Set for release on 28th September, We Create Stuff is hoping to creep you out with In Sound Mind.
Those familiar with the developer will know that this isn’t its first foray into horror; with Nightmare House 2, a mod for Half-Life 2, it’s been scaring people for over 10 years. But you won’t need a PC or a copy of Half-Life 2 in order to play In Sound Mind; it’s a fully standalone release, and one that’s also hitting consoles. That’s right – if you have a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, you’ll also be able to play In Sound Mound on 28th September, while those who game on Switch will have to just wait a little while longer.
We’ve been hands-on with the first few hours of the PC version of In Sound Mind, and it certainly does seem unsettling. Your ordeal begins as you come to your senses in a dark room, and when you begin to explore you realise that you’re on the basement floor of a large building. The question is, how did you end up there, and why?
Like horror games of yonder, puzzles lay at the heart of In Sound Mind. Exploring the basement, you’ll find your progress halted; one corridor is blocked by a dark mist that your character refuses to walk through, a vent on a wall require a weapon for you to break it, and the lift that provides access to other floors has got stuck. With little direction, we were flummoxed for a while, until we discovered that there was a fuse box under the lift. Handily we’d removed a fuse from a tumble dryer only a few minutes earlier, and so with it shoved into place, we could use the lift and explore other parts of the building. Well, the second floor at least – the button for the first floor was missing.
You soon come to realise that the building you’re in isn’t all that it seems. It sometimes changes around you, and some doors open up to nothing but a bright light, transporting you to somewhere else entirely when you enter. Much of the building you can’t explore from the outset, either; some areas are covered in a mysterious ooze that sparkles and does damage to you if you stand in it for too long, while others are blocked off by police tape or boards that require you to cut or bash them. As you progress further into In Sound Mind, however, you’ll be able to get past these barriers, allowing you to explore more of the building’s nooks and crannies.
You’ll want to explore, too, as that’s how you acquire useful new items, and upgrade your character. By having a keen eye and following the instruction found on a note, for example, we were able to find all the parts of a dismantled pistol, before putting them back together at a workbench in the basement. There are also plenty of pills to be found – cumulatively, they increase your stats. And then there are consumables such as food and batteries; if you want to keep your health topped up and your torch fully charged, they’re essential.
It’s as you explore the second floor of the building for the first time that you make a revelation: your character is a doctor! His fancy office stands out against the run-down nature of the rest of the building, and you’ll be returning there often to make use of the tape player. You see, you’ll find numerous tapes as you play through In Sound Mind, each related to one of your patients. Listen to a tape and you’ll be transported to a new environment, essentially entering a nightmare that you need to overcome.
In the first tape, for example, you’ll navigate a broken-up car park, floating in an inky sea, before entering a supermarket. It all seems quiet, perhaps too quiet, and then you come face-to-face with a ghastly apparition that doesn’t take too kindly to your presence. Face her, and death is quick to come. What you soon realise, however, is that she’s not fond of mirrors, and so after drawing her to one, making her crash into it in the process, you gain a mighty tool – a shard of mirrored glass that serves as both a weapon and a cutting object. Hold it up to your face and you can see what’s behind you, too, as well as secret messages hidden in the environment.
The mirror shard seems to play a large role in In Sound Mind. In the first tape you’ll largely be using it to ward off attacks from the apparition, while in the second tape it’s essential for finding hidden cans of oil in a burnt building. As mentioned, you can also use it to slash at your enemies when you’ve run out of or want to save bullets, and by holding it up you can see hidden messages behind you that might help you if you’re stuck, or simply give you more of a window into the game’s world.
When it comes to combat, however, that’s where we feel In Sound Mind falls down. It’s genuinely creepy when you’re being pursued by the apparition in the first tape and combat isn’t an option. The same goes when you encounter a creature that basically swims across the ground in a pool of ink in the second tape. When it comes to lesser enemies roaming the environments, however, they simply run or fire projectiles at you on sight, forcing you to fight back. You can shoot, but ammo is very limited on even normal difficulty, while melee combat is very scrappy. It’s best to try to stealth past them where possible as, at the moment, combat just tends to bring the experience down. Hopefully that might change before the game launches.
Thankfully there doesn’t seem to be much combat, anyhow. In Sound Mind primarily seems to want to freak you out and put you under intense pressure, throwing challenging puzzles at you left, right and centre while also making sure you never feel safe. Before the end of our time with the game, for example, we found ourselves heading to a boathouse, bombarded with cars and other detritus as we made our way along a cliffside; the combination of dangerous traversal, engaging puzzling and supernatural peril certainly raised our heartbeats.
By the time the preview was up, we were drawn into In Sound Mind, despite our issues with the combat. It’s certainly unique, especially considering some of the witty humour that’s also thrown in there. Ultimately though, it just left us wondering: what is the deal with the mysterious building and tapes? Is it some form of punishment for our unfortunate doctor? Maybe; on our travels we found ourselves answering lots of phones, and the gentleman on the other end certainly insinuated that we’d failed our patients on more than one occasion. We feel like there’s more to it than that though, and we’re keen to discover the truth.
In Sound Mind launches 28th September on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC. A Switch release will follow sometime later.