The leaves are turning auburn and gold, which means it’s spooky games season! Some people are all about pumpkin spice but that’s not my thing. Give me those creepy, mind bending, jump scare games and a pillow fort instead. On paper, In Sound Mind promised everything I look for in a horror game: puzzle solving, limited resources, terrifying things that want to scare you to death. You catch my drift. So let’s see if it lived up to my expectations.
In Sound Mind Review – What’s Up, Doc?
Our reluctant hero is Dr. Desmond Wales. His psychiatric practice is set up in the same apartment complex as the one he lives in, making for a very short commute. When we meet Desmond he wakes up extremely confused in the basement of the building. Things don’t seem right here; in addition to the leaking chemical barrels with hallucinogenic vapors wafting into the air, strange notes aimed specifically at taunting Desmond appear out of thin air. Something else is in the building with Desmond, insinuating the recent deaths of his patients were all his fault. But we’re not going to pay any mind to this oddball phantom and his inky black minions. We are going to search the building for session tapes that allow Desmond to play through the tormented psyches of those victims and find the root cause ourselves.
Once you make your way out of the basement, one by one Desmond will visit the twisted worlds of these four unfortunate souls. Each space traveled provides more insight into the happenings of Milton Haven. Each new world offers a new tool needed to push on. For example, one of the coolest tools I’ve seen in quite some time is the mirror shard you collect during the first patient tape. Its purpose is twofold: whenever Desmond comes across yellow tape or an obstacle to knock loose, the shard has his back. But the best aspect is its reflective nature. By holding it up Desmond can check his surroundings for hidden clues. Sometimes there are words or icons to help him figure out his next move. At other times it is great for a timed highlighting of important items or points of interest. Need to figure out where a particular power line is going? Use the shard!
You also have standard equipment at your disposal; Guns, a gas mask, that sort of thing. Ammo and health regenerating items are fairly common to find as you explore this twisted world. That’s not to say it will always be there when you need it. At one point in time I found myself requiring ammo for a Very Important Reason and my stash was at zero. I spent thirty minutes visiting and revisiting every floor of the apartment complex until finally a single round spawned.
In Sound Mind Review – Doctor’s Orders
Every good horror game needs puzzle solving, otherwise you just turn into the newer Resident Evil games which aren’t inherently bad but they just don’t hit the same as they used to. If I wanted to play a straight-up shooter there are dozens of other games I can kill zombies in. The mix of puzzle difficulty in In Sound Mind is solid and sticks to genre norms. Story-driven quests are easily solved by using your wits and finding clues (either via notes or using your handy mirror shard), while extra bits like finding all of the stat boosting pills might take you on a detour or some backtracking. You’ll need to skirt Desmond around environmental impediments like puddles of chemicals, locked doors, and blocked paths.
And while we’re just going about Desmond’s business, those pesky ink monsters aren’t keen on letting us find answers. It’s best to sneak around them if you can. If not, hopefully you’ve assembled a gun. They take a well-placed shot or two to go down. Not all monsters go down with a bullet. Each level’s Big Bad stalks you until you solve the final puzzle, though it’s possible to stun or outrun them for a spell while you regroup. Do not be afraid of trial and error. In Sound Mind checkpoint saves frequently so you never have to replay too much.
In Sound Mind isn’t perfect. While I didn’t experience too many problems, there were a few. First being the ammo issue I mentioned earlier. Another weird one happened when I was playing through the second patient tape. I could hear the shade monster audio playing but the character itself wasn’t generating on screen. I needed him to hit something that was in my way so I could solve a puzzle. Since that wasn’t happening I quit to the main menu and reloaded the checkpoint. It did the trick but that’s not something I should have encountered in the first place. There was another spot where I had to walk and crawl through shipping containers. At one juncture the containers clipped in such a way that I couldn’t walk over it properly. My solution was to crouch and jump. The hack worked but was annoying to do every time I hit that point.
The overall story is fine but lacks that punch to push it over the top. If it were a movie it would sit comfortably with in the B movie section next to Pooka! and The Babadook—which is damn good company, if you ask me. Depending on just how long it takes you to solve the various puzzles, In Sound Mind takes an average of 12-ish hours from start to finish. Not too shabby if you are looking for a game to run over a single weekend. Could be just the thing you want this Halloween.
In Sound Mind review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01.0916PS reviewed on PlayStation 5. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.