The psychological horror of In Sound Mind feels years out of date

One of the first words you hear in In Sound Mind, growled with malice as the camera sweeps back across a cityscape flooded with oil-slick water, is “curiosity.” It’s something the game is confident you’ll feel. Aren’t you curious about how you’ve woken without memories in this nightmarish apartment building? Don’t you want to find out what’s up with the talking cat, or the hostile entity who refuses to stop bullying you over the phone?

Sadly, my answer was never more emphatic than “I guess?” In Sound Mind can’t quite manage to generate that curiosity. Instead, as I muddled along as amnesiac psychiatrist Desmond Wales to piece together a series of psychological terrors and tragedies, I couldn’t shake the feeling I was playing the same kind of horror game I’ve been playing for a decade or more. Once again, I was trailing the long march of games in the lineage of Layers of Fear, Amnesia, and Condemned, to the same destination: the same grungy hallways, the same scrounging around for flashlight batteries, the same obligatory fascination with insanity. In Sound Mind colors well within the lines.

There are things to like though, many of them visual. The imagery as Desmond’s apartment contorts itself into a surreal mindscape can be genuinely arresting. As you wander beneath whale carcasses and phantom lighthouses, titanic cassette tapes loom over the horizon, their tape reels spinning while audio logs play.

(Image credit: We Create Stuff)

The pools of toxic pharmaceutical sludge are lovelier than you’d expect, and I loved the inky, distorted silhouette of the basic enemies, despite the stiff character animations. Mechanically, some interesting ideas present themselves, like a shard of glass that reveals hidden items behind you when you look into its reflection. There’s a shopping cart that’s more fun to kick than it has any reason to be.