“It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane.” – Philip K. Dick
Developer: We Create Stuff
Releases: TBA 2021
Platforms: Windows, PS5, Xbox Series X
Available on: Steam, Microsoft, Playstation
NOTE: This review is based on a pre-release demo of the game and may not be representative of the final product.
In Sound Mind is a first-person psychological horror in which the player must explore the inner workings of their own mind, traversing a series of haunting memories. The game boasts frenetic puzzles, unique boss fights, original music by The Living Tombstone and a mysterious cat that players can pet!
In Sound Mind’s gameplay has an interesting premise. The player must explore an area, solving puzzles, avoiding mysterious enemies and most importantly finding cassette tapes that will unlock a specific memory, rife with its own problems and perils, which must be explored and overcome. As each memory is rediscovered the overarching narrative is gradually revealed to the player.
The game is an eclectic mix of genres and also features one might expect from a survival or FPS title, such as an inventory system, workbench crafting system, health bars and ammo to collect. While this seems a fun premise at first, there are a number of reasons why it quickly starts to wear thin. For example, puzzles are often presented to the player long before they are able to solve them, time is then wasted as the assumption is that something has been missed. The enemies have a creepy, ethereal look and are novel at first but soon become another annoyance.
The main issues, however, seem to be performance-related. Even on low settings and with motion blur off the game ran at a disappointing frame rate and screen tears were common, even causing nausea over a few hours of playtime. Additionally, when turning the camera the screen can sometimes go black, initially mistaken for an unpleasant lighting effect until noticing that the HUD and UI also disappear.
Narrative and Styling
In Sound Mind’s audio is one of its best features, with both music and effects being evocative, spooky and well implemented. The minimal voice acting is satisfactory for the most part, the exception being a villainous character that makes regular contact via telephones. They appear to have knowledge about the protagonist and what they are currently experiencing, as well as a maniacal wish to see them die; unfortunately, the dialogue is cheesy, unbelievable and delivered in a slightly ridiculous, overacted manner.
First impressions of the game include appreciation for the visuals and atmospheric lighting, however, much like aspects of the gameplay, this too becomes tiresome. Upon turning the camera the lighting can change very dramatically, the environment is very dark unless the player is looking directly at the light source, areas and objects opposite light sources are often the darkest despite the fact that the light should be pointing that way! This could be a conscious decision attempting to create a more unnerving environment or to make the flashlight and batteries more important but the lack of realism is merely distracting and only serves to make the scenario less frightening.
In Sound Mind has an interesting narrative and storyline on paper, centring around memories, the protagonist delves into their own consciousness, questioning their perception of reality in a bid to uncover the uncomfortable truth of their existence. This should have been more prominent in the game but was delivered too slowly and overshadowed by the many other, often sub-par, aspects of the game.
Despite the range of genres, mechanics and an intriguing story, In Sound Mind falls short on a number of accounts. The narrative design feels lacking and crude, and performance issues and cheap fear tactics are a detriment to the experience. Hopefully, being a demo, some of these issues will be considered and addressed but for now, one of the best things that can be said for the game is that it looks very nice, if you keep the camera still!
If you’d like to read more psychological horror game reviews, take a look at:
Lust from Beyond – Layers of Fear – When the Darkness Comes – SOMA