing and voice acting really does shine through the middling, limited gameplay. Having the three perspectives on things means we have a middle ground between narration and audio logs. They differ enough to prove interesting in their own right, and the worldviews of each bring up some impactful, emotional, and nasty moments (the Grandmother’s portions in particular, spark some touchy moments borne of an older mind, not used to her Grandson’s sexuality).
In some places,scenes are revisited from each perspective, offering up the unreliable narrator schtick in an intriguing way. This is the game at it’s brightest, with a fascinating study of a human being from those whose life he has impacted. The vocal performances, the odd line aside, are tantamount to Fragments of Him’s messaging, there’s such humanity behind a lot of the delivery, and the lines are written in such a manner that you’d have to imagine it was a lot easier for the cast to convey the raw emotions that lace them.
There’s little more to say than that. The game may be over two hours long, but the content found in it is only really good for 70-90 minutes tops. With a bit less padding, and a little refinement of the script, the best aspects of Fragments of Him could have been freed up to add some more immediate punch and better pacing. As it stands, this is a thoroughly interesting story, that’s well acted, well written, and handles the subjects of loss and sexuality in a very confident and mature manner for this medium. As a game, it flounders, as an experience, it deserves attention.