Games: In Sound Mind a no-brainer for fright fans after something a bit different
In Sound Mind (Multi)
By: Modus Games
BATTLING farce, a smart-arse terrier and a hairline that's been receding since 1982, Frasier Crane is probably the closest most on these shores come to experiencing a psychiatrist.
And In Sound Mind – this year's first pre-Halloween horror treat – will encourage giving them a wide berth. As therapist Desmond Wales, players find themselves trapped in his crumbling apartment building, tormented by a mysterious entity while he listens to the audio tapes of past patients.
Each opens the door into a cuckoo's nest of loony-bin types who were, as Cypress Hill so delicately put it, "insane in the brain". Only by bossing each puzzle-heavy world and resolving its patient's issues will Desmond piece together these interconnected stories and escape.
An indie gem with a side order of camp, In Sound Mind is custom-made to mess with your noggin. From its apartment complex hub world – which itself can be further explored as you gain new tools – players are constantly met with new challenges and twisted environments.
Moving along at a fair clip, its four distinct locations together sound like your average Irish holiday - grocery store, lighthouse, quarry and forest.
Heavy on the puzzles, there's much hunting for survival horror staples such as keys and fuses, but more often than not In Sound Mind plays out like a first-person shooter, though combat is stiff and there are many frustrating sections you'll resort to suicide-running.
Aside from the bosses, which are a constant presence throughout their bespoke levels, there are only three variations on its common-or-garden enemies - juddering inkblots aching for a bullet or two.
But what bosses they are. Mired in psychological trauma, level designs are a load of symbolics while besting your foe is entwined with their deep-seated issues.
For example, your first case hates the sight of herself, meaning much use of mirrors to defeat her. Despite the dark subject matter, though, a rich vein of pitch-black humour runs through In Sound Mind, from Desmond's deadpan asides to constant taunts from its Freddy Krueger-esque master of scaremonies.
Loaded with fresh ideas, the developers have shot for the moon, though technical stutters belie its indie budget, and In Sound Mind would easily pass for a last-gen game.
The amateur night voice acting is hit or miss, unintentionally lending a B-movie vibe, though it does boast a cracking score from YouTube darlings The Living Tombstone.
The polar opposite of most dreary, pretentious indie horrors, In Sound Mind can't be recommended enough for fright fans after something a bit different. With psycho shenanigans that put the camp in hippocampus, it's a shrink rap that'll leave you gasping for a heroic dose of lithium.