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In Sound Mind

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: We Create Stuff
Release Date: Sept. 28, 2021


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Switch/PS5/XSX/PC Preview - 'In Sound Mind'

by Cody Medellin on July 20, 2021 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

In Sound Mind is a first-person psychological horror with puzzles, boss fights, and original music. Journey within the inner workings of the one place you can't seem to escape: your own mind.

Game developer We Create Stuff has an origin story that sounds like a blueprint for indie studios. The studio started by making total conversions of Half-Life 2 and decided to elevate that into making full-fledged titles after the success of Nightmare House 2. Since the studio achieved success with horror titles, it makes sense that its first full game, In Sound Mind, follows in those same footsteps.

You play the role of Desmond, a psychiatrist in the small town of Milton Haven. As you wake up in the basement floor of a hotel, you realize that the town is flooded — and then you learn that someone wants you dead. Before killing you, the person wants to dig through your past and failings.

The game is presented from a first-person perspective, and the preview build has you wandering through several distinct environments. You start in the basement of the hotel, and In Sound Mind takes on familiar adventure game traits; you're often met with an obstacle and need to find the parts to overcome the blockage to progress. The good news is that all of the major items you'll need to solve an immediate puzzle aren't too tough to locate, and they aren't hard to understand, either. Find an elevator button, and you know exactly where it needs to go, and the same goes for things like coins and gun pieces. For those who are tired of finding random parts that don't make sense in puzzles, this line of game design is a relief.

As you may have surmised earlier, there's also some combat, but it doesn't appear often and only occurs with a few shadow cyclops creatures. With the lack of bullets at your disposal throughout a run, aiming poorly means that you'll often be forced to run away from those encounters, giving the game more of a survival-horror feel compared to other recent horror games.

The hotel acts like a hub world as you travel through all three floors to reach your office and explore the apartments of the clients who you've helped. Most of this is in service of finding audio tapes that delve into the incidents surrounding each patient's demise and their subsequent haunting of the place. For the first major stage, this means going to a big box store to confront a demon that's ready to tear you to pieces until you make her look at her own reflection in a mirror. The level ends when you make her look at four mirrors, but there are plenty of things to do in the interim, from capturing dolls to open up a new area to finding a mirror shard, a key tool that acts as a knife and lets you see clues by reflecting what's behind you.

The lack of lighting, shrieks of the ghost finding you, and notes left behind about the horrific crime scene set up terror in a place that you'd normally think of as benign. While that rightfully deserves some praise, an element that shouldn't be overlooked is the appearance of your tormentor from time to time. Some of those times are mere blips, and he'll appear and vanish in a second. Other times, you'll see him close the door to force you into a dramatic escape. His playful nature is what makes him interesting, such as when he appears in a photo to give you bunny ears or gives you a boost to a higher area. It is both a source of fright and levity, and if he keeps this tone for the entire game, his appearance will be memorable.

The final level in the preview build takes place at a lighthouse, where the game introduces environmental hazards. It starts with a lighthouse that can hurt every time the light passes over you, and it comes into play later when debris falls on a narrow path. It also increases the danger, since the patient's monster form stalks you once you get close to the lighthouse. Both the puzzles and combat take advantage of the open area you're in, but it does so without feeling overwhelming. The preview build cuts off before we're halfway through the lighthouse level, but there was enough to tell how good the journey would be.

The presentation is already quite good. Except for a few areas where the textures are blurry, most of the title looks great, even though almost all of the areas are in ruins. The smoke monsters are the only display of particle effects thus far, but the movement is well done and doesn't seem to tax the engine. The mirror effects are also impressive, something you'll enjoy since you'll use that weapon/tool quite often. The voice acting is solid, but what will catch people's attention is the score. Crafted by The Living Tombstone, the range is broad, from small action beats to relative unease when nothing is happening, all without falling into the trap of high shrieks with jump-scares or long bouts of silence to punctuate each track. For those familiar with his work from fan songs for My Little Pony and Five Nights at Freddy's, this soundtrack may be surprising, but it's done so well that it sets him up nicely to do more for other games.

So far, In Sound Mind does a great job of being a very engaging experience. There's a nice balance between creeping dread and jump-scares that feels right. The same can be said for the exploration and combat balance, while the story is fascinating enough that you'll be compelled to finish it even if you aren't necessarily a genre fan. There are still a few months to go before In Sound Mind is officially released, but now that we've played some of it, we can't wait to see where it goes.

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