Many Thanks to Daniel at PQube for supplying the review code for this one. This was played in Handheld Mode, using my BinBok Wireless joycons. Grab your copy by following the links over at the Official Website today!
It has been a while since I saw a decent game with this warning. Tormented Souls’ website promised “Classic Survival-Horror”, “Deadly Combat” and inspiration from Resident Evil and Alone in the Dark. It was safe to say that I needed to play this one. Check the trailer out for yourself, I’ll catch up with you below.
First Impressions are lasting. When I notied frame-rate drops in the opening cutscene and inconsistency in item texts, I felt more concerned than curious. Once I had made my way to Winterlake Mansion, these feelings quickly began to fade.
The text on some items just didn’t match up with the text-box counterpart.
Fans of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Alone in the Dark should be thrilled. Tormented Souls made many lofty promises about gameplay and did make an honest attempt to reconcile all of them. The controls were deceptively simple; modern 3-dimensional movement with the Left-Stick, or classical ‘Tank-Controls’ on the D-pad. Item interaction was one of the face buttons and aim/shoot used the Left and Right shoulders respectively.
Control explanations took the form of annotated clipboards and were in no way overwhelming. The vague nature of hints and important items left enough mystery to uncover independently without feeling lost.
With cluttered rooms full of obstacles it was hard to avoid enemies at times. I had to either dispose of them quickly or avoid them entirely. Running away risks being caught unaware later, and ensured that creatures created urgency and tension. This was great overall, though the lack of creature varity left me wanting more.
Saving the game was a frustrating return to old, and quickly had me pining for checkpoints and autosave. Tormented Souls used a Magnetophone and disposable cassette reels, which were in extremely short supply. Falling victim to a monster resulted in loading back to the title screen and reverting to the previous save. The difficulty was unforgiving, but not entirely unwelcome, as it encouraged thorough explanation over quickly getting from A to B. Adding to this, I needed to avoid spending prolonged time in dark spots, this game really tried to bring a close to my adventure at every turn.
If the player stayed in the dark, the screen distorted like a VCR tape. If they died…well…back to the main menu!
Puzzles were detailed and simple at the same time. Some multi-layered solutions and tricks prevented a brute-force approach, as was the case with The first puzzle of the game. It would have been easy to force the answer, but exploring the room beforehand gave me all that I needed. For those who brute-force puzzles, the game laid subtle traps in the form of a second or sometimes third level. Powering on the generators was a great example. Upon seeing a sticker marked “10” on the control panel, I assumed I could set the pressures just move on. I tripped up by missing the drop in pressure when the generators actually switched on.
As a long-term fan of various survival-horror franchises, Tormented Souls was akin to a homecoming for me. With dark and foreboding areas which seems to scream “there is something just around the corner”, the nostalgia was real. I was always unsure whether to keep the torch out or to switch to a weapon such as the “Nailer”.
Graphical cues were a clear homage, and the fixed camera angles really tied the design choices together. Cluttered hallways and tight rooms blended seamlessly with larger environments like the Laboratory. The interconnecting structure really selling the mansion as a whole. Travelling between dimensions brought Silent Hill to mind, and the developer’s love for these older titans of the genre was blatant.
The soundtrack, composing of tracks by Begoña A. Carrasco and NyxTheShield, was a well-executed callback. It offered little in the way of innovation, but genuinely called to the childhood feelings of dread and anticipation that accompanied my playing through a game like this. Of the 25 tracks, my favourite would be Main Theme itself, which reminded me of Silent Hill 2’s Theme of Laura, mixed with the original’s Not Tomorrow.
Tormented Souls packed a lot of punch into a small package. Coming in at approximately 8GB and priced at a very reasonable £16.99 ($19.99) directly from the Nintendo E-Shop, it promised a classical survival-horror experience with plenty of modern polish. I enjoyed my time in Winterlake, but ultimately would still choose to revisit Arklay Mansion in Resident Evil HD Remake over returning to this one. It’s great to have other developers bringing alternative experiences to market, but this one did not quite match up. Some areas were a distinct improvement from a quality-of-life approach, while others were somewhat lacking.
With no substantial unlockables, alternative stories or similar, replayability in Tormented Souls was limited to finishing the game faster or discovering more lore and collectibles that may have been missed on a previous run. Not great, but more than some games offer.