The first-person horror genre is one that rarely innovates, but instead recycles a lot of the same ideas albeit in different scenarios. It’s fine, especially since it is the scares that are often the crux of the experience, but it can make the games feel a little bit predictable in design. It was a pleasant surprise then when In Sound Mind felt genuinely different to its peers. Sure, a lot of the same elements of gameplay are here that you’d have probably already seen in the likes of Outlast, Layers of Fear, and so forth, but it also introduces some neat ideas of its own that help it stand out from the crowd.
It is worth noting that it also has some awkward little bugs too, though there’s nothing that should stop players from enjoying the game… they just might cause some unnecessary frustrations.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Like a lot of titles in the genre, In Sound Mind starts with players awakening in a dark and abandoned room, with no idea how they got there. Nothing like an amnesiac protagonist in a horror game, right? Well, it turns out that you’re actually Doctor Desmon Wales, a psychologist that has worked with an array of different people that have required your service; people who have unfortunately also ended up dead. It’s up to you to figure out what exactly happened to these people and why a mysterious creature in a yellow jacket seems to be pinning the blame upon you.
After making his way to his office and finding the cassette tapes for each of his patients, Desmond is able to explore their psyche, learn more of their story, and face their greatest fears in the form of monstrous creatures that roam each locale. With each patient requiring a different approach from the player, it makes for a varied and enjoyable gameplay experience.
A lot of In Sound Mind follows the same hallmarks you’d have seen plenty of times before in other horror games. You know, wandering around through barely lit hallways with a torch (which you have to find batteries for, of course), sneaking past monsters, or occasionally killing those that are actually vulnerable to weaponry. There’ll be puzzles to solve along the way too, whilst the variety of eerie areas that you travel across bring with them all sorts of peculiar and disturbing sights to see. It’s like horror games 101.
“Like a lot of titles in the genre, In Sound Mind starts with players awakening in a dark and abandoned room, with no idea how they got there. Nothing like an amnesiac protagonist in a horror game, right?”
However, it’s the variety of the tasks you complete that makes In Sound Mind shine. Each patient’s level has to be handled in a different way, whether that’s by avoiding the darkness and staying in the light, finding hidden messages in the environment, or even using the broken shard of a mirror to fend off a monster that’s afraid of its own appearance. It brings plenty of neat ideas to the mix that ensure the player isn’t doing the same things for too long, with each innovation challenging their skills in different ways. Whilst there are segments that feel more traditional in design (such as sneaking or shooting) and some puzzles that simply require you to power up electric devices with fuses, it’s always complemented by another element of design that feels a bit more unique. It’s really good stuff and came as a pleasant surprise after the fairly ordinary opening of the game.
I was a big fan of the boss encounters too, which utilised the aforementioned gameplay mechanics in unique and fun ways. It’s never a case of simply outgunning your foe but instead out-thinking them and using their psyche against them, which fits both the gameplay and the narrative perfectly. They’re intense showdowns that add a whole new element of challenge to the gameplay.
“One thing I especially liked was the game’s use of colour, with a surprising amount of vibrancy found in the world. It’s not something you normally find in a horror game, but its use here felt fitting and cosmically creepy.”
The level design stands out too, with each expansive area not only looking wonderful and varied in-game, but also encouraging exploration from the player. It’s possible to re-visit areas when you’ve found key items later in the game, so there’s always something new to uncover as you progress further. It might be a stretch to say it’s almost like a Metroidvania-style game, but it did implement backtracking in a purposeful and satisfying way – especially since it helps you piece together more elements of the mystery or find collectibles that boost your stats. One thing I especially liked was the game’s use of colour, with a surprising amount of vibrancy found in the world. It’s not something you normally find in a horror game, but its use here felt fitting and cosmically creepy.
The only area of the gameplay that didn’t hit the mark came with the platforming. Nobody really wants to clear platforming segments in a first-person game, and whilst they give players something different to do, they never felt natural to move through in-game. I’ve got my own little grudge against platforming in first-person titles, so maybe this is more of a ME thing… either way, I didn’t like it.
“I played on the PlayStation 5 and my experience hasn’t exactly been a smooth one; between random crashes, the game not letting me progress through a puzzle, and some frame rate drops, it’s clear that it could have done with a little bit more work.”
For the most part though, In Sound Mind delivers an enjoyable and innovative horror experience that would be easy to recommend to the fans of the genre. However, I played on the PlayStation 5 and my experience hasn’t exactly been a smooth one; between random crashes, the game not letting me progress through a puzzle, and some frame rate drops, it’s clear that it could have done with a little bit more work. In fairness, none of the problems halted my progress (outside of having to re-load my save once), but they could still be a little bit frustrating. There is a day one patch available though, so fingers crossed it may fix some of these issues.
In Sound Mind Summary
In Sound Mind is an innovative and entertaining horror game that’s only let down by some of its technical issues. They won’t stop you enjoying the game, but they will prove frustrating – especially when they occur during some of the game’s more exciting sequences.
Technical issues aside though, I’d definitely recommend In Sound Mind to horror-loving gamers. Whilst it implements plenty of hallmarks of the genre in its design, it also brings with it a unique style of puzzling that keeps the experience both varied and intense from start to end.
Developer: We Create Stuff
Publisher: Modus Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 5 (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC