Tormented Souls certainly wears its inspirations on its sleeve. It’s built with the singular focus of emulating survival horror games of old, the ones that started with Alone in the Dark but only reached peak popularity with the likes of the early entries in Resident Evil and of course, all of Silent Hill.
Developed by Chilean indie studios Dual Effect Games and Abstract Games, Tormented Souls is a by the book survival game that would very much fit into the pantheon of the genre back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when quite a number of developers tried to ape on the success of Resident Evil and utterly failed to capture the magic that made Capcom’s excellent horror masterpiece tick.
Fortunately, this one is absolutely brilliant in providing a truly spooky setting in the form of an abandoned manor turned into an eerie hospital where our protagonist Caroline finds herself in after receiving a mysterious letter that has left her enveloped by restless nights and horrible nightmares. Upon arriving there, she’s knocked out only to wake up without any clothes in a tub, hooked up to a ventilator and missing an eye. Who could have done such a thing to her?
The setup is ripe with possibilities for horror, and in that Tormented Souls doesn’t waste time in putting our dear girl right into the thick of it, initially only equipped with a lighter and a host of dark corridors to sneak around in. It’s not long before she manages to find some form of defense against the bizarre mannequin-like creatures lurking around the hospital and ready to snap her in half.
Moving around is a matter of successfully fiddling with the same style of tank controls found in the old Resident Evil games, but thankfully with the added benefit of analog movement. The camera is fixed and commands which direction you have to push the stick in order to move, which as with horror games of old can be a little confusing sometimes, especially when you’re trying to make a quick escape.
Tormented Souls wouldn’t be much of a survival horror game if there weren’t any puzzles, and boy, does it deliver in that regard right away. You’ll be making your way through the hospital’s halls back and forth as you find gizmos and doodads that have to be used in particular spots requiring you to make mental notes of their locations since the map in the game is not as useful as the one in more modern games.
And you’ll also have to keep an eye on your resources as they are very scarce and hard to come by. Even when it comes to saving you only get a handful of tapes to make a record of your run, much like ink ribbons from Raccoon City and Spencer Mansion. Enemies tend to go down after you pepper them with enough bolts, but it’s a good idea to be conservative if you can, since, well, you never know when you might find yourself in a pinch, right?
I’m hard-pressed to think of a time recently that I’ve found myself as gripped by a game of this style as much as I have with Tormented Souls. Granted, I’ve always been a scaredy cat when it comes to horror media, and this game presses all the right buttons in that regard. And I love it for that.
Originally released last year for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, Tormented Souls is releasing this week on Nintendo Switch, which is the version that I played for review. It runs surprisingly smoothly and although it looks significantly grainier in comparison to other versions, I didn’t run into any glaring issues while playing, outside of somewhat long load times here and there, and bit of slowdown, but nothing that got in the way of getting creeped out as expected by the excellent atmosphere found in the game.
I’m blown away by the overall quality of Tormented Souls. It does very well what it proposes, and for as much as it can feel dated, it’s by design. And frankly, it’s a welcome return to a time when the scope of horror games was more limited and in that they found the ground they needed to deliver amazing, self-contained experiences which is exactly what Tormented Souls does so bloody well.