In Sound Mind Review
The history of independent studio We Create Stuff, consisting of several employees at remote work and not having a banal headquarters, began with development of mods for Half-Life 2. After the release of Nightmare House, the studio spent five years working on In Sound Mind.
After playing with one Valve creation, the team switched to Portal. The new project, called The Flash Version, was initially distributed as a free browser version, and then transformed into a mappack for the original computer game, which attracted the attention of the publisher. Valve bought the product and released it as a paid Portal: Still Alive in the Xbox Live Arcade service.
On September 28, the next creation of the studio called In Sound Mind went on sale. The first truly major project released by We Create Stuff under the auspices of Modus Games publishing house is positioned as a psychological horror with a first-person view, but also contains elements of a shooter. In the course of the passage, users will find a lot of puzzles, battles with several types of opponents, intense boss fights, as well as many references to famous games, including the studio's own creations.
According to the plot, the psychotherapist Desmond Wells finds himself in a gloomy building, living his own life. Already from the start, players understand that there is some kind of sinister secret behind what is happening around. To find answers to the questions that have arisen, you will have to step towards the unknown by going on an exciting tour of four levels, each of which is the revived embodiment of human fears and complexes.
The script in In Sound Mind is not original: there is a classic short-lived tie, the main action, auxiliary elements and a certain intrigue that will be revealed closer to the finale. All this is implemented at an extremely high level in the game, so it is very interesting to watch what is happening.
The main tools of narration in In Sound Mind are cases recorded on a dictaphone from the doctor's medical practice and rare dialogues. Standard notes with information for such games are also available. However, the latter are not always the canvas of text necessary to reveal the ent of the game; sometimes the files suggest where to move on. Some of them contain short messages from a mysterious observer, with whom players will contact as they progress. Sometimes messages repeat thoughts formed in the head. At such moments, the artificial barrier between the player and what is happening on the screen collapses, increasing the degree of involvement in the process of passing.
Gramophone records are an equally interesting narrative element. Atmospheric musical compositions are recorded on them, listening to which is truly fascinating and plunges the player even more into the dark abyss of fears and experiences. If you collect all the records, then what is happening around begins to take on a new meaning, bringing the impressions of the story to a qualitatively new level. It is definitely worth getting a collection, especially since it is not so difficult to find records.
The locations in the game turned out to be quite memorable. Each of the zones is dedicated to a specific psychological problem and tells its own story, which is why the levels differ greatly from each other externally. The launch pad is presented in the form of a two-story building that serves as a transshipment point. Before moving on, you can stay in it for a while to explore the surroundings, study the finds and ... pet the cat.
HomaMart supermarket is the next place that the player will have to visit. The environment in it strongly resembles classic horror films: broken glass underfoot, police tapes at the entrances, fragments of someone's memories and numerous notes soaked in pain and a sense of loneliness. All these are scattered pieces of the mosaic, which, as the level is studied, gradually add up to a whole picture reflecting the inner experiences of one of Desmond's former patients, Virginia. As a child, she was the victim of an accident that changed the girl's appearance beyond recognition.
Society rejected Virginia because of her appearance, which is why she is afraid to show herself to others, constantly torturing herself locked up. When a small shop near the house went bankrupt, the girl had to go to a crowded supermarket, where her phobias led to a tragedy. After the incident, the owner had to temporarily close the supermarket to visitors. The dark deserted sections of the abandoned building became the last refuge for Virginia, wandering in the guise of a ghost between the dark deserted storefronts. The player must help the girl to accept herself, but before that she will have to fight with her.
The rest of the locations are built on a similar principle: on each of them, the player is waiting for a new case from the medical practice of the protagonist, a new monster to be defeated, and a new patient to be saved.
In gameplay terms, In Sound Mind is a typical adventure game. Most of the game time is devoted to solving puzzles and exploring the world. Puzzles are extremely diverse and numerous, and the approach to visual design is quite creative. The riddles are not too complicated to cause excitement and are interesting enough to make you want to solve them. At times they are able to surprise, and some of them even cut into the memory, leaving a pleasant aftertaste for a long time. The process of finding a solution to another uncomplicated problem is fun, but it's not always intuitive and sometimes raises questions.
The transition from level to level is accompanied by a sharp change of scenery, which feels like they are adding volume every time, throwing a new challenge to ingenuity. It is interesting to explore the environment, because the process itself is not reduced to a banal search for cartridges and necessary items. There is no special desire to engage in gathering because of the lack of need for this: ammunition is always in abundance, and the implementation of pumping is done carelessly. Here are the additional puzzles that look really interesting. First of all, because of the creative approach to their creation.
The combat system is poorly implemented. The destruction of opponents rather acts as a means of diluting numerous puzzles. Players do not experience any special emotions from the shooter component. The weapon shoots, recharges, consumes ammunition and looks more or less passable. The main arsenal consists of a pistol, a shotgun and a flare gun. The pistol does less damage, and the shotgun is designed to hit the enemy at point blank range. With a rocket launcher, in turn, you can lay a couple of sluggish opponents.
All this seems to work as it should, but ... in the game, although the enemies differ in their appearance and attacks, they do not pose any threat. Changing the difficulty level does not affect their number and effectiveness in any way, and cartridges are always poured in excess. Fortunately, boss battles affected these nuances to a lesser extent.
In addition to weapons, other, no less useful improvised tools will become available in In Sound Mind, each of which will have a use: a flashlight serves as a light source and a means to scare away certain opponents, a mirror fragment will be suitable for finding clues, and also works as a cold weapon. As you progress through the inventory, quite entertaining instances will fall into the inventory. A striking example is a gas mask, which the developers for some reason placed in a separate weapon slot.
Pumping characteristics is carried out with the help of certain drugs. They are scattered across the levels, and sometimes you need to solve another puzzle to get them. A total of four parameters are available to the character: stealth, health, speed and endurance. The first characteristic could be useful if stealth in the game was implemented properly. In his current state, hiding in corners from a few enemies makes no sense. Even with the appearance of bosses, in those few situations where the game itself should have a hidden passage, it is much easier to do without it.
Increasing the level of health does not arouse interest not only because of the number of enemies, but also because the developers approached the adjustment of difficulty levels extremely negligently. The appearance of the last two parameters in the game looks very far-fetched. As a result, the basic values are quite enough for the complete passage of In Sound Mind.
As for the interface, it is generally convenient. The design of the main status of the character (health points, stamina strip, ammunition indicator, icons of weapons and useful gadgets) looks simple and unobtrusive. However, the difference in the font selection of neighboring sections is somewhat striking. The equipment menu can be called practical — all information about quest items, mission objectives, and even all four parameters of character leveling are grouped on a single inventory page. The selected color palette does not cause discomfort.
But the management can not be called comfortable or intuitive. For sticks, hover acceleration is enabled by default, explicitly integrated from the computer version of the game with its mouse control. Unfortunately, the option cannot be disabled, you will have to accept it. Fortunately, as mentioned above, the shooter component is not designed for hardcore players, but the sensations of aiming will not be pleasant to all users.
Separately, I would like to mention the inconvenient switching of weapons and its use. To select an item, you need to press the "up" and "down" buttons on the D-pad several times, scrolling through the vertical list to the desired image. After a specific weapon is selected, you additionally need to click on the "square", R2 or touchpad to pick it up.
Players will observe a similar situation when using an item. Why the developer duplicated the firing on the touch panel, but used two buttons to switch slots, remains a mystery. As a result, everything happens as clumsily as possible and causes discomfort, especially when the hero carries not two or three, but eight items. One can only dream of a familiar and convenient circular weapon selector.
The graphics in In Sound Mind are not always pleasing to the eye. It is a visual embodiment of contrast and a regular transition from one extreme to another. Most of the visual component is very scarce and looks as budget-friendly as possible, but in some places the right combination of well-placed lighting sources and a certain set of visual effects works wonders.
As for the branded advantages of the PlayStation 5, they are simply not used in the creation of We Create Stuff. Moreover, not only the adaptive triggers and the speaker remained unused, but the vibration function as a whole. It is not in the game, as well as fast loading levels.
One of the positive features of In Sound Mind is the soundtrack. Musicians from The Living Tombstone, who previously participated in the creation of the soundtrack for the game Five Nights At Freddy's, gave their all in the new game. The compositions are matched to match the levels and characters. They perfectly convey the atmosphere of what is happening on the screen and even serve as a narrative tool. Some of them are even worthy of settling in the playlist of an avid music lover for a long time.
Summing up, it is worth noting that In Sound Mind is not without drawbacks: it is not always intuitive, the shooter component and the progress of the character in the game are frankly poorly worked out, the technical implementation sometimes raises questions, and the graphics in most situations are not striking. However, the project also has strengths: the soundtrack is great, it not only sets the mood at certain stages of the game, but also acts as an additional narrative tool, further revealing the character of the characters and enhancing the impressions of the plot; exploring levels is also quite an exciting process, which is interesting in itself, and puzzles in most cases are able to complement the fun, there are a lot of them, they are diverse, not too complicated to entertain and interesting enough to make you want to solve them.
The first major project We Create Stuff came out quite controversial. The studio definitely has its own author's handwriting, but it was clearly worth paying more attention to the technical implementation. In Sound Mind is an atmospheric adventure with a good plot and a lot of interesting puzzles, which, due to a limited budget and a baggage of minor flaws, can be recommended exclusively to unassuming fans of riddles and indie games.