Estimated reading time: 12 minutes
Let me tell you something… If you get a mysterious photo in the mail, covered in blood and with a message that reads “Come to the old hospital if you wish to know the truth!” Burn it! Throw it away! Eat it! Sell it to the next gullible person because no one in their right state of mind would do something so suspicious. However in this game, that cliché trope strikes again… And I love every dark second of it!
Our story focuses on our beautifully dressed protagonist named Caroline Walker. One morning she receives a strange photo in the mail. On it is a picture of two young girls, and a message that reads: “You think you can just abandon us?” Confused and curious, she sets off to an abandoned hospital located in the mountains, far from her home. Once she sets foot inside, she is greeted by the unique architecture and design of the building, almost like she stepped into a hotel or a mansion. Upon further exploration she is attacked by an unknown assailant.
As she wakes from her unconscious state she finds herself in a tub, naked and strapped to a ventilation machine. Shocked, she hurries to dress herself and happens upon a mirror in the room. Her clothes weren’t the only thing missing when she woke. Her right eye is gone, too. Scared, she flees into the halls looking for help, and only seems to run into creatures that aren’t human. Feeling trapped and alone, will Caroline make it out in one piece, or succumb to the darkness and monsters that inhabit this distorted hospital?
Tormented Souls works in a very simply fashion. From shooting enemies down, point and click investigation, picking up items and combining certain materials in order to solve puzzles. As long as you have a good head on your shoulders you’ll have no trouble solving dangerous situations. The enemies in the game come in all shapes and sizes, so you’ll need a good weapon to combat them. This game doesn’t give you your typical starter handgun, no no, instead you’ll start off with a nail gun. No bullets required since you’ll happen upon nails from time to time.
The game will offer stronger weapons as you progress through the story, but they’ll be harder to collect as some are hidden behind puzzles and others are disassembled into pieces which you’ll find laying around as you venture through the hospital. I wouldn’t say ammo is sparse, but try to make most shots count. I can’t explain my frustration on trying to reload and accidentally firing off a random round. You’re also given a crowbar at the beginning. Now, I thought it was only used during certain moments, but you can actually equip it as a melee weapon if you’re low on shots or trying to conserve ammunition.
Your character does have the ability to dodge enemy attacks, but they need to be precise in order to receive no damage. I’ve noticed that enemies that can attack you from a distance can still land a hit while you dodge, since the dodge only allows you to take a quick back step, you’ll have to make your character side step manually if you wish to avoid it. Investigating your surroundings will be the key in escaping the hospital. Exploring every room will help you discover ammunition, health items, notebook entries, keys or possible items to help solve puzzles. Certain interactive items or surfaces might require you to carefully examine the area.
Luckily, your on-screen cursor will highlight over points of interest to help you along. Everything you collect in the game will be stored in your inventory. You’ll become great friends fast as you’ll need to open your inventory to swap weapons, use items, read maps, etc. If you hover over your items in menu you’ll have the option to either examine them, combine, equip or use during appropriate times. Not all items are able to be combined.
Guess what? Remember how good it felt to write down your save progress on a typewriter in Resident Evil? Well, Tormented Souls provides you with a tape recorder! And an old time one at that. You’ll find them in safe rooms where the music feels more calming and hopeful. But, you can’t just upright and save. You’ll have to find tape reels in order to save your progress. The game doesn’t provide you with a lot of them so use them sparingly or you might find yourself in a tight spot.
Another thing that will try and kill you is the darkness itself. Caroline must have a great fear of the dark because anytime she finds herself walking into a black corridor or a dark spot in a room she’ll begin to panic. Your screen will start to go fuzzy and eventually it will kill her. Most of the building is dark so if you find yourself walking into the unknown you can simply just open your menu and pull out your lighter.
Lastly, you’ll run into a bunch of puzzles that will stop Caroline in her tracks, but don’t worry, there is always a solution to each one. Some are obvious, others might require you to put two and two together. Memory is a big factor in some of them, while others might require you to think outside the box. The good news is there really isn’t any mathematical ones (hurray for those who have trouble with numbers points at self). The further you dive into the game, however, the harder each puzzle will get, so be ready to grind your teeth during the more irritating ones.
As I’ve mentioned before, the game takes place in a hospital, but the building itself seems to have different layouts that resembles either a hotel or a mansion. The main lobby is definitely structured in homage to Resident Evil 2’s Raccoon City Police Department, which I imagine this game takes inspiration from. A great level of detail was put into each room you explore, though as most of the game is submerged in darkness you might have to take extra care in really examining certain things. Even a lit room with electricity can still be quite dark. You do have the option to toggle with the brightness in the option menu, however when I tried to enhance it the game looked more like the sun was shining in my eyes, or more accurately the camera.
Speaking of the camera, you’ll find that this game uses fixed camera angles that scream classic horror. This may be frustrating to some, but I find myself being on edge and excited when I walk into a room and hear something groaning in the darkness. As my palms get sweaty with fear, it takes every ounce of courage just to turn the corner and change that camera to see what I’m dealing with, which is perfect in this genre of gaming. Thankfully these camera angles usually give you enough range to see what you are doing, unless you draw an enemy back into a bad spot. The camera angles are definitely more of an homage to the games that inspired them, while doing a good job of not being frustrating like they were in the classic titles.
Let’s not forget the enemies in this game, as I believe they deserve a moment of praise. These are not your typical modified Zom-Zom’s I’m used to in most Resident Evil games. Oh no! Silent Hill creeps into my mind as I run from these grotesque creatures. Every monster you encounter in this hospital was unfortunately experimented on from a mad doctor who thought that body horror was the hottest new trend. They wander aimlessly, most likely out for revenge, for anyone to suffer and die the same fate they received. They can range from creepy to down right gross in appearance, and sport the “I’m in a hospital” theme by either crawling toward you on wheel chairs, crutches or surgical deformities. Laugh now, but when that thing’s chasing you, with an appetite for a cute girl in a short dress, you’ll most likely be screaming as you try to shake off the goosebumps that cover your body.
The music in this game is simple, yet appropriate. Switching between somber piano pieces, to jarring string moments and absolute silence, with nothing more than the pitter-patter of your footsteps. Ambience is placed in rooms where you’re not sure if you’re safe, making you doubt your next move. There were plenty of moments where I’d walk into a hallway and just stop and listen for any sign of life, holding my breath just in case a monster might hear me through my microphone.
Heavily inspired by past horror games, it does a great job of giving me that nostalgic feeling when I walk around. Remember the score pieces when walking into a safe/save room; making you wipe the sweat off your brow because you know you’re safe for the moment? Yeah… that kind of feeling. However I do find the game gives away certain moments with its soundtracks. An example of this is when I explain the intense moment of not knowing what might be waiting for you around every corner. Well, the enemies have a good way of letting you know when you’ve been spotted when you hear the tempo change. The music picks up speed and basically tells you something is coming to get ya! Giving you a bit of time to prepare or run away.
Another example is this enemy that REALLY doesn’t like you and will randomly appear in different room, while most enemies are glued to their programmed location, this one was free roam throughout the building. IT MAKES TRAVELLING AROUND TEN TIMES SCARIER! However, once again the music kinda gives away the scare. Anytime I walked into a room and it changed to the monster’s theme song I simply said ‘NOPE’ and ran back into the previous room. The best part (or worst depending how you view it) about leaving and re-entering the same room is that there is a 90% chance it re-spawned in another area of the hospital. Plus, it doesn’t give chase if you run into a different room. This is a nice breath of fresh air for those with a frail heart for horror, but for hardcore fans it would’ve been a nice challenge to escape it if it was persistent. Thanks for giving me the heads up soundtrack, free drinks on me!
Ups and Downs
The game did bring out some appealing aspects as I played through. First off, it was set in Canada. The location of the hospital, in game, is Blackwood Island in Saskatchewan. But there wasn’t any creepy abandoned hospitals when I looked it up. HOWEVER, the main character Caroline lives in Campbell River, British Columbia, which DOES have a fully functional hospital, that was built back in 1957. Coincidence? I’m not sure, but it is interesting. It’s nice to see my home country being used as a location of interest. (Note to self: Don’t explore abandoned hospitals in the mountains, overlooking a lake) Another fact that I found interesting was the classic item menu swap-out (where you open up your menu and select every item individually for each use). To some, this can be extremely annoying, but for me, jumping into this game knowing it was going to play like an old school horror game made me excited. It was a nice touch of the past. The menu handling was always fast and easy to use so I never had any issues.
Now, let’s talk about some of the minor issues that did tend to stick out for me. I noticed after a round of combat the character model would freeze in the fighting position for about 3 seconds after every kill. Why it would do this? I’m not certain, but it happened every time. Another bug that would come and go would make my character float off the ground if I was pushing an enemy back while fighting on some stairs. This can also happen if you spin around near objects that are supposed to be obstacles. Great for escaping, but probably not intentional. Sometimes the music would cut off, and at first I thought I triggered an enemy or a cut-scene to play, but nope, it would just stop. Leaving the room and re-entering would fix the problem.
The last thing would be the voice overs. I’m not sure if they were trying to make it cringey to support past titles, but it was very monotone. Like, girl, you could be a bit more surprised that buddy lost a limb? Plus the voice overs wouldn’t match the text box at times. Probably used google translate, am I right? I also noticed in one room with a compass rose inscribed on the floor, the compass was most likely in French or Spanish, as the “W” was an “O”.
To conclude, this game is a near perfect example of a classic horror game. With fixed camera angles, spine chilling enemies and puzzle solving for days you’ll feel like a kid hiding behind a pillow and blanket. With nostalgic music to help keep the pacing of the story I doubt you’ll put this game down until you finish it. I’m giving Tormented Souls a 9.5 out of 10 for being a thrilling reminder of — hold on, my life’s soundtrack just told me that an enemies nearby.
Let me just close the door. Closes and opens door OKAY, EVERY THINGS GOOD! IT LEFT!Score: 9.5 / 10