In Sound Mind

In Sound Mind

Time to visit the shrink you say? I think I'll pass.

in sound mind

In Sound Mind is a first person psychological horror game from We Create Stuff, which mixes many puzzles along with some combat, and with it being Halloween month (yes!) I fancied a horror experience of sorts.  I like a good horror game anyway, so the question is: does this tick all the boxes?  The short answer is no, but it’s still worth a play.  The main protagonist is a shrink called Desmond who has woken up in an apartment building which is rundown and a complete mess, and with himself not knowing what’s going on, exploration means beginning to see creepy stuff happen.  This can be random notes left lying around, items appearing behind that weren’t there a moment ago… the usual horror trope fare really.  However, the real purpose of the game is that Desmond has to visit the minds of four of his patients.

Essentially each “tape” as the game refers to these visits is a chapter, and as you play you will be helping the patient resolve their mental suffering.  I found that the first tape is by far the best chapter which involves a women who hates the image of herself due to an accident that happened as a child.  Later tapes explore other mental health issues though don’t quite capture them as well as the first.  To sell the situation, each character including Desmond has been voice cast really well – in fact all the audio work experienced during In Sounds Mind is really well done – and this leads to you believe in their stories more.  It’s this characterisation (and only this) that will keep you staying with the game to the end as rest of it can be frustrating and a bit dull.

Each tape introduces further mechanics or tools that become part of the next playable section, or allow you to visit a place you couldn’t before.  In the first instance there’s a piece of glass which reveals parts of the environment not visible to the naked eye and cuts police tape that blocks stairs (yes tape is apparently super strong in this world!).  When you’re not playing each audio tape you can explore the apartment building which is like a hub world, and in here you can find pills that allow upgrades to your health or stamina, as well as stealth.  This sounds good on paper yet it’s all very mundane after the first few times of doing it.  The building itself is particularly boring to explore and the upgrades in stealth seem to make no difference as the enemies still see you either way, or just ignore you despite being obviously next to them.  In the end I just searched for the health upgrades and ignored the rest.

The next problem is the enemies you face in between tapes never change, it’s just the same black figure entity… and that’s it.  Sure, there’s one skinny one and one taller muscly one, and that’s it, nothing else.  This could of been so much more considering what the game itself is tackling, mental illness could cause all kinds of odd and unique enemy designs.  Because the game itself is extremely focused on puzzles in each tape you’d think this would elevate it, however when you combine that with the lack of enemy variation it’s lacklustre.  At least the characters stories are engaging enough to move the game forward, with each tape telling a different tale.  Throughout these chapters there’s more to hear from the patient, and the bosses for each tape are manifestations of the characters in question, and defeating them is Desmond’s way of helping them.  There’s a connection to be found across all four tales which is interesting, but suffers a little from being too convoluted.

In Sound Mind does have combat elements to it, but the gun play is poor.  Shooting a pistol has never felt so floaty, in fact the flare gun is much more fun to use.  The combat just feels too detached over all.  With the recurring theme of lack of enemy types to mix things up, it just makes each encounter play out the same.  Graphically it’s nothing special either.  Having played this on a Series S I found textures very blurry and muddy looking when close to anything.  I can’t knock the lighting though, that’s certainly good and atmospheric.

You may think In Sound Mind sounds like a complete avoid, however the audio work is very good with an original soundtrack (that’s streaming friendly too!); the story compelling enough to see it to the end; and the atmosphere the game does have for each tape works extremely well.  It’s a shame then as there is so much promise that there are issues which take a large amount of the sheen off.  With the story being left open for a sequel I’d be interested in seeing whether We Create Stuff can improve on the weaker parts, and keep up with the strengths.  And bring back the cat Tonia… you must pet Tonia.  If you’re after a game that will explore the mental stability people have, or how it can be unbalanced, this game is for you, and comes with a boatload of puzzles to boot.

An Xbox Series S|X review copy of In Sound Mind was provided by Modus Games PR team, and the game is available now on PlayStation, Xbox, PC and Switch for around £30.

The Verdict

5Mediocre

The Good: Voice Acting | Story

The Bad: Graphics | Stealth | Lack of enemy variation

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Mark

The newest member of the Codec Moments team… you can find me on nearly every gaming platform there is.

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