Tormented Souls Review (PS5)
*Kills an enemy and reloads* No Mercy.
Publisher: PQube Limited
Tormented Souls stars Caroline Walker who one day receives a strange envelope. Inside was a picture of twins with a strange message about her abandoning someone (those twins maybe?) that caused her to get a migraine and nightmares. After 2 weeks, she can’t take it anymore and decided to go to the place the envelope came from, Wildberger Hospital, to find out why that was sent to her and why her mind just won’t let the picture of those twins go. Well, actually it technically is a mansion that was converted into a hospital. So hospital mansion it is. However, when she was investigating late at night for some reason (horror characters have to make a dumb decision somewhere) she was hit in the back of the head. Losing consciousness instantly. Sometime later she suddenly wakes up naked in a bathtub full of water and with a ventilator down her throat. Fortunately it doesn’t look like any of her organs were harvested, but she does find out that someone took one of her eyes out. Caroline is shaken, but she tries not to dwell on that fact for long, after all she does want to find out who those twins are and now who took her eye and why, so she continues on.
While this hospital mansion does look abandoned, it turns out she isn’t here alone. She soon finds the hospital’s priest who somewhat helps you in pointing you in the right direction and giving you some help. Oh, and be careful to not leave yourself in the dark for too long as the shadows hide something sinister. So keep your lighter on just in case while exploring. The hospital mansion really does give off a creepy vibe with how it was designed, the lighting, the music and sound effects, and the fixed camera angles (which does a good job and does have some interesting angles at times). The hospital mansion is easy to get lost in too, especially when you have to figure out where you’re at on a map, find where you need to go, and figure out which way is the path the map is showing that you need to follow.
While you’re exploring, one of the things you’ll be able to find and pick up are journal entries or just papers. These were really interesting to me and does play well into Caroline’s story as she does want to know what the heck happened. You’ll pick them up out of order and it was really interesting piecing together the time line, being left on a cliffhanger wondering what happened before the events or after, and creepy to read.
You’ll also come across various puzzles that you’ll be solving to continue. These are pretty clever, though there will be a couple that will have you confused for a while or just be stuck. Other than the first couple that are obviously going to be easy, these will often require you to find a certain item (which sometimes you’ll encounter the puzzle area beforehand) and some kind of hint on what you need to do. You’ll often find yourself examining items to interact with them and tweak them to the needed state and/or deciphering what the hint is suggesting. In some cases, you’ll have to go through a mirror that will transport you into a mirror dimension to solve your problem that is reflected or go back in time through film (which while time travel shenanigans are to a minimum, it’s unexplainable and does make certain story aspects confusing) which also may involve another puzzle for you to solve to get what you need. There are some hard puzzles, but for the most part you’ll see the thought process and feel kind of silly for not getting it. Though, there was one particular puzzle string that I just couldn’t get and still don’t see how I would have gotten it by myself. Personally, one of my favorite puzzles in the game is the door knocker one where you’re told the code is the beating heart of John Gibson’s creation.
However, early on you learn that the priest isn’t the only one here. Various enemies will start to appear in halls and rooms. These enemies seem to have been previous patients that have been twisted and tortured into what they are now and they won’t hesitate in attacking. There are a handful of enemy types that you’ll routinely encounter, like the wheelchair enemy or the spitter, which give of a distinctive sound when they’re in the room to alert you. They all also have their own way of attacking. Luckily, you do get a weapon before these enemies show up in the form of a nail gun and a crowbar. And seriously, don’t forget about that crowbar. The nail gun allows you to shoot from a distance and Caroline will auto-aim for you. However, you need to master the art of the dodge, which is only usable when you’re in the attack position, as attacking doesn’t really stun them and you almost have to anticipate when the enemy will attack as Caroline will take a precious second to dodge (and you can get attacked while doing in the middle of your attacking/reloading animation). It gets easier as you encounter them more, but the dodge has a generous amount of invincibility frames. Each enemy type has a certain amount of hits it can take, some are weaker and some are stronger, but they do get downed when they’re close to death. Which is when you can go in with the crowbar! Just make sure they do their death animation before you walk away. No mercy.
You do have to take into account of the fixed camera sometimes as well. Most of the time it does a good job, but there are a couple rooms where crossing the camera switch line can hurt you as it can cause the enemy to be out of the frame or worse, be coming from behind the camera.
Later on, you do get other weapons to help you out alongside the ammo for them spawning. These turn out to be a huge help so don’t forget to use those as well, especially towards the more threatening enemies or when you’re backed into a corner since they are more powerful.
What you’ll learn quickly is that Tormented Souls pushes you to be aggressive and you should be. You can run away from the enemies, but the majority of them that you’ll encounter have attacks that can easily reach you while you’re running away. And you can’t really dodge when you’re not in an attack stance. Not to mention that the enemies often do keep the position they were in instead of resetting to their original position (there was only one enemy I noticed that did late game). This does have a nice effect of them carrying over damage, but it can cause an enemy to just camp the door with only one exit if you’re particularly unlucky. For me, and from what I can tell others did too, I had an Acid Spitter camping the Save Room door in the Waiting Room, which caused it to get a free shot most of the time I tried to leave (sometimes it reacted a bit too late allowing me to dodge). It also didn’t help that the Waiting Room holds 2 of them. This encounter was the hardest one in the game for me, which probably didn’t help considering my situation, and it was so annoying and frustrating. I was close to quitting, but I was determined and eventually after many resets I made it out alive with minimum damage.
This early encounter was basically my basis for my hatred of the enemies. I did have some sympathy for them as you do learn what they have gone through before you arrive both in the game (through some journal entries and by environmental storytelling) and on the game’s website, but hey I was not going easy on them anymore. They didn’t for poor ‘ole me. No mercy.
That doesn’t mean that all enemies can’t be walked around easily or cheesed though. There are a select few enemies that can be side-stepped around fairly easily, though one doesn’t show up much until you reach the late game with the other two only in late game. I’m not too positive if they deal more damage than the others, but they do seem to be able to take more damage than the others so this does give you leeway. And to give you a little warning, there is an enemy that isn’t killable that shows up randomly after you interrupt its meal, but it really is easy to bait an attack and walk around it as it gets caught up in its long grabbing/missing animation or just go into the room you were just in and going back in to despawn it as it does give off special music. So you do have ways of surviving the encounters rather than it being another case of multiple-death frustration.
Also, considering that this whole game does take place in just the hospital mansion, it goes without telling that there will be backtracking. So if you’re someone that wants no backtracking, you’re not going to like that aspect. While exploring areas, you’ll often come across interaction points suggesting that you’ll eventually get something to put there, puzzles you can’t quite solve yet, multiple doors that you know you’ll be able to unlock for shortcuts, and just areas you won’t be able to go into yet. So when you grab an item or need to go somewhere specific, you will often get a realization where you need to go or remember you came across it and just need to find it again. This also means the enemies you probably dodged are in the rooms you have to go back in. Putting more of an importance of killing them.
In terms of the amount of pickups, the game does give you enough plus a bit more to survive. As long as you’re keeping up with exploring the room and keeping your eye out on pickups (though there are some that are well hidden) and making sure Caroline is aiming, the game gives you enough to kill each enemy. You can even save more ammo by using the crowbar to melee enemies when they’re downed or against those you feel you can dodge. As you’re getting good at using that dodge, you’ll also find yourself with enough health items. Though still try to either keep track of how many hits you are until death or the sign of when you should heal her if you haven’t saved in a while. And on the topic of saving, you do get a recording tape for each save room plus more so you can save in between them if you need to. I myself had a bunch of ammo left (I only skipped killing maybe 3 enemies as I knew I wouldn’t have to go back down there again and at the time I was low on ammo) and one recording tape left by the end of the game.
The one thing I wish Tormented Souls did though was organize the inventory a bit more or let you do it. I often wished that the items you would use the most was put at the top, like how the lighter continued to be the first item in its tab. I wished that the map was at the top, especially since there isn’t a map shortcut, as it was on the third row for me and that the weapons were on the top alongside the lighter. The game does pause when you’re in the menu (which makes reloading through the menu the safest when you don’t want to risk it), but I did find myself using or almost using a morphine shot when I meant to equip a weapon instead. The map also needed a way to zoom in as it can be difficult to read the names of the rooms.
Also while I did wish there was some kind of difficulty setting when I was in my Waiting Room death loop (even if it was more casual leaning with unlimited saves, more ammo/health pickups, and maybe a map that updates your location). I soon became okay with it, but the beginning really makes you wish it did have difficulty settings. You will get better at fighting, dodging, and surviving. Just give yourself time to learn how to tell when the enemies will attack. That was the case for me as I turned into a killing beast that mainly only got hit when my hubris kicked in.
In terms of performance, Tormented Souls plays really well on the PS5. Though, I did encounter a soft lock when completing one of the puzzles, there were a couple times that the auto aim would suddenly not work anymore despite the enemy being right in Caroline’s face which causes ammo to be wasted (if you can catch it quick enough, you can tell by Caroline changing her stance), and being killed a couple times by the game registering one attack as constant, multiple ones.
Tormented Souls turned out to be a pretty great horror game, and this is coming from someone that doesn’t have the nostalgia for the classics this game is inspired from. While I did get very annoyed early on due to an enemy camping the save room door, it really does bring in that atmosphere that makes you anxious turning the corner or going into a new room. Making you listen for the tell-tale signs of an enemy being close by and carefully walking forward so you don’t accidentally run into your own death. I also loved the hospital mansion design, combining the creepy factor of being in a hospital or an empty mansion alone at night, the monster designs that are creepy and gives off a hint of sympathy before its gone when they attack, and I really did like Caroline’s outfit (that bow in the back was specifically a nice touch) that makes her stand out from the creepy hospital mansion. Not to mention that the puzzles are clever, with some being hard to figure it. And while the story does have bits that were kind of bad or confusing on how exactly it worked or came to be, it was generally interesting to piece together what happened and why Caroline was drawn to the hospital mansion.
If you want to play a horror game that’s built around being like how the survival horror classics were, but with better graphics, you have to pick up Tormented Souls. Though I do recommend playing with a controller if you don’t want to do tank controls.
And if you’re not too sure yourself, there is a demo available for you to play. Which, for me, was why I wanted to pick this up.