Your mind is your worst enemy.
Genre: Horror, Action
Developer: We Create Stuff
Publisher: Modus Games
Release date: 28 Sept, 2021
In Sound Mind is a game that, right off the title, sets a very specific stage for its story: you are Doctor Desmond Wales, a psychologist that finds himself in a
world in ruins alternative reality journey into his own and into his patients’ psyche. A journey where you will have to solve puzzles, fight enemies and wander through the psychological horror-ness of multiple troubled minds, all in order to discover the truth behind the patients’ deaths. But you will not travel alone: a sneaky stalker will follow and watch every move you make, blaming for the deaths of your patients as if they were killed by your own hands.
In Sound Mind doesn’t have a single storyline, but rather multiple that merge into a single one: the escape of Doctor Wales from the guilt of the deaths of his patients. The discovery of the secret that caused the deaths of your patients that, while certainly troubled, wouldn’t have committed certain actions in the state they were. You will wake up in your condominium, abandoned and alone, the outside world in ruins: floods cover the streets and thunderstorms rumble on the horizon. The condominium acts as a level hub: from there, you can start listening to the various patients’ tapes, which will bring you to the corresponding level. Not only this, but it also gives you a three-story building to explore and, while initially many areas are completely blocked off, backtracking after getting new tools is always a good idea.
Right from this initial environment, In Sound Mind unveils its horrors. Bear in mind, this title is a psychological horror and you won’t find jumpscares all over the place. Instead, I would say that there are almost no jumpscares at all. The game is set to keep the player in a constant state of tension, making it peak in some scenes, while boiling it down with some more action-packed sections. The first tapes (and the very first one in particular) definitely nail the meaning of psychological horror: you will be at the edge of your chair for the whole level, which makes the absence of jumpscares all more commendable. In the first tape, you’ll find yourself surrounded by mannequins that will only move when they are out of sight. Pretty cliché? The constant beeps of the supermarket’s motion sensors will be a reminder that they are still there and, honestly, sent shivers down my spine throughout the level.
Since every tape follows the story of a different patient, delving into its own troubled mind, these levels have completely different atmospheres. For example, and I’m staying as spoiler-free as possible here, in the first tape you will be (not quite) alone in a giant supermarket, trying not to be seen by the patient’s shadow. In the second tape instead, the feeling of danger is much more present throughout the level and action sections of gameplay pop out more often. I really appreciated this distinction, which really helped in making each tape (and patient) feel unique.
Another important distinction between the levels is the introduction of important mechanics in each of them: each patient will have one linked to its disorders. For example, we will a mirror shard in the first tape, since the first patient fears the sight of her own reflection. These mechanics are all fundamental in the game, but some of them are particularly well-implemented and fun to play with. Again, in the first tape you will have no way to harm the boss wandering around the supermarket’s aisles, so you will have to turn your back on it in order to make it see her reflection on the mirror shard: while you won’t see that enemy again, the mirror shard will remain very useful, allowing you to see secrets that would be otherwise invisible to the eye.
In between the psychological horror, many action sequences can be found: In Sound Mind uses them to break the rhythm a little bit, while keeping the gameplay engaging and interesting. These sequences are well implemented, especially in the first two tapes, where combat is well-timed and doesn’t break the atmosphere that all elements of the game are able to create. Unfortunately the same can’t be said about for the later tapes: starting from the third level, the game becomes more and more action, with its horror side coming short most of the times. This sensation is helped by the fact that enemies are mostly of one single kind, with small variations that are not able to diversity the fights which, especially in the later tapes, become more of a nuisance. This is brought so far that, in some segments, In Sound Mind can feel more like a rudimental shooter than a proper horror title.
Let’s face it, In Sound Mind’s shooting is not its best part, so it’s really hard to understand why the developers pushed so much on combat, when its puzzles are instead interesting and fun to play: some are also placed in more action-packed situations, where you have enemies chasing you.
In Sound Mind is a good title that mixes psychological horror and action. Unfortunately, the latter becomes too frequent and redundant as you progress into the story of the game, undoing the truly excellent work done with the first and second tape. The technical aspect of the game is just sufficient, bringing some ok graphics that are still able to immerse the player into the very good atmosphere that this game can create.