A Throwback to survival horror’s origins – flaws and all
Way back in 1996, Resident Evil was released on the original Playstation, and it enthralled and traumatized gamers in equal measure. With a focus on exploration, puzzle-solving, and good old fashioned zombie blasting, the game was a massive hit for Capcom and several sequels followed.
But that was then and this is now.
Survival horror games have changed a lot since the mid-90s; so many of the tropes that gamers were familiar with back in the day – fixed camera angles, pre-rendered backgrounds – have largely become a thing of the past.
Most games in the genre are fully 3D these days, with a greater freedom of movement and more fluid character control. For the most part, this is a good thing, as while we can look upon those older horror games with fondness, they were sometimes frustrating to play.
Fixed camera angles often equated to an increased number of game over moments, as it wasn’t easy to see where enemies were on screen. And the tank-like control scheme and twitchy camera of older titles also caused many a death, as players struggled to move their characters away from danger.
Still, if you have ever wanted to return to the style of early survival horror, you are in for a treat with Tormented Souls. It’s not exactly a great game but it will scratch your itch if you’re wanting a game that has much in common with Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Clock Tower, and other 90s horror titles.
Despite being a throwback to games of old, however, the storytelling here is fairly forgettable. It lacks the world-building of Resident Evil or Silent Hill so don’t expect to be overly invested in the plot during your playthrough time.
The game puts you in the shoes of a young lady named Caroline Walker who receives a letter and picture relating to two missing young girls. As this is a video game, she decides against calling the police. Instead, she journeys to Winterlake Hospital, the supposed location of the girls, and attempts to find out what happened to them herself. It’s not a bad concept but as the story is very thinly drawn, you will be more interested in the old-school gameplay than the plotting.
This is assuming you were a fan of classic survival horror titles. If you were, you should get a kick out of the game as it should be a very nostalgic experience. But if you’re looking for something more modern, more akin to Resident Evil: Village than the first in that franchise, you will probably spend a lot of time cursing and throwing down your joypad as you play the game.
Why? Well, the camera can cause issues, as angles suddenly switch during movement, so you will experience a lot of disorientation when you’re traversing the game’s fixed environments.
The save system is the same as that used in old Resi titles, so you have to find tapes (in place of Resident Evil’s ribbons) if you want to save your game. As these are in short supply, you will have to be careful about when you use them, as you may have to replay difficult sections of the game if you run out of these by saving too often.
And the control scheme is difficult too. As with many older horror titles, you are unable to move while shooting, which is especially problematic when you’re trying to reload as the various abominations can finish you off within seconds if your gun isn’t ready to shoot. Expect to die, a lot!
These aren’t the game’s only problems though. The voice acting is as dire as it was in the original Resident Evil title and the dialogue is fairly weak and predictable. Many of the game’s puzzles are fairly abstract too, so you may need to look up game guides online to find the correct solutions. And the story’s resolution, while fairly interesting, is told too abruptly and may leave you wanting.
This game won’t be for everyone then. But on the plus side, the graphics are good, and the lighting effects as you move through the dark with your torch are mostly excellent. Resource management is less of an issue as it was in Resident Evil, so you won’t have to backtrack a lot to pick up any items you need for puzzles. And there is a palpable sense of dread as you move through the game’s cleverly created environments, as you never know what will emerge from the dark shadows to fight you.
So, despite the frustrations inherent within Tormented Souls’ gameplay, it might be that you will enjoy a playthrough of the game. This is especially true if you’re craving an old-school horror experience. There is a demo available in the PS store, so give that a go before playing. If you like what you see and you’re not put off by the stilted controls and obtuse puzzles, you may gain some enjoyment from this. It’s a worthy spiritual successor to horror titles from gaming’s past even if it doesn’t do a lot to stand apart from them.
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