I've had an eye on In Sound Mind for a while. Psychological horror is always my jam, and the game seemed to combine the right level of style, scares, and combat that I was seeking. So when the game finally showed up, I was beyond excited. Reminding me of titles like The Evil Within and Alan Wake, I happily jumped into In Sound Mind. Did I get what I was looking for? Read our review to find out.
You play as Desmond, a psychiatrist who lives in the town of Milton Haven. Desmond is having what one may call a "bad day." Which is to say he wakes up in the trash room in the basement of an apartment building in the middle of a flooded town. Worse, he doesn't really seem to know how he got there. The apartment itself is twisted, containing impossible geometry and doors to homes in ways that don't make sense. On top of all that, Desmond is being stalked by a mysterious man in a yellow coat who keeps creating monsters.
While this is the general overarching story, it's broken into four main chapters that each focus on a different patient of Desmond's. You'll learn their stories, their trauma, and slowly piece together what happened to them. These little stories actually tend to be pretty interesting. Before long I found myself digging into each character's story, looking for any little hints and notes that could shed more light on their situations.
Generally, each chapter has the same flow. First, you'll go through a short platforming segment where you occasionally listen to recordings setting up the character's issues, then you'll come to a rather large area where they had their breakdown, before finally ending the chapter with another short platforming segment with more recordings.
While this may sound formulaic, the second segment is radically different for each chapter and is where the majority of the gameplay will be. Structured like a metroidvania, you'll go through each level solving puzzles and finding items to open up more of the level. For example, the first tape takes place in a sprawling Wal-Mart-styled superstore. You'll have to figure out how to get inside the store in the first place, solve puzzles for tokens, get some basic supplies to open up more paths, and more. Also, there's a ghost-like woman flying around who tries to kill you any time you look at her.
This is the other big thing you need to keep an eye out for in every stage of In Sound Mind. Each level has one unkillable monster, whom you'll need to avoid and find ways to scare off. Like I mentioned before, the mall has a ghost woman. You quickly discover she's afraid of her own reflection and can use a mirror shard to show it to her. Another level has a man shrouded in darkness that will run if he encounters any light, but who will also consume any objects in his way. Sometimes you'll need to lure him into boxes to clear the way for you. Little mechanics like this can really make the levels a lot of fun.
As you explore these levels you'll find yourself with plenty of tools. Before the end of the game, I had collected items like a mirror shard that highlighted hidden objects, a flare gun that dispersed darkness, a gas mask to get through gas, pills that attracted enemies, and more. Each item seemed to have multiple purposes. For example, the pills can be thrown to attract enemies, making them pile up in one spot for easy picking. You can also throw them in leaking chemicals you'll find around the world to create explosions, or just eat the pills to get health back.
I only wish the enemy variety was a little better. The primary foe that In Sound Mind pits you against is the inkblots, inky humanoids with giant glowing eyes. In a way, it reminds me of Resident Evil 7's mold in that this is the only real enemy you'll see in the game. Sometimes they're bigger so they can smash more, sometimes they'll spit ink at you, but the vast majority just want to run up and punch you. While their design is excellent, it still left me wanting something else.
Between tapes, you can explore the apartment complex that Desmond is trapped in. At first, it may not seem like much, but the more items you unlock the more parts of the apartment open themselves up to be explored. This hub world contains plenty of enemies, puzzles, and collectibles that you're going to want to find. Sure, if you're not interested you can just run from one apartment to the next, grabbing the tapes you need and then going back to your office. However, after exploring quite a bit of the apartment, I found stat-boosting pills and new weapons to help with my quest.
However, as much fun as I was having with In Sound Mind, it has a couple of major issues. Sometimes the way forward isn't just "obscure", but seriously nearly impossible to find. I found myself inching up pipes or jump spamming against boxes to continue. In more than one instance I couldn't solve a puzzle, only to solve it in a way the game wasn't intending me to. Then there are the crashes. Especially noticeable in the third level whenever I got close to the Bull, that level's big antagonist, In Sound Mind probably crashed about five times in a two-hour span. Thankfully I never lost more than a few minutes of gameplay.
In Sound Mind is a horror game, so it can't go far if it isn't very scary. A lot of the horror is psychological in nature, a slow burn that keeps you on your toes and makes you wonder what's going to be waiting around the next corner. Sometimes the man in yellow would spawn around said corner, peeking around it until you notice him. In a few instances, he would spawn randomly in the apartment hub, wandering around and doing his best to sneak up behind you. Not to attack, just to give you a scare and taunt you. It's a very cool mechanic, one that made me really jump.
I have to take a moment to talk about the soundtrack as well, as one of the big features of the game is that The Living Tombstones worked on it. Any part of the soundtrack that doesn't contain lyrics is fantastic. From high-intensity combat music that really gets you in the mood, to dramatic sweeping choirs that add to the mysterious moments, these are wonderful. Songs with lyrics? Well, they're simply not great. Many of the lyrics try to be "character songs" in that they're about the various characters you meet in the game. They're often so literal that the only thing they reminded me of is that part of Elf where Buddy the Elf has to sing a song, and all he can manage is repeating "I'm in a store and I'm singing."
Even despite a few flaws, I came to really enjoy my time with In Sound Mind. This psychological horror game has all the things I was looking for. An interesting story, fun gameplay, cool metroidvania-styled setting, exploration that actually mattered, and genuine scares. Hopefully, some of its flaws will be fixed up in some post-launch patches, as there's plenty I'd like to see improved on. Still, this is a game I can easily see being considered with others as an indie horror experience well worth partaking in.
TechRaptor reviewed In Sound Mind on PlayStation 5 using a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC and Xbox Series X|S.
- Great Story
- Exploring is Fun
- Great Metroidvania Elements
- Actually Scary
- Low Enemy Variety
- Crashing Issues
- Sometimes Difficult to Figure Out How to Advance