REVIEW: ‘In Sound Mind’ – Just the Right Mix of Humor and Fright (PS5)

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In Sound Mind

I’ve always been a big fan of psychological horror games; when they’re done right, they leave you with plenty of jumps but also a lot of insightfulness. But while In Sound Mind doesn’t throw a whole lot of novel wisdom at you, it does stand out with the way it presents itself as both creepy and witty all at once. In Sound Mind is a first-person psychological horror game developed by We Create Stuff and published by Modus Games.

Awakening in a building surrounded by black, oily water, players wander the halls, finding out more about the character they play—a psychiatrist named Desmond Wales—and just what has brought him to this isolated, lonely place. Not helping the situation is a mysterious man who keeps calling you, taunting and belittling your work. But as you explore, you’ll find tapes from your previous patients. And as you dive into listening to these recordings, your environment reflects the patients’ inner turmoil.

It’s each of these patients’ tales and therapy sessions that act as levels. Each one has its own ambiance and visuals that produce a surreal mindscape. As you walk through whale skeletons, explore the creepiest grocery store I’ve ever encountered, find yourself struggling to find the light in a lighthouse, and mucking through toxic sludge, these areas wonderfully emulate the patients’ lives and the various things ailing them—from their appearance to their uncontrollable rage. The music orchestrates each area wonderfully, especially when you encounter the bosses of each level. But I personally fell in love with the quiet moments. Every hum, creak, and squeak puts you on edge. While wearing a gas mask, your breathing is loud in your ears, adding to the horror but also making you wonder: what if I don’t hear something creep up on me?

Beyond the ambiance, the levels provide plenty of challenges, usually in the form of frenetic puzzles. You’ll turn switches on and off, pick up keys, find dolls, lure enemies to break apart crates, and just find a whole lot of hidden objects. And while some of these puzzles feel familiar, there are always new elements thrown in to mix them up, like using a shard of glass to look behind you to see enemies, unseen messages, and pinpoint essential objects. And the game has a great way of throwing enemies at you while you’re trying to think things through, keeping you on your toes and constantly harried.

In Sound Mind

Well, that’s until you find the gun(s). While In Sound Mind doesn’t exactly throw the weapons at you, it’s easy to figure out how to get them and it can happen pretty early in the game. With a gun in hand, a lot of the enemies become trivial. They feel more inconvenient than any real threat. However, the bosses of each level do provide more of a challenge, usually because you can’t just blast away at them, and their puzzles are nevertheless fun. And while you have other things to worry about, like conserving the battery life on your flashlight, conserving ammo, or managing your health, there are so many batteries, ammo boxes, and snacks lying around that these worries become trivial very quickly.

And while the game does take on some familiar mechanics, like blocking off areas that can’t be opened until later on in the game after you find an object or tool (something Resident Evil is well-known for), In Sound Mind knows what it’s doing. There are some meta moments where the game itself notes how unrealistic it is, like how police tape could possibly keep someone at bay. The game’s peculiar comedy is only furthered by plenty of tongue-in-cheek moments with its sentient mannequins, disgruntled antagonist, and ridiculous situations.

The game has an enjoyable way of scaring you and then following it up with a bit of humor. While this may sound like it would give someone a bit of whiplash, it’s a nice change-up from the rest of the horror genre. The voice acting is a bit cheesy and melodramatic, but it only adds to the game’s quirkiness. And when you look at some of the fine details, there’s so much wit to enjoy. Even the achievements have something clever to say. It’s cheeky and despite being a horror game, In Sound Mind plays it off well by providing just the right mix of humor and fright.

But while I enjoyed the visuals, had fun figuring out the puzzles, and had plenty of laughs along the way, In Sound Mind doesn’t quite impress anything upon you. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the game, but it also doesn’t strike me as extremely inventive or revolutionary. On the other hand, if you’ve played any psychological horror games in the past and enjoyed them, you’ll like this one for much the same reasons.

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


In Sound Mind
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

But while I enjoyed the visuals, had fun figuring out the puzzles, and had plenty of laughs, In Sound Mind doesn’t quite impress anything upon you. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the game, but it also doesn’t strike me as extremely inventive or revolutionary. On the other hand, if you’ve played any psychological horror games in the past and enjoyed them, you’ll like this one for much the same reasons.