In Sound Mind is a single-player, first-person psychological horror game that delivers on fear of the unknown, and delves deep into the psyche of what scares humans the most. Developer We Create Stuff has taken the often-overdone genre of horror games and turned it into a more subtle, fear-elimination machine, and the result is a uniquely compelling game.
In Sound Mind starts off in very familiar territory as you find yourself trapped in a dark building with no idea of how you got there. So far so predictable, but things soon take a turn for the more interesting. Once you’ve got your bearings and solved the first few environmental puzzles, the narrative really picks up. Fixing a broken elevator opens up the top floor of the building and reveals you to be a practicing therapist who must look into what has happened to his recent patients and find out how their plight is related to his own.
There are sneaky mannequin shenanigans, specters who stalk you while you’re scrounging for puzzle solutions and hidden items, and lots of random phone calls that you can freely hang up on. No, really, it’s kind of hilarious — there’s this deep-voiced entity who hounds you the entire game and constantly rings you up just to talk trash and get a rise out of the protagonist. It’s a wonderfully cheesy touch, and I never got sick of it.
One of the stand-out aspects of In Sound Mind is the visual variety it offers players. Each level creates a unique atmosphere, and the otherworldly elements that play out in the background only add to the overall aesthetic. Every new tape in the game has players trek through a purgatory-like land of flooded streets, heading towards the specific world of each level. A massive cassette tape looms in the background, reacting to the player’s actions, and spinning its supply wheel, retelling the story of each patient in Desmond’s own words.
Narratively, the game develops pretty well, and the links between the various patients and your own situation is slowly revealed. Each patient’s area has its own distinct style and look meaning that they all feel enjoyable to explore and are less bogged down by the repetition that often afflicts games in this genre. So varied are these levels that I genuinely struggle to pick a favourite, with each having a particular atmosphere or mechanic that stands out.
The best way to play In Sound Mind would be to break it up into at least four or five decently long sessions, as the different acts have self-contained gameplay loops and natural, satisfying story arcs. You may, occasionally, need to bust out a video guide. I can think of one moment in particular — a conveyor belt nightmare — that was too annoying, and even too glitchy, to warrant putting up with across multiple failed attempts.
The true success of In Sound Mind comes from the atmosphere that We Create Stuff has crafted. The puzzles are smart and well-thought-out, the jump scares that the game utilizes don’t feel forced or cheesy, and the drastically different style of each tape shines through to create a spooky, complete-feeling game. With creepy sound design, and original music by The Living Tombstone, In Sound Mind is a fantastic single-player horror game.
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