I became a fan of horror movies in high school, when I saw my first Friday the 13th film. As a young teen, the fear factor was astounding, but over the years the genre’s quality has sunk to the bottom of the barrel. I’ve watched Nancy Drew films for more laughs than action, and I’ve been embarrassed by animated films that aren’t even remotely scary. The horror genre has a long history of low quality, but there are some recent films that are worth a look. The latest being “In Sound Mind” from writer-director Aaron Spiering.
Horror has a long tradition of being genre that keeps you on the edge of your seat, screaming and laughing at the same time. The flow of blood and the sounds of howling is perfect for the genre, but horror also has a bad reputation for its lack of variety and the same characters appearing in each and every one of its stories. (H.P. Lovecraft was the father of the modern horror tale so he is often vilified for that. But he also created some unforgettable moments that no one should ever forget.)
“Halloween is in the air, which means that it’s time to reimagine indie horror in a new way. Horror is the great equalizer: If you’ve got the guts to watch a scary movie, the odds are that whatever genre suit you’d like to try out is out there. It’s time to take a look at the best indie horror movies of all time.
Indie games are my favorite. I like playing scary games. Indie horror games aren’t usually my favorite. Despite what should be a freeing opportunity to create new pathways without the constraints of big publishers, an excessive amount of independent horror games seem to fall into the same tropes.
Indie horrors tend to fall into the adventure-horror genre, with fake ghosts, too-scripted scares, or any number of other common shortcomings when games in this genre are created with little resources, as though shackled by lower budgets.
To my astonishment and pleasure, In Sound Mind defies the trend, offering a terrifying experience that, so far, seems to be on par with many of its contemporaries.
Desmond Crane, a therapist, is plagued by intrusive ideas, and he believes he’s going insane, which seems to be impacting his patients, who have all just died. Crane must go into the depths of both his own and their minds to find out why, in a supernatural just-go-with-it setting I neither expect nor want to be explained in actual terms.
The concept of In Sound Mind is intriguing straight away, with its focus on a primary person with a background I’ve never seen before. However, his narrative serves just as a pretext for the true core of In Sound Mind: the chaotic, almost hallucinogenic inner workings of his patients’ brains.
The current version of the game enabled me to go at the first five “tapes,” which were recordings from Crane’s therapy sessions, and I was astounded by how varied they were. While the whole game is played in first-person, these two levels showcased Of Sound Mind’s ostensibly best feature: diversity in scenery, and therefore terror.
Virginia’s tape examined a physically scarred girl’s self-hatred via a twisted underworld version of a haunted superstore where she had a terrible encounter, all while her ever-present ghost roamed the aisles searching and listening for me.
The game challenged me not to slip by Virginia, clothed in a ghostly gown with a lower torso formed of snakes, but to entice her. To beat her, I’d have to trick her into looking into different mirrors while watching her from behind with my portable shard, much like the children at the edge of the woods teasing the monsters in M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village.
I had to awkwardly Pied-Piper her to five other mirrors before she was completely overwhelmed and I could unravel more of her tale, finally free of the haunting. It was nearly always as intense as it was supposed to be.
It was during this initial experience that I discovered In Sound Mind differed from so many other games of similar kind. This isn’t a light-hearted horror encounter. This is a true survival horror game, in which managing ammunition, traveling the extra mile for that extra vital resource like torch batteries, and completing difficult puzzles with creatures breathing down your neck all contribute to the suspense building.
Each tape adds additional dynamics to Crane’s arsenal, such as the shard of glass that may cut through previously unreachable obstacles while also reflecting hidden items.
Later, putting together a pistol from crafting parts and collecting a gas mask gives the hub-like apartment a metroidvania-like unraveling, in which you take one step forward and two steps back through increasingly hostile hallways, which can morph into even more unsettling labyrinths right before your eyes a la Layers of Fear.
The second tape seems like it came straight out of Alan Wake, and I don’t mean that in a derogatory manner. It was fantastic. A much larger open-world region dumped me inside Allen’s head, where a lighthouse’s red glare loomed on a menacing rotation, inflicting harm anytime I was caught in it (the name is obviously no accident). Later, a dark presence (if you will) stalked me in the darkness while I used light manipulation to elude the furious spirit.
While some of the narrative elements are noticeably different, I got the impression that this latest tape was an intentional tribute to Alan Wake, and I’d want to know whether that’s the case. Both mechanically and visually, it was a close decision. In any case, it once again demonstrated the breadth of gaming available in In Sound Mind. This part was quite different from the previous tape, and throughout the entire game, there will be more cassettes to discover, each one probably as new as these.
This isn’t to imply that it’s perfect. Some opponent encounters seem to be gameable, such as fleeing away from “Inkblot” foes until they despawn rather than confronting them head-on. Even the haunted Virginia appeared to cease slicing at me if I continued running away when I was seen, but I can understand how this is preferable than being insta-killed by her after each unsuccessful attempt.
These kinds of details remind me that this is still an independent game made by a tiny team. There will almost certainly be hitches in the full release, but since it offers so much more than many of its rivals with similar pocket depth, I’m prepared to overlook them for the time being and wait to see how they feel in the complete game.
Even on my limited playing, the game kept surprising me with fresh things to discover, new reasons to turn over every stone, and new real horrors. As a result, I became captivated by this uncommon indie horror that really offers emergent haunts and a wide range of settings.
This has all the ingredients for a game that shouldn’t function as well as it does. It seems like it’s trying to accomplish too much and should give way under the strain of so many variables. But that doesn’t seem to be the case thus far. This is something horror lovers should keep an eye on. Between now and September 28, when In Sound Mind is released on all major platforms, it will be on my mind a lot.
In Sound Mind will be released on September 28 for PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox One X, with a Nintendo Switch release to follow.
Horror has a long history in film, but the genre has been on the rise over the past few years. In response, films being made by indie filmmakers have adopted horror motifs—and some have even made it into the mainstream. In the indie horror world, experimenting with new and different ideas is something we’ve come to expect from the best. In fact, in the market for horror films, “risk takers” are always looking to mix genres and challenge the audience. The best horror films, like the best horror games, are those that do the most to frighten the audience, and even go a step further by scaring us into thinking.. Read more about in sound mind game wiki and let us know what you think.
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