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access_time July 19, 2021 at 6:00 AM in Previews by David Poole

Preview | In Sound Mind

With rumors circulating about new Silent Hill titles, fans are clamoring for more high quality psychological horror games. Bloober Team is one of the developers among those rumors, having plenty of experience with titles like Layers of Fear and The Medium. While these rumors still haven’t been confirmed, more original titles tend to be popping up under the radar now. Take In Sound Mind, a new first-person horror title from We Create Stuff, blending puzzles, exploration and even a bit of action to play with your senses. The game is due to be out this September, and a demo is available to try out on Steam. We got a chance to play a newer build of the game, going further into the story and taking advantage of quality updates.

In Sound Mind tells the tale of Desmond Wales, a therapist that has multiple patients that meet unfortunate ends. Waking up suddenly in a desolate apartment building, you’ll start to realize things aren’t as they seem. You’ll have the feeling of an unknown presence watching over you as you explore the building and find items to aid you in your journey. Mysterious phone calls from a strange person and eerie notes tend to keep you on edge as you try to figure out what’s going on. The answer seems to lie in the tape recordings of Desmond’s patient sessions, allowing him to live out their trauma.

You won’t start out with a weapon here, as you’ll have to scrounge for supplies and items to get by. One of the first items you’ll discover is a flashlight, requiring consumable batteries that you’ll collect along the way. You’ll also want to use the notes you find to give clues for progression, including finding gun parts to combine for a fighting chance. This is important, as finding the notes actually trigger the events. There’s also a mirror shard that will give you a melee attack, but it can also break obstacles. This glass shard can also uncover secrets by looking into the mirror, looking at objects behind you. I also found a shotgun, but it was just out of reach in my demo, requiring further progress.

Your immediate goal is to explore the apartments of your patients to find their tape recordings. Once you find a tape, you’ll take it back to your office to play it, which allows you to transport to a new area. The normal demo allows players to experience the first tape, but this build let me go even further to experience roughly a third of the second tape. This gave me roughly three hours to work with, exploring the apartment building, uncovering secrets, and of course, petting Desmond’s cat, Tonia. It seems that Tonia is your only ally in this adventure, though her role seems to be shrouded in mystery as well.

The game will gradually introduce threats, including chemical waste that slows you down and hurts you over time. You’ll also encounter strange inkblot enemies that will do whatever it takes to find and kill you. At first, you’ll have to avoid them, but once you get a weapon, you’ll have a fighting chance to defeat them. You have to be careful though, as it’s entirely possible to progress without a gun. Jumping the gun a little, I ended up taking on the first tape with only two out of three gun parts, meaning I had to fight with my mirror shard. I managed to survive, but it was definitely a challenging endeavor.

The first tape belongs to Virginia, a young woman who suffers from her own inner demons. Wandering along a pathway, we listen to recordings from Desmond and Virginia’s sessions, getting a bit more of the context. At the end of the path is Homa-Mart, a shopping superstore that houses a terrible spirit known as The Watcher. This spirit doesn’t want to look at herself, and thankfully, there are several mirrors around the store. Upon leading her to the first mirror, you’ll be able to obtain your mirror shard to help you tear through police tape and break down other obstacles. From there, you’ll have to navigate the dark market to get to the rest of the mirrors.

Homa-Mart is full of tons of secrets, including postcards that you can scan at the register to obtain coins. These coins mostly help you find pills, which are the most common collectible in the game. I never found all the pills in each area, though the game definitely encourages it and keeps track for you. Breaking the second mirror, you’ll uncover a key to one of the maintenance wings, which expands your exploration options. As you explore Homa-Mart, you’ll have to avoid the Watcher, some inkblot enemies, and even the mysterious figure that tries to make life difficult for you. You’ll do this as you search for various puzzle pieces like dolls, other keys, and more.

Something In Sound Mind does incredibly well is how it plays with your visual sense. The game will often put things in your view, only for it to disappear when you look away. For Homa-Mart, this happens most often with mannequins, who are only there to lend you a helping hand. No, seriously. Of course, the mysterious figure will show himself from time to time as well, just to make sure you know he’s out there. It’s a good idea to keep this visual feature in mind, as there are various points where you’ll need it to progress. Once you know this, you’ll do much better throughout the game.

Defeating the Watcher takes a bit of ingenuity, as the first couple mirrors are a freebie. The others take a bit more work to get to, involving multiple puzzles. One puzzle requires you to adjust multiple televisions to make the eyes on display look in a certain direction. Another one involves finding various blocks to spell out a word in a mirror. It takes some time, but it really feels rewarding when you manage to solve the puzzles while surviving. If you manage to get the Watcher to destroy all the mirrors, you’ll be able to save Virginia’s soul.

Moving past Homa-Mart, I immediately finished building my gun, because I was tired of finding ammo I couldn’t use. With the gun complete, I went to explore more of the apartment complex with a feeling of security. Shooting works like most FPS titles, though ammo is in short supply. It’s also worth pointing out that the game offers a sort of Metroidvania level of backtracking. Finding items in the tapes can help you reach new areas in the apartments. This will help you find more pills, as well as the various consumables. After looking around and cracking open a safe, I decided to go into the next apartment.

Allen Shore is another patient of Desmond’s, and this one seems to have issues with what lurks in the dark. As you recover Allen’s tape and take it to Desmond’s office, you’ll go through another recording path for more exposition. Moments after, you’ll find yourself at a beach, making your way to a lighthouse that hurts you with its light. The main goal is to get to the lighthouse, avoiding more inkblots along the way. Making some progress to the lighthouse, it’s not long before you encounter the next boss, The Shade. This enemy doesn’t like the light, so you’ll have to move quickly through the darkness to find patches of light to stand in. Interestingly enough, he also doesn’t like your flashlight, shrinking more as you shine the light on him.

While avoiding the Shade, I made my way into another building where I had to use my mirror shard again to find hidden oil. With the oil, I could light multiple lanterns to eliminate shadow barriers. This would allow me to light up more of the building until I could get a necessary key. This put me on a path to move further toward the lighthouse, only to encounter our mysterious stranger once more before the demo ends. In Sound Mind definitely caught me by surprise, and it does well to raise the tension level. The haunting atmosphere and the sound design help to make things more chilling, though thankfully, the scares are manageable.

I normally wouldn’t be looking at horror games, but something about In Sound Mind is keeping my attention. The story is interesting, but what really draws me in is the creativity in the execution. Seeing all the cool visual tricks in the creepy atmosphere, hearing the haunting tones, including the music from The Living Tombstone; it’s all excellently done. I’m only about three hours in, but now I’m invested to see Desmond’s journey to the end. If you’re looking for a new psychological horror title, definitely consider this one. In Sound Mind releases on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S|X, and PC on September 28th. A Switch version is also expected to release sometime this year.

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