Initial release date: August 27, 2021 / April 14, 2022 (Nintendo Switch)
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5
Developers: Dual Effect, Abstract Digital
"Review Copy Provided By PQube"
Tormented Souls is a Love Letter to classic Survival Horror Fans
Survivor Horror is a genre in gaming that I both love and hate due to several reasons with one of them being the fact that I get scared very VERY easily. It’s strange how I love horror and yet am terrified by it although in some aspects it makes sense because when it comes to survival horror games many often do have good stories that are thought provoking to explain whatever hellscape that you’re entering such as the world of Silent Hill and how it is a reflection of the individuals that have been drawn there and from there you get some of the greatest introspections of the psyche and psychology as a whole. Old school survival horror games often used what’s called “tank controls” of which was initially implemented in Resident Evil and was a made due to the lack of there being analogue sticks at the time and the general newness of 3D games and the need to move around in a 3D environment and thus you will have the Dpad being utilized for you to be able to move forwards and backwards by pressing up and down and turning by pressing left to right. While this may seem limiting by todays standard, this was welcomed at the time and would go on to become the preferred way for many to play survival horror games. Now that you have a little background on the survival horror genre, we can finally talk about why we are here today with Tormented Souls which is an indie game that pays homage to the early era of the genre all the while melding together the best aspects of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark, and Clock Tower. So, is it any good? We’re going to find out in this review!
The story of Tormented Souls follows Caroline Walker who receives a strange letter in the mail that reads “You think you can abandon us?” that invites her to the mysterious abandoned Wildberger Hospital. Caroline looks at the picture that came with the letter of twin girls that for some reason give Caroline a severe headache. Caroline decides to investigate the disappearance of the twin girls in Winterlake. Upon going to the Wildberger Hospital, Caroline is knocked out and eventually wakes up in a bathtub completely naked with a tube in her mouth and missing one of her eyes. Who did this to Caroline? What is going on here in Wildberger Hospital? There is a lot of mystery to be uncovered here, however, will you survive long enough to solve the horrors that have occurred here?
The game plays pretty much like an old-school survival-horror title so if you like classic Resident Evil or Silent Hill then you will fall in love with this because tank controls are back and with that comes puzzles! So, before I go forward, I must mention that if you are not a fan of classic survivor-horror mechanics then you won’t at all enjoy this because it’s a love it or hate it type of deal. You’ll have your sometimes static camera angles along with camera angles that follow you and pan from a fixed angle which does well in making you feel claustrophobic and paranoid because the game will also be adding in the fact that the game is set primarily in the dark…….and the darkness can and WILL harm you…..you’ve been warned.
As Caroline, you will be traversing the hospital and the mansion all the while solving various puzzles that can honestly be incredibly difficult yet are fair given that the solution is often right there where you are and often right there in front of you so pay attention to everything you see…..and hear. The puzzles are a good 50/50 split of puzzle solving of both Silent Hill and Resident Evil because it goes between combining certain items together and slotting them in to where they need to go ala Resident Evil to being a thinking mans puzzle by requiring you to pay attention to the various notes you come across and examining the items you will pick up with the solution to a puzzle being right there or within the room that you are in. The developers truly understand and have implemented what survival horror puzzles should include.
The inventory screen should feel familiar to anyone who has played Resident Evil (and Silent Hill) as it has a similar layout to it with you being able to check Caroline's general health status, currently equipped gear and weapons, notes, and more. It also allows you to combine items as well as inspect them which can lead to you finding clues and more to what it is that you need to do next. I also find that it is best to reload your weapon from the inventory screen versus on the field as you wont have to sit through the reloading animation (even though it is a pretty slick reload animation!). Unlike Resident Evil, there is no limit to your inventory and items are compartmentalized into tabs you can cycle through such as files, standard equipment, and the like.
I spoke earlier about the game featuring tank controls and while many may absolutely love that (especially those of us who grew up with the birth of the genre), others may find it cumbersome and be put off by it and thus the developers gave a us a second option by having the left analog stick be specifically for modern 3D movement allowing you to get around easily while the dpad is used for the classic tank controls. The fact that the controls are mapped this way is perfect because it allows the player to not have to pause the game and go to a menu to have to switch the controls based on your preference. Outside of the movement controls, the way you engage in combat is very much a mixture of classic Resident Evil and Silent Hill with you having your weapon and readying it before either shooting or swinging.
You will gain a small selection of guns that allow you to combat the various abominations that you will encounter along with a crowbar that allows you to attack and bash these monsters. Thankfully, you don’t have to worry about the crowbar or any of your weapons or items breaking as has been a common occurrence in modern gaming. Given the nature of ammo and health items being relatively scarce and the fact that enemies tend to hit you quite hard and can kill you in a few hits, I found the best option to be to conserve your resources like your ammo by often avoiding encounters and if you do need to fight then to shoot the monsters until they drop and then running up to them and bashing them with your crowbar repeatedly to kill them. What is great is that you also have the ability to do a quick backstep to avoid being hit which if you time it right then you won’t have much trouble with most normal encounters.
Enemies in the game are varied from torso only freaks of nature to wheelchair bound rusted claw abominations to even a stalker type fat blob that can heavily damage you and more. The monsters all play into the game taking place primarily in a hospital with their designs being based on patients that look to have been experimented on in the most crude and disgusting ways possible and look to be in extreme pain. One of the monsters that I found a bit annoying was the stalker because it can grab you and do massive damage unless you mash the face button to get it off you. You can temporarily stun the stalker if you pump enough lead into it or bash it enough with your crowbar, yet it’s not really worth your time and effort to do so, which leads to the fact that you can entirely avoid engaging this enemy if you simply leave a room and re-enter it which despawns it. You will know when the stalker is around because they have their own music that will play upon entering certain rooms so if you hear that scary movie like music play then just leave and re-enter the room.
Visually, the game is exceptionally gorgeous and especially on the Switch where it looks almost as good as it’s console and PC peers albeit with slightly less details in the environments. The environments are all incredibly atmospheric with how they look and give off the impression that real people once roamed the hospital and mansion as well as the dungeons and “otherworld” that you eventually visit being believable that monsters are roaming them. You’ll see each of the monsters having a lot of detail in them with the exception of the stalker enemy in my opinion. If there is one thing that I most definitely want to praise, then that would be the lighting engine used in this game as it is absolutely fantastic with how it illuminates the environments and is realistic in its application. The one thing that I do find to stick out like a sore thumb is Caroline herself and that’s mainly because her character model is not that well detailed and looks completely out of place when placed in the various areas and truthfully looks like she’s from one of those hentai games you see advertised on those naughty sites you go on……you know what I’m talking about and don’t pretend like your search history doesn’t have some not safe for work sites visited.
When it comes to the audio in the game, the music and ambience along with the monsters all sound great…….its the voice acting that’s terrible although I believe that may have been done on purpose or also due to a low budget with the devs getting whoever they thought could read the lines…..take your pick. The voice acting fits in with the way classic survival-horror titles were back in the day with the voice actors sounding godawful and delivering lines in the absolute most horrendous ways possible which unfortunately can pull you out of the experience. I want to give the devs the benefit of the doubt because I do not think that English is their native language as you will run into tons of typos all over the place and so maybe to them the people they got to voice the characters all sound proper.
The droning sounds that play when your roaming about do an excellent job of heightening your fears of what could be around the corner and in many ways it does more to create a fear of what could be that’s more terrifying than what actually is there and that is what excellent sound design is meant to do.
With all that has been said, is Tormented Souls a worthy return to classic survival-horror? HELL YEAH it is! Tormented Souls truly blends together the best of Silent Hill and Resident Evil into a complete package that scratches every itch one would have for a modern take on the classic formula. Is it perfect? By no means no and we’ve touched on all of its issues from the poor voice acting to the character model for Caroline to even the story being nonsensical at times, and yet, none of that keeps this from being one of the best new titles in the genre. Will it bring in new fans? More than likely not, however, it will bring back a lot of lapsed fans of survival-horror that have gone on to grow weary of the modern style of “horror” and honestly that’s who this is for and there's no shame in that. If you’ve got a craving for some tank controls and spoopy atmosphere, then Tormented Souls is the game for you!