In Sound Mind Review

Psychological horror games are good in theory, but only work if they really make you feel something. That feeling doesn’t always need to be fear either, and that’s what In Sound Mind manages to do so well. It’s not a constant barrage of adrenaline, but a slow build up of tension and unease. Which is all very surprising after one of the weirdest, and edgiest opening lines in a video game. But I won’t hold that against it. Much.

You play as Desmond, an amnesiac physiologist who is trying to piece together his own memories by exploring the literal psyches of his patients. Not so surprisingly, this does not go well for him. There’s also a talking cat, weird ink monsters, and noxious purple gas. In Sound Mind doesn’t shy away from the weird, and it works well in the game.

That goo isn’t good

In Sound Mind

You’ll start the game in the basement of your apartment and soon come to realise that something has gone seriously wrong in your city. The first major thing to keep an eye on is the flood of weird purple goo outside that’s completely swamped the city you live in. You also have a terrible work-life balance. But that’s to be expected when your apartment, your office, and all of your patients’ apartments are in the same building. Oh, and you’re very clearly being watched since every time you approach a phone. Like it starts ringing and the main villain takes time out of his busy day to taunt you. It’s not subtle.

The various bosses in the game are simultaneously the best and worst thing about it. The main villain is the worst for it. He calls you on the phones scattered around the level constantly, taunting you and generally being a megolamaniac. It would be effective if he didn’t sound so terribly cliché and over acted, and also wasn’t called Agent Rainbow. I find it hard to take him seriously. And then he goes and creeps around the levels so effectively that you usually only notice him when he disappears. Or when he’s standing in front of you, locking you in a freezer to die.

I find that rude, honestly.

Fight me

In Sound Mind

On the flip side, the bosses for each level are amazing. Each level is presented as a tape recording of your therapy sessions with your patients, and the main boss for each level is said patient. It doesn’t take long for you to realise when you go into a new level, that you’re heading in there to fight Desmond’s demons, as much as his patients. These are all people that have serious mental health issues that Desmond failed to help. They have become the villains of their own stories, but never really come across as completely evil.

In Sound Mind tackles the issues around mental health well. Especially in an industry that likes to either play mental illness as a joke, or a reason to be a bad person. It never comes across as disrespectful. Each of Desmond’s patients are painted as human first, mental illness second. Playing through a level, you don’t feel as if you are there to defeat someone. You’re either there to help them, or to stop them before they hurt themselves. As a reflection of this, most boss fights are more akin to puzzles that bring the bosses some measure of peace.

Delightfully unsettling

In Sound Mind

Each level is well designed, with fantastic attention to detail. The levels mix the mundane with the uncanny, so you end up with a perfectly normal supermarket that slowly turns into a haunted maze or a beach that turns to floating shipping containers. It works really well to create an uncomfortable feeling when you’re exploring a level. Each level introduces a new theme, and new tools or abilities. While the apartment allows you to calm down, the fact that you have no idea what could possibly come up in the next tape world leaves you with a delightful sense of unease.

Adding to that unease is the sheer panic of combat. Not because you’re greatly outnumbered, or underpowered, but because nothing within In Sound Mind lends itself to shooting enemies. The controls are shaky, and most of the time it’s easier to just run away rather than dealing with the annoyingly slow reload times, and Desmond’s inability to consistently point a gun at anything. Luckily, there are usually environmental hazards that can be used to your advantage. Also a shard of glass to stab things with when things start to go really wrong.

Petting cats keeps monsters away, fact

In Sound Mind

In Sound Mind tells an impressive story about people struggling with life, and throws in enough tense atmosphere, and creepy jumpscares to keep you on your toes. You’ll never know what uncanny level you’ll stumble into next, but you’ll enjoy it. It allows itself to be more than just a horror game, by being genuinely enjoyable, even as you’re creeping around trying to hide from monsters.

Also, the talking cat can be pet. This is very important.

80%
More than just a horror game.
  • Design

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