ReviewsReview: In Sound Mind

Review: In Sound Mind

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The horror genre divides its fan base like no other. Do the developers go old-school and stick to tried and tested jumpscares? Or do they play it much more casually while sticking to psychological tricks of the mind? Whichever method is used, you best be prepared for brown trouser moments and unnerving shenanigans. In Sound Mind utilises the latter option while focusing on multiple story arcs and exploration.

Developed by We Create Stuff and published by Modus Games, this is a first-person horror exploration title. Set in an undefined time, you must search for answers while solving puzzles and taking on unique boss fights. You’ll explore a weird world that blends reality with a dreamlike state. With some borderline clichéd mechanics, this is a title that may divide opinions.

In Sound Mind cleverly blends each mechanic in a well-trodden manner.

No one likes a spoiler as it removes the mystery and undermines the anticipation. For this reason, In Sound Mind is a challenging game to review. Many of its key mechanics are interlaced to define the protagonist and the root cause of the issues you face. I’ll try to steer away from plot defining moments, as this is a title that deserves to be experienced with unknowing eyes. 

You control a therapist who investigates the problems surrounding the people he has helped. You’ll search miserable environments and surreal scenes as you uncover many strange happenings. There are bizarre goings-on that are linked in more than one way. The protagonist must listen to past therapy sessions while searching for clues. Your journey takes you through five random locations that all need a thorough search and a keen eye for detail.

Prepare to meet this creepy beast.

Odd enemies and stealthy moments.

Staying true to its therapy roots, the Rorschach test plays a key role in developing the plot while filling you with fear. Haunting images of inkblot creatures follow you throughout. These, like other foes, can be attacked or avoided. In Sound Mind doesn’t focus heavily on its combat mechanics instead, it wishes you to explore to unravel the truth. Therefore, stealth is a worthy alternative to combat and utilising the environment is as useful as going in all guns blazing. 

The convoluted game of hide and seek adds to the creepy and suspenseful nature of this title. Crouching behind boxes while avoiding the creatures that haunt you makes this a horrifying experience. The tactical approach beautifully slowed down the gameplay and kept you on edge throughout. 

Creep beginnings and limited resources. 

The opening scenes ooze eerie and creepy vibes that suck you into this strange, puzzling world. As the game expands past the central hub of your rundown apartment building, the creepiness subsides. In Sound Mind then delves into its true course of searching for clues while unravelling the mysteries of this dreamlike world.

The gameplay spans four distinct sandbox locations, a grocery store, quarry, forest, and a lighthouse. You are encouraged to explore as much as possible! You’ll search every nook and cranny for clues and useful tools to solve the riddles. However, the distinct lack of hand-holding makes this particularly challenging. This is where In Sound Mind will divide its community. The semi-open world and partially linear plot encourage you to carve your path. Yet, missing key objects or losing your way happens regularly, and this leads to unnecessary frustration.

Armed with limited tools, you must survive while scavenging for key items. You carry a battery-powered torch, a pistol, a gas mask, and a shard of glass. You must find spare batteries, ammo, and food to continue your adventure. The gas mask protects you from deadly fumes and the shard enables you to see hidden objects in its reflection. The latter item wonderfully ties in the surreal nature of the plot and further increases the fear factor without becoming too clichéd.

Do you dare to approach the dummy?

Provoking phone calls, a talking cat, and not so challenging puzzles. 

Though much of the gameplay goes off on a tangent, some constants reign it back in. The gameplay revolves around your apartment building and the slow-burning exploration as new tools are introduced. This is supported by the discovery of therapy tapes and the “transportation” to each aforementioned zone. Then there are the constant berating phone calls! A gruff voice teases and taunts you throughout. His brutal words mock your past indiscretions at every opportunity. He’s a thorn in your side, but one of the constants that tie together this bizarre plot.

Talking of bizarre….would you consider a talking cat an oddity? I would, but in a surreal land, I guess anything goes. Your talking companion is simply another dreamy layer that makes up In Sound Mind’s crazy storyline.

Though this is coined as a puzzle title, the riddles weren’t challenging to solve. The gameplay has made searching for each relevant item the difficult element and this may disappoint puzzling fans. This adds to the previously mentioned frustrations as key objects can be easily overlooked and this, unfortunately, stalls your progress.

In Sound Mind is dated and has performance issues. 

In Sound Mind has a classic grainy look that combines vivid imagery to match its dreamlike theme. Its dated aesthetic wouldn’t be problematic if there were no performance issues. Sadly, however, there are frame rate problems, bugs, crashes, and more. These tend to relate to certain areas or bosses and hopefully, a simple update will remove many of the unsightly errors.

The excellent blend of sound and silence builds a suspenseful atmosphere. I loved the cleverly thought out audio that thrived on its retro inspiration. The Living Tombstone has created unique songs for each story arc in the distinct locations. Each different track prevents the action from feeling repetitive, but it helps to tie each story to the central concept.

Search every room by torchlight.

This would be better on a PC. 

When a game focuses on selecting objects with a cursor, a console controller simply lacks accuracy. Therefore, a mouse and keyboard would make playing this much easier and would enhance the experience tenfold. Other than this issue, there is little else to complain about and the straightforward layout makes learning the controls simple.

Thanks to its strange ways and easy to miss objects, this contains some replay value. With around twelve hours of gameplay to enjoy and some weird experiences en route, you’ll love being creeped out at every stage. I liked the variety in locations and the many tasks you must complete. A thorough achievement list demands you keep playing and completionists will have a challenging time finishing this.

In Sound Mind explores some taboo ideas while maintaining its horror roots. 

In Sound Mind bravely tackles some taboo subjects within its horror remit. I loved how it delivered its message while staying true to its theme. The mental health issues may be uncomfortable, but hiding behind surrealism has allowed the story to flourish while capitalising on some old-school horror/detective influences. I enjoyed its blend of horror elements and how it creeped me out and I recommend you to buy it here! Battle your demons while searching for answers to the problems that haunt you. 

SUMMARY

In Sound Mind is a classic old-school horror title that combines exploration and puzzling mechanics. A lack of hand holding will frustrate gamers as key items can be easily overlooked. Performance issues currently taint an otherwise enjoyable experience.

+ Classic grainy imagery.
+ Excellent audio from The Living Tombstone.
+ Multiple story arcs.
+ Good replay value.
+ An interesting yet bizarre plot.
- The controls lack accuracy.
- A lack of hand-holding causes confusion.

(Reviewed on the Xbox Series X. Also available on PC, Nintendo Switch and PlayStation.)
Daniel Waite
My gaming career started on an Amiga and spans many consoles! Currently, I game using an MSI laptop and Xbox Series X. A fan of every genre, I love to give anything a go. Former editor and reviewer for www.bonusstage.co.uk, I'm loving my new home here at Movies Games and Tech. I can be contacted for gaming reviews on the following email: [email protected]

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