Developer: Path Games
Release Date: October 28, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Gammera Nest SL
Right in time for Halloween, Spanish developer Path Games has released their debut horror title Insomnis. With no combat involved, this indie game instead focuses on puzzle solving and decision making. You play as Joe Castevet, who finds himself in his late grandfather’s mansion after inheriting it, and it’s up to you to discover the secrets and mysteries hidden within.
Unfortunately, Joe’s reasons or goals here are never really explained. But given the genre, it’s already quite apparent that this mansion is haunted. The narrative, for the most part, is quite murky and poorly explained. The second half of the game serves as a drastic plot twist, but even then, none of it is described in detail.
A great eerie atmosphere is created primarily due to the visuals. Most objects are highly detailed, with fitting color schemes. Collectibles are scattered throughout, including diary entries, old postcards, and lost toys. They provide some insight into the narrative but are mostly there for trophy hunters and completionists.
Still, there are some weird design choices, especially with the flashlight. The mansion is dark, and it’s hard to see, which is why you’re given a flashlight in the first place. In the beginning, it even prompts you to press O to toggle it on, but you can’t ever turn off the flashlight, and it doesn’t run out of battery. So why not just turn on the flashlight from the start to begin with?
You can’t die in this game, no matter what you do. As you make your rounds to the different rooms of this abandoned mansion, you meet the ghosts of orphaned children, who are also the inducers of the aforementioned cheap jump scares. Their every movement is scripted and imposes no threat to you as you go about your investigation. They don’t chase or attack you and simply just stand there after their pre-programmed movement has been completed.
There is no autosave, and manual saving is only possible at dedicated phones found throughout the house. Other horror games make you feel like it’s imperative to save because you have limited files or because an entity is stalking you nonstop. This type of mechanic not only drives the immersion of terror but also forces you to be more strategic as to when you should be saving. However, Insomnis forces you to save not out of fear, but necessity.
It’s probably more accurate to categorize Insomnis as a puzzle-solving walking simulator than a horror game. The orphan ghosts point you to clues that help you solve various puzzles and riddles. Unfortunately, while some of these puzzles are genuinely fun and challenging, others come off as frustrating and tedious.
One such puzzle requires a book to be inserted into a shelf to open a locked door. There are no clues or hints as to where this book would be found. The most logical assumption is to believe that it must be on some other bookshelf or counter. After searching the entire mansion multiple times, it ended up being in a cabinet in the kitchen. Not to mention walk speed is plodding, and there’s no sprint option.
With a playtime of fewer than 2 hours, the game doesn’t warrant more than one playthrough. It’s marketed as “every choice matters” because it “features a bunch of different endings,” but that is simply untrue. There are 2 endings, and the only difference is the choice you make at the very end of the game. Everything else you do in the game is linear and predetermined.
Insomnis sets the atmosphere right in terms of tense audio and cleverly inserted environmental elements but ultimately fails to deliver a genuine horror experience. Aside from a few stereotypical jump scares for the scripted surprise factor, there’s absolutely nothing going for this game as a horror title.
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