When survival horror games first began appearing, players were tasked with trying their best to make their way through horrific creatures with few resources and numerous puzzles blocking their path. Over the years even the series that were once beloved survival horror titles have been moving away from these concepts or, at best, merging them with more focus being placed on action. Now here comes an indie title designed specifically to feel like the classic Resident Evil and Silent Hill games of the past in the form of Tormented Souls. With Dual Effect and Abstract Digital’s take on survival horror trying to blend classic mechanics with modern day aesthetics, has Tormented Souls succeeded in providing a spooky and challenging experience?
One day Caroline Walker receives a letter in the mail containing a strange picture of twin girls. In an attempt to make sense of the picture, Caroline heads to Winterlake Mansion to try and find out the truth behind the picture and why it pains her to look at. Shortly after arriving Caroline is knocked out only to wake up intubated and naked in a bathtub. To make matters worse, one of her eyes has been removed while she was unconscious. If things weren’t already bad enough, it quickly becomes apparent that evil forces have begun running rampant in the hospital turned mansion as horrific murderous creatures roam the halls and being caught in the dark for too long will result in an immediate death.
Tormented Souls excels at creating a spooky atmosphere for players to make their way through as Caroline pushes forward in an effort to find out the secrets behind what is happening in the building and the twins in the photo. It takes some great design to make sure that tension often remains high, especially when exploring new locations and the game manages to pull that off exceptionally well. On the other hand, the actual story itself is a bit too predictable at times with the few twists that are revealed being easy to see coming. It must be said that providing extra context clues and plot elements through the various notes, of which most have different text on each page, is a clever move that rewards exploration and helps expand upon the horrors while not drawing players out of the experience.
In many ways Tormented Souls wears its homages on its sleeves as numerous aspects of the game feel like they are direct references taken from either the Resident Evil or Silent Hill series and for the most part it manages to pull these aspects together well. Players will find themselves exploring the oft-narrow corridors and rooms of the mansion, navigating with fixed camera angles, using either free moving controls or classic tank controls should the player choose. As players explore they will find everything from healing items, ammo for weapons, and of course plenty of objects that will be used to solve the many puzzles in the game. In fact, the game even uses a tape recording system, meaning that there are a limited number of saves available in the game and no autosave available should the player die in some horrible fashion.
Combat in Tormented Souls is heavy and satisfying feeling with there being a number of weapons that players will come across, with their first weapon being a souped-up nail gun that serves as a primary weapon as well as a crowbar for when things get dicey. This list of weaponry gets a little longer by the end of the game but players will always want to be a bit wary of facing down enemies. Not only can they deal some solid damage to Caroline, though a limited back-step/dodge can be used to avoid damage, but Tormented Souls can be rather strict with ammunition. Now, there is certainly enough in the game to advance through if players are creative enough but it is entirely possible to find yourself in a bad way if too much ammo is wasted or missed when running through areas and that doesn’t even count a certain unkillable “Nemesis” style enemy that will begin to pursue Caroline after a certain point in the game.
In a new twist on survival horror, players will also have to worry about more than just enemies as simply navigating the mansion can be a deadly affair thanks to the ever present risk of the darkness. With most of the building either running on generators or dilapidated beyond repair, players will need to make use of a lighter to try and navigate through the dark. Of course, holding a lighter means that players cannot wield a weapon at the same time so often they must either run away from a monster should it appear or limit themselves to the scant light provided by a freshly lit set of candles. This also means that players will need to keep their lighter out whenever traveling to a new room as it may be completely dark inside and ready to drag Caroline to her doom.
As for puzzles, where many survival horror titles now feature watered down puzzles if any at all, Tormented Souls relishes in them. Players will be searching room to room looking for various bits and pieces of objects that all serve some sort of purpose and it is up to them to figure out how exactly everything will fit together. While there are still some puzzles that are as simple as retrieving an item, many puzzles in Tormented Souls require quite a bit of thought and even some rather outlandish ideas that can easily stump someone. Most puzzle solutions can revolve around finding a note and deciphering clues, mimicking a noise, and more in what ends up being a challenging but incredibly rewarding feeling of accomplishment when they are conquered.
It is worth noting that, considering Tormented Souls is still an indie game, the title does make quite a lot of use of what rooms are in the game. Players will often need to backtrack through parts of the mansion to either unlock a door with a freshly obtained key, pick up an object they still might need that was left somewhere else, and more. This isn’t too much of an issue thanks to the design layout of the mansion as well as a handy map that works just well enough to be useful without giving away too much but players should be prepared for plenty of backtracking until near the end of the title.
Visuals & Audio
With Tormented Souls prioritizing next-gen consoles the company was able to focus on making sure that the 3D environments that players will travel through are incredibly detailed. There is a stark disconnect between the gruesome medical equipment scattered throughout gorgeous mansion locations that only helps add to the feeling of discontent when exploring and encountering the nightmarishly mangled monsters that roam the halls. These beings are fused together with medical equipment and other twisted machinery that players must defend themselves against and can be truly gruesome to look at. As for the normal character models, Caroline’s clothing physics are highly detailed and the light reflections also are exceptionally handled here. That being said, some enemy animations are a bit rough around the edges and a certain “Nemesis” style monster’s movement ends up being more humorous than scary.
In true 90s style survival horror, the voice acting is well, incredibly rough. This is either intentionally done to try and capture that feeling of classic games but either way players should expect some rather campy dialogue and a lack of frightened chatter from Caroline. The soundtrack fits quite well as players will find that there are a number of great sounding tense tracks to go along with exploring the mansion, including a save room theme to signify safe areas.
There has been a lack of great classic survival horror titles in recent years and Tormented Souls looks to rectify that in as many ways as possible. The title is clearly filled with love for the classic series that helped establish the genre in the ’90s and manages to put its own unique spin on things as well by adding a number of fresh new mechanics to keep things interesting. Sure, the story may not be anything special but the amazing puzzles, beautifully haunting atmosphere, and balancing act of resource management more than make up for it as Tormented Souls easily establishes itself as a modern survival horror that fans of the genre will adore.
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