This world is filled with terrors that can sometimes keep me up at night. Still, the idea of facing your fears is why I’m drawn to horror games. Yes, I’m scared while I play many of them, but that fear is part of the fun. So, when In Sound Mind announced their approach to horror would be to take on a person’s inner demons through, well, I had to see for myself.
The gameplay of In Sound Mind takes cues from popular horror media, from games such as Silent Hill to novels by H.P. Lovecraft. The narrative revolves around Desmond, a therapist trapped in what seems to be his office building. However, as he sets out to explore, it isn’t long until he finds something following his every move.
A mysterious being appears in the corner of his sight, leaving notes that taunt him, urging him to leave well enough alone. Instead, desmond needs answers and turns to his recordings of therapy sessions from the past, each conducted with a different patient. The more he listens, the more he asks himself one simple question, “Have I gone crazy?”
This question fuels him to explore and find each tape, a novel way of splitting the adventure into chapters. Each tape represents a single chapter with a unique world to explore and a boss-type enemy to confront. However, the main focus is the patient, their trauma, and how Desmond tried to help. Each level I fumbled around in enthralled me, turning what should be the most mundane place like a grocery store into something familiar but clearly not of this world.
These settings are the backbone for the nightmare built off of the approach that you are in a dream-like state, allowing scares to come naturally. You know that you shouldn’t be afraid, but there is a thought in your head that something isn’t right. This atmosphere makes exploration feel tense, leaving few moments for you to relax.
You are rewarded for exploration by way of stat increases using pills. Every three pills increase a single stat that is predetermined by the label. I found myself exploring the hub from top to bottom to find every powerup that I could.
Strangely, this reminded me of a Metroidvania title. Each chapter leaves you with a specific powerup that you bring back to the office, allowing you to explore even further. Unfortunately, there isn’t as much story in the office, so while it is fun to explore, you won’t learn about the world.
I only need to mention that I had a few performance issues with the build I was playing. Even when playing with an RTX 2070 and an i7 processor, I had frames drop like crazy and noticed heavy blurring. The worst of it happened when I used one of the main mechanics, the mirror. Forcing me to lower my overall quality down to low, which alleviated most of the problem. The performance issue doesn’t make the game unplayable but marred an excellent experience.
Everything I’ve played so far has caused me to fall into madness with In Sound Mind. The exploration is tense, and the moments of combat flow naturally with the horror experience. Some performance issues should be addressed, but the core experience is shaping up just fine. In Sound Mind has a decent foundation to make a name for itself in the horror genre, but currently, optimization is the most significant nightmare holding it back.
In Sound Mind is in development for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Nintendo Switch, and PC-via Steam for a September 28 release.
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