The survival horror genre is one that is full of legendary games from various talented developers. The early Resident Evil and Silent Hill games presented players with experiences that had never been seen before, and some have argued that the genre has never topped those original games. Dual Effect and Abstract Digital's Tormented Souls attempts to transport players back to that time period as it takes a huge amount of inspiration from those early titles. At times Tormented Souls feels clumsy and poorly designed, but it is one of the few modern horror games that perfectly captures that atmosphere of the original Resident Evil.
Tormented Souls puts you in the shoes of a woman named Caroline Walker who receives a mysterious letter in the mail about two young girls who disappeared at a mansion/hospital called Winterlake. Rather than going to the authorities like a normal person, Caroline acts like a true horror game protagonist and decides to investigate the disappearance herself. This is of course a terrible idea and she is promptly attacked and knocked out by an unknown assailant. An indeterminate amount of time later Caroline wakes up naked in a bathtub with a missing eye and no memory of what happened to her. Instead of deciding to put Winterlake in the rearview and go on with her life, Caroline puts on her clothes and begins digging around the mysterious building.
A Blast From the Past
The overall story for Tormented Souls is incredibly ridiculous and corny throughout its entire run. One of the only other characters that Caroline interacts with is a priest who acts highly suspicious, yet she never thinks twice about his intentions. Caroline herself never really questions the horrible things happening around her or the supernatural abilities that begin to manifest within her as the game progresses. On top of that, every single twist and turn in the story is extremely obvious and telegraphed long before Caroline ever catches a hint. To be fair to Tormented Souls though, this is actually pretty standard for the genre, so fans of horror games probably won't be fazed by the story beats.
Gameplay wise it honestly feels like a near-exact clone of the original Resident Evil title. The famous Resident Evil tank controls and fixed perspective camera are present here, and even the early titles' standing still to aim and fire. There are a few modern conveniences like the camera doing a better job of guiding you to points of interest in a room and there being aim assist to help when the fixed camera makes it difficult to see where an enemy is. Additionally, most of the game is spent navigating the labyrinthian hallways of the mansion while killing monsters and finding items to solve puzzles that unlock new areas to explore. Tormented Souls completely feels at home among its inspiration.
More Tank Than Woman
There are some considerable flaws with the game that can make it frustrating at times. The tanky movement controls for one will probably leave most players wanting to smash their head against a wall at times. That control scheme was understandable in the late 90s and early 2000s, but video games have come a very long way since then. The reason why most survival horror games abandoned the tank controls was that they found better ways to control their characters. I understand wanting to use this control type for the nostalgia factor, but Tormented Souls' control scheme feels even clunkier than the games that inspired it. Almost all of my deaths were due to clumsy controls rather than enemy difficulty.
Puzzles are something in the game that I had real mixed feelings about. While several puzzles were simple "find the object that fits this slot", there were many more that were difficult and fun to try and solve. One in particular that stood out was a locked door that was connected to a statue that had buttons on different body parts. In order to solve this one, you have to read a poem that hides the answers for which body parts to press in order. Most of the puzzles are this fun to solve, and they are much more interesting than the type of puzzles that survival horror games usually throw at players.
Puzzle Your Way Through the Mansion
The big issue with puzzles in Tormented Souls though is that there are a lot of them, and throughout their time with the game players will find dozens of items that will help them solve them. This becomes really difficult to keep track of, especially since some puzzles will be encountered early in the game but can't be solved until an item is found two or three hours later. There were several times while I was playing Tormented Souls that I found a puzzle-solving item and either completely forgot where it needed to go or I forgot which of the many rooms in the mansion contained the puzzle that needed to be solved.
By far my biggest critique of Tormented Souls (particularly in the first couple of hours) is that save spots were too few and far between. Rather than having an autosave feature, the player must instead locate tapes that can be used on voice recorders to save their progress, much like the Ink Ribbon/Typewriter system from Resident Evil. In the early moments of the game though there is only one recorder and tape to be found, which meant that anytime I died during the first hour or so of gameplay I was forced to repeat twenty, thirty, or once even 45 minutes of progress. As the game progresses this becomes less of a problem, but it makes learning how the game works incredibly frustrating.
Be Very Scared of the Dark
There are several design choices though that are absolutely phenomenal though. For one, most of the mansion is shrouded in darkness that will slowly kill Caroline if she stands in it for too long. The only way to stay alive is to use a lighter to navigate these darkened areas. The interesting part is that the lighter can't be used in conjunction with a weapon, so any enemies found in the dark can't be killed. This forces players to either run through dark areas until they find an exit or find candelabras throughout the environment that can be lit to be able to kill an enemy. This isn't the first horror game to use darkness as a deadly presence, but the way that Tormented Souls utilizes this mechanic is terrific.
Tormented Souls is by no means a perfect game, and it can be a little frustrating to get used to some of its old-school and outdated mechanics. However, the world that it presents is incredible to explore, the monsters are genuinely unsettling, and the puzzles are more engaging than any horror game I've ever played. Tormented Souls doesn't always hit the mark, but nostalgic survival horror fans will find much to love.
TechRaptor reviewed Tormented Souls on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
- Perfect Survival Horror Atmosphere
- Fun Puzzles
- Unique Lighting Mechanics
- Frustrating Tank Controls
- Corny and Obvious Story
- Limited Save Points