Mothered Review – We are Free to Forge Our Own Paths
Developed and Published by Enigma Games
Available on PC
It isn’t every day that I find something amazing on Itch.io. I mean, it is most days, but not every day. Itch is like the third section down on the “playing games” iceberg. You have Consoles, then Steam, and then Itch. It’s a strange open secret. The good horror is on Itch, the bad horror is on Itch, pretty much all horror is on Itch. I’m not saying Steam doesn’t have good horror, because it definitely does, but Itch feels a bit like the wild west sometimes. It’s a market full of hopefuls, unbound by the entry fee to get onto Steam. I recently sat down to check out Mothered. I heard it was a first-person psychological horror game, and I’m kind of in to those.
The game starts simply enough. You’re being driven through the rain by your dad. You are Liana, and you just had surgery. Your dad tells you that you’ll be a bit groggy, but he hopes that by going back home will help jog your memory and get you feeling better. When you arrive, he asks that you grab a box for him inside the house. You see, he’s not staying. He has important work to do. You enter the house, get him his box and send him on his way. You’re told you can turn the lights on in the house to get through dark areas. It positions itself as your standard creepy house game.
There isn’t much too do in the darkened house, so you should find your way to your bedroom and crash out for the night. Something is immediately strange when you go to sleep. For one thing; “Disengaging Consciousness” is shown in a brief flash on the bottom left of the screen, and you’re greeted with an absolutely 90’s looking splash screen. The screen is that gross blue and off-yellow combination that local news stations used in the 90’s for their “COMING UP NEXT” banners. It tells you what day and time you’re in.
Each day in Mothered has 4 parts: Morning, afternoon, evening, and night. The things you do in each day are pretty simply spelled out for you. Usually they involve talking to your mother. She is a mess of pixels that moves like a robot and has broken textures half the time. She’s messed up. She moves stiffly, like an animatronic in a sad knock-off Chuck-E-Cheese. Her mouth flaps wildly while she talks. One part of her dress is seemingly stuck to her hand, and pulls away from her while she gesticulates. It’s unnerving. She is nice, though. She explains that she made you breakfast! Free breakfast is always good.
Each morning of the week she will make you a breakfast, which your character will refer to as, “nurtrients, my favorite”. You’re then kind of free to wander the house and outside areas. There are places off-limits to you though. Your brother’s room upstairs is a no-go area, along with a boarded-up bathroom on the first floor of the house. Mothered is constantly throwing you little hints about a larger, overarching mystery at play. Is Liana a robot? Why is her mom so messed up looking? Why does her brother not leave his room? Why is there a barn behind the house that makes your vision start scrolling warnings about imminent threats to survivability? I want to tell you. I really do. The problem is, Mothered is just so good that I don’t want to ruin it.
It’s hard to review a game when I can’t give away the central part of why it’s so good. I can touch on things that I love that won’t spoil the game. The soundtrack is fantastic, combining slow synthwave drones, mixed with occasionally cacophonous trills that send a chill down one’s spine. The game accomplishes scares with not a single jumpscare. One of the scariest things I found in the game, was during a day when I thought I had done everything and went to send my character to bed. When I clicked on the bed, I got a warning message that said, “cannot sleep when someone is in the room”. I checked everywhere. There was no one in that damn room. Just the simple warning got me freaked out. It’s the kind of subtle horror that persists throughout Mothered.
I want you to play this game. I think – without spoiling anything – that Mothered is one of the best-written games I’ve played this year. As a writer myself, I can say that it makes me enjoy a genre that I am not normally a fan of (no, I’m not talking about horror, there’s something else at play in Mothered). It is something that has to be experienced. Something that, if you’re a horror fan, you should seek out right now. I’ll be waiting for you to come tell me about it.