In Sound Mind is a psychological horror indie game by developer We Create Stuff. As someone that does not game on PC, it’s not that often we console gamers see games of this ilk make their way over to consoles. It’s a shame too, because when they do cross over, I’m hardly ever disappointed. Whilst these games obviously cannot match the budget and quality of, say, the likes of Resident Evil Village released earlier this year, they make up for that with bolder experimentation and taking risks with fresh ideas. For instance, let’s take the main premise of In Sound Mind. You play as therapist Desmond Wales, who can use tape recordings of his patients' sessions to travel to creepy, distorted, almost otherworldly locations conjured up by their troubled minds. Oh, if that’s not enough, there’s the mysterious antagonist who will dial telephones when you pass them just to taunt you and, before I forget, there’s also a talking cat.
Though, having said that, In Sound Mind starts off in an all too familiar way. Desmond wakes up in an abandoned apartment building with no recollection of how he got there. It quickly becomes apparent that In Sound Mind requires you to do some thinking. There’s no mission markers so it’s down to you to use your brain. There’s an area taped off, a vent that can’t be accessed, and an elevator that’s broken down and missing a fuse. So, you’ll explore around the murky basement and soon find a fuse in the laundry room. A lot of areas found within In Sound Mind follow a similar pattern whereby you must solve environmental puzzles in order to progress. Though, most aren’t too difficult and can be solved with relative ease for the most part.
It becomes apparent that not all is as it seems with this apartment building. Whilst it seems perfectly ordinary, albeit derelict at first, it’s soon revealed that something otherworldly is going on here. Though, that other world might just be the dark recesses of the human mind as In Sound Mind explores themes of mental health. Not only have Desmond’s patients been experiencing severe breakdowns but so too has the therapist himself. This is central to the tension that In Sound Mind builds as it doesn’t go for cheap jump scares but instead unsettles the player in a more unnerving, drawn out manner.
One of the earliest tapes you find and delve into transports Desmond to an abandoned supermarket. Here, a twisted, demented version of a young girl haunts the aisles. But defeating her is not so straightforward. In fact, she’s defeated by using a very interesting mechanic; forcing her to see her reflection hurts her. So, like the Pied Piper, you have to try and bait and lead her to various mirrors scattered around the supermarket. It’s here that you acquire the mirror shard, a tool that allows you to look behind you and protect yourself whilst on the move and not near a bigger mirror. Though, it’s also the tool that is used to cut down the previously inaccessible taped off areas.
Whilst Desmond initially starts off only wielding a torch, he later goes on to wield the shard of glass as well as other weapons such as a gun. Though, acquiring the gun is subject to collecting its various parts by solving puzzles to find where they’re stashed. Again, though, these puzzles aren’t necessarily challenging but more to encourage you to explore areas fully. Unlocking tools like the mirror shard allow you to explore previously inaccessible areas of the abandoned apartment building in an almost Metroidvania style. You’ll often be back tracking down corridors to find new secrets. It’s a labyrinth of mystery that slowly reveals itself as the game progresses, as not to overwhelm the player.
Fans of Alan Wake will likely pick up on a few nods to the cult classic from Remedy found within In Sound Mind. In fact, one nod goes as far as a level based around the recording of a man called Allen who is scared of the dark. This tape was probably my favourite and took place in a more semi-open level outdoors. In this level, a lighthouse's rotating red gaze dealt damage to Desmond whenever he was caught in it. A shadowy presence stalked Allen in the shadows and required the manipulation of light to defeat the presence. Yep, straight out of Alan Wake. Even the aesthetic was strikingly similar. Though, it did not feel like a rip-off but more like a loving nod to Remedy’s cult classic.
I won’t delve into the later tapes so as not to spoil the latter sections of the game but after completing In Sound Mind there was one major flaw I concluded; it simply is not that scary. For a horror game, that is quite problematic. Sure, it can be unsettling and I definitely felt uncomfortable multiple times throughout but I was never really scared to the point where I’m close to dashboarding just to take a break. The best horror games must have that scare factor alongside the unsettling moments. Perhaps that’s down to the fact you can use a gun, a bit of a rarity in most psychological horror games which normally leave you more vulnerable. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy In Sound Mind - it experiments with a few interesting ideas and I’ll always applaud that. It runs pretty great on the PS5 for a small indie studio developed game with decent graphics and a smooth frame rate. Overall, fans of the genre and especially console gamers, where we don’t get as many of these type of games, should definitely give In Sound Mind a try. It definitely took me by surprise.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.