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In Sound Mind Review – Mind-Numbingly Messy (PC)

In Sound Mind review

In Sound Mind is a first person horror game which bites off far more than it can chew. Are you looking for an experience where you get consistently lost in an extremely boring-looking environment due to a poorly implemented navigation system, only to realise upon eventually finding your way out that the game has completely failed to live up to its interesting premise? If so, then In Sound Mind is the game for you.

It is a real shame that In Sound Mind is such a let-down, as I went in really wanting to like this one. On paper, this should be the perfect game for me, given that I adore psychological horror, (the Silent Hill series includes some of my absolute favourite games!) Unfortunately, In Sound Mind fails to break any new ground within this sub-genre of horror and instead ends up coming across as a big swing and a miss.

In Sound Mind is out now and is available on PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, and PC.

The plot of In Sound Mind makes the classic mistake of thinking that lazily dropping players into a seemingly random spot in the game’s environment with a complete lack of story setup, is equal to creating an air of mystery. Instead, it just comes off as half-hearted and lazy, and when the plot does eventually trickle out, it is largely unremarkable.

The idea of a horror game featuring a psychiatrist exploring the fractured psyches of his various patients is an extremely cool concept for a horror game. However, In Sound Mind’s execution of this concept is so lacklustre that it just winds up feeling like a complete waste of a cool idea.

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Sadly, In Sound Mind’s gameplay is also pretty sub-par and fails to make up for the uninspiring tale being told. This is primarily due the fact that it commits the cardinal sin of being a horror game that isn’t scary. It is a little bit weird in certain moments and at a push, I may even call it eerie. However, in terms of straight-up horror; In Sound Mind is significantly lacking.

The design of the grunt enemies in the game is not very threatening and once you get to grips with how poor their AI is, they become laughable. Even before the player acquires a firearm, these enemies can be easily ran past thanks to the protagonist’s inexplicably superhuman sprinting speed.

These guys don't pose much of a threat.
These guys don’t pose much of a threat.

Once you do eventually complete the drab puzzle that grants you a pistol, the ammo supply in the game is so abundant that you essentially become a stiffer John Wick; mowing down any supernatural entity dumb enough to cross your path. That is, as long as you are willing to suffer through In Sound Mind’s exceptionally awkward gunplay mechanics.

All of this leads to a complete lack of tension in the gameplay; which is not something that a player should be feeling when playing a horror game. Not once was I scared or even apprehensive about going down a dark corridor or a staircase leading to a basement, because I knew that I was armed to the teeth and could move faster than any enemy that I encountered. Instead, I found myself sprinting headfirst into the darkness more often than not.

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Another aspect of the game which adds to the lack of tension is the puzzles and navigation. The majority of the puzzles feel like busywork due to their drawn out nature and unclear instructions and even when you do persist until you stumble across the solution, the payoff is never worth it. This quickly leads to any remote sense of fear turning to an overwhelming sense of frustration.

Speaking of things that incite frustration, the navigation system throughout In Sound Mind is infuriating. There is no navigation system or map to speak of, barring a few rare instances of floorplan blueprints hanging in a couple of rooms. Having to travel down the bland, uninteresting corridors of the game’s environment one time is bad enough, but having to consistently backtrack multiple times to make progress is taking the piss.

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Thankfully, there was one gameplay mechanic that was pretty cool and that was the game’s use of reflections, particularly using the mirror shard. During the first of the four tapes, players discover a broken piece of a mirror which can be used to strike enemies and cut down barriers. However, it can also be used to spot enemies lurking over the player’s shoulder, as well as being useful when solving environmental puzzles.

The other major positive aspect of In Sound Mind was its flashes of cool, trippy imagery. Things like the giant cassette tape spinning in the background of the otherworldly dreamscape was a nice touch and really contrasted with the rest of the game’s boring aesthetic, helping to bring some visual flair into the experience.

The mirror shard provides some of In Sound Mind's best moments.
The mirror shard provides some of In Sound Mind’s best moments.

Along with these interesting glimpses of ethereal imagery, the design of the larger enemies is also cool. There are a few boss fights encounters scattered throughout the game and the design of these more intricate enemies is significantly better than the design of the lower level witches and ghouls.

Unfortunately, even during some of these more positive moments, I did encounter some noticeable stutters and lagging, along with the odd framerate drop. I was initially playing the game with Ultra graphical settings enabled, but even when I reduced these down to high, I was still not getting the smoothest of experiences.

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Apparently a band called The Living Tombstone supplied the soundtrack for In Sound Mind and it works pretty well. Each of the songs work pretty well in the places that they are used, and they also do a good job of breaking up the wildly inconsistent voice acting. For some inexplicable reason, the protagonist is by far the worst voice actor in the game and hearing him repeating the same lines time and time again only serves to drive that point home.

Overall, In Sound Mind is not a bad game. However, for every one thing that it does well, it does five things poorly. The idea here is fascinating and I would love to see a bigger studio with a higher budget have a go at adapting this sort of story. Unfortunately though, We Create Stuff were overambitious with their execution of this concept, resulting in an end product which is messy and inconsistent.

In Sound Mind – 4/10

4 Out of 10

In Sound Mind was played on PC with a code supplied by fortyseven communications.

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Written by Daniel Boyd

Daniel is a 27-year-old writer from Glasgow. He graduated from university with an honours degree in 3D Animation, before pivoting to pursue his love for critical writing. He has also written freelance pieces for other sites such as KeenGamer.com and The Big Glasgow Comic Page. He loves movies, video games and comic books.