The horrors of the mind are unleashed in the terrifying world of In Sound Mind, where the lines of reality and perception begin to blur.
The horror genre is beloved for stabbing satirical holes in what makes us human. When horror games become psychological in nature, fear begins to invade the mind of the player in ways that will test their perception of what is real. Even so, brave gamers still seek to test their mettle through suspenseful storytelling and horrific revelations in hopes of earning some memorable scares before it’s all over.
In Sound Mind by developer We Create Stuff is one such game that will separate you from reality. As you take the role of small town therapist Desmond Whales, as you awaken in a strange apartment building within a dream-like alternate reality. To free himself Desmond must ease his patients suffering by playing through tapes of their recorded sessions. Doing so, however, causes the world to change as Desmond is enveloped into surreal accounts of each patient’s most traumatic experiences. With little knowledge as to why Desmond is also being watched by a mysterious stalker who antagonizes his work via obscure phone calls with some disturbing accusations.
Playing as Desmond in first person leads you down a bizarre path revolving around the mysteries of his patients. Answers only reveal more questions as the slow burning suspense gains momentum. Most of the experience revolves around keen investigation and attention to clues, but soon you’ll unlock weapons to deal with the occasional frightening combat encounters. Fights are often resolved in ways you may not first expect, like using a broken mirror to ward off the overly self-conscious ghost who is scared of her own appearance. There are occasions when stealth is also necessary to explore areas or avoid some of the more dangerous apparitions that appear within the bizarre realm.
Gripping storytelling brings the environments to life as the mystery pulls you in. Fear of the unknown grows as Desmond learns the insidious nature of why he has been trapped. Slowly, he comes to terms with losing his grip on reality and realizes that his life is in grave danger. The uneasy feeling of knowing you’re being watched follows you throughout the journey as poltergeists, apparitions, and of course creepy mannequins, begin to haunt your every move in increasingly bizarre ways, like luring you into deadly traps. Jump scares are exchanged for more visceral mind tricks as you’ll find yourself second guessing your own observations alongside Desmond.
The soundtrack is an immersive blend of horror atmospheres and barely melodic drones. This emotionally jarring soundtrack and effects stir up feelings of dread all on their own, but also contribute heavily to the emotional impact in the atmosphere when added to the gritty environments. There is also plenty of talented voice acting as Desmond and other characters face challenges that convey the wide range of human emotions that go hand in hand with the strong subject matter of mental illness.
The surreal 3D environments and monsters are of brooding beauty in full support of the gameplay’s terrifying premise. Observing your surroundings at any point in the game is pictureworthy as the world surrounding Desmond and his patients only gets more bizarre. There are a few moments where a strange visual effect or graphic bug bruises the immersion, and may be more noticeable if you’re not playing on next generation hardware.
Some players may also experience confusion if not able to piece together clues properly. Due to the investigative nature of the story some level of attention to detail is required to locate and interpret clues in the dark landscapes. Instructions can be eerily vague and may cause you to go in circles before stumbling onto a new room or objective. You may need to think outside the box to interpret the cryptic clues, like how some crates and barrels in the apartment building will explode when shot. When exploring for story progress you may often stumble upon packages of pills that Desmond can take to increase his stats like HP, jumping, and Stealth. While required for 100% completion the skill boosts don’t add much survivability in the combat. Challenging the monsters head on or simply sprinting past them also dulls the edge of running and hiding In fear.
In Sound Mind is an experience psychological horror fans won’t want to miss. Like something out of art house cinema, the expectation of instilling fear and suspense into players is more than satisfied. The tragic stories the patients tell through their tapes and Desmond’s experience following are as relatable as they are memorable, but the fear of not knowing what is chasing you will keep you guessing as to how you will survive. Despite its flaws, players searching for a thrilling descent into madness will not be disappointed.
-Frightening environments and soundtrack
-Emotionally gripping story and characters
-Clever psychological horror tricks
-Some graphic effects bruise the immersion
-Cryptic puzzle clues cause pathing issues
-Dismissable items and combat encounters
3 out of 5
Review Key provided by Tinsely PR. In Sound Mind is out now!