Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair (PlayStation 4) Review

By Eric Ace 06.01.2022

Review for Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair on PlayStation 4

Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair was made almost exclusively by a single person, who did both the story and the art, with their father as the source of music. Following the story of ten students who are having a Halloween party that goes horribly wrong when people start ending up dead, one aspect that stands out is the overall quality. Yes, based on pure production it does not stand up to huge-budget titles, but this is a great example that you do not need money to make a good game, but rather the most important thing is heart.

Visual novels have seen an incredible rise over the years, once regulated to fringe internet communities, they now often sit side by side with regular games and capture players' imaginations. Whether it is the sci-fi suspense of the Zero Escape series, or the wacky and over the top Danganrompa series, there is a wide range of plots available for players to dive into. One point though, is many of these stories are pretty 'out there' in one way or another, which is why Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair sits apart from the rest.

Not relying on crazy things like time warps, world-wide take overs, talking bears, or anything in between, this game goes back to the mystery genre's root: realistic crimes that happen to have a complex execution in how they were hidden and pulled off. Coming off the largely disappointing AI: Somnium Files a game like this is in many ways an exact opposite. The production values are far lower - in fact the game was almost made entirely by one person and their father, using the Python 'Ren-py' visual novel engine; purely on a technical standpoint it doesn't compare to the huge team behind AI: Somnium Files. Yet, there is something here that was not in that other game: heart.

It is very clear this is a passion project, having been in production for over ten years. Despite some of its flaws that will be covered, it was a completely refreshing experience. No pretentious plot, no crazy graphics to hide behind, the game stands entirely on its own merit of its story. The reason why it succeeds is that the plot actually is pretty good. There are some obvious flaws, the beginning takes about an hour too long to get started, it commences too light-hearted and stays there too long, which might put off some players, which is unfortunate as the game actually kicks off pretty strong soon after this.

Screenshot for Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair on PlayStation 4

The story revolves around ten students who go to a mountain resort for a Halloween party. All is not as it seems, as several students plan on hidden plots they want to reveal as the night progresses. It all goes fine until a power outage and a dead body pop up. The story from here launches into a pretty good pace of trying to figure out who did what and where. This reviewer is no stranger to mystery stories, and the story was constructed remarkably well of pointing to different people at different times. To put it in some perspective, Danganrompa's crimes were more over-the-top but slightly easy to solve than what was happening here. It was actually a pretty good story as more bodies pile up and characters point fingers at each other. One great aspect of the writing is a few of the 'genre-savvy' characters that piece out elaborate theories on how a crime might have occurred, and many times have the player thinking 'that makes a lot of sense of how that happened'.

One of the things that perhaps stops the game from being extremely good, is right as the plot starts getting kicking at full throttle, it ends. Bodies are piling, the mystery is getting impossible to solve, and then it is over. The entire final chapter takes hours too long reviewing what happened, and some side characters suddenly move front and centre and it largely feels too long for nothing. In some ways, both the beginning and the end of the story is the worst part. The start takes too long to 'get good', and the core story (about eight hours) is really entertaining and engaging. The ending sequence likewise drones on too long, and ironically comes in too fast by derailing the main plot. As stated previously, the plot is really good in that core time, only for the killing to come to an abrupt end. The story didn't need to end so soon, and the reviewing what happened goes on too long and removes part of the magic of the experience.

Screenshot for Shinrai: Broken Beyond Despair on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Shinrai Broken Beyond Despair was a pleasant surprise given its comparison to far-better funded titles in the visual novel genre. While there are some obvious issues such as graphics that never go past being simplistic and bigger issues of pacing problems, the core tale is oddly intriguing. The mystery is fun to sit through, and perhaps the only real criticism is the core narrative should have taken longer, and the various 'side stories' take far too long and detract from the main story.

Developer

Gosatsu Visual Novels

Publisher

Gosatsu Visual Novels

Genre

Visual Novel

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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