The Gamecube remake of Resident Evil is one of the greatest survival horror games of all time, though the horror genre is somewhat on a standstill with very few games really standing out. Granted, there are still some exceptional proper horror games coming out every now and then such as Visage, Amnesia Rebirth and the Resident Evil 2 Remake. Tormented Souls might actually be included to this list, being one of the most surprising horror games I’ve played in a while, calling back to the classics whilst keeping it fresh.
You play as a woman named Caroline, who is investigating the disappearance of twin girls. Such investigation leads her to Winterlake Hospital, where she is eventually captured, awakening in a bathroom attached to medical equipment. She must uncover the truth of the disappearance whilst surviving the horrors of this wicked hospital. It’s a very standard horror story for the most part, but it does take some surprising turns that make its overall world building a little bit more interesting.
Much like this year’s The Medium, Tormented Souls makes use of a dynamic camera system, evoking the classic horror of the PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 era. Often used fixed angles to add tension to the scene and combining it with dynamic moving camera’s the will follow the character around the room. This creates some wonderfully tense moments as the camera rotates as you go down a long dark hallway with nothing but your lighter. It’s used to great effect here, and very rarely becomes a nuisance, except for those instance where enemies are just off camera or when it disorientates you when trying to run away.
Tormented Souls drops you straight into the tick of it, with you waking up in a hospital and immediately looking around. There’s very little direction here, as you need to figure where you need to go by yourself. Even leaving the first room isn’t as simple as opening a door, introducing you to the game’s puzzle aspects quickly. Occasionally you will meet another character who will tell you where you need to be, but that’s only a part of it and mostly acts as a reminder if you’ve forgotten based off other clues. It’s an incredibly well designed environment that loops around itself as you open up shortcuts and the lack of direction is welcome, letting players figure things out.
The puzzles in Tormented Souls are wonderfully designed, being just vague enough to feel like the game’s not holding your hand, but not enough to the point of making you feel lost for extended periods of time. This is something that modern Resident Evil has struggled with, especially in Resident Evil 7 and Resident Evil 3 Remake, where the puzzle solutions are often blatantly obvious.
Most of the time the puzzles in Tormented Souls require you to use certain objects in the environment or find specific items, ranging from simple things, like finding a fuse to open a door, to more complex and nonsensical puzzles where you need to knock on a door in the rhythm of a heartbeat (which is one of the harsher ones). It often makes you question who the hell designed this place. There’s a good balance of puzzles here and they aren’t so challenging to keep you stuck for a long time.
Combat, however, is a little bit more basic. Very early on you will get a nailgun and that will be your main weapon for much of the game. It very much plays like the Resident Evil remake in this regard, with auto-aiming towards enemies and being stuck into a specific spot while aiming. You can, however, dodge attacks. Ammo is well spread out, so there’s that constant fear you will run out as well. I did have a couple of instances where auto aim just refused to work, by the way, making for a frustrating battle that had me take more damage than I needed.
One of my favourite aspects of old school survival horror is actually how some games handled saving. In Tormented Souls, there’s no autosave to help you, instead relying entirely on recording tapes. This resource is incredibly rare and it can be really tempting to use whenever you reach a save room, even though you might not have mad much progress. I loved this feature, but try to spread your saves out so you don’t run out and leave you with extended periods of progress being wiped. It makes every new room that little bit more terrifying knowing you haven’t saved in over thirty to forty minutes.
Graphicall-wise, he hospital is an incredibly well-realised place, with plenty of disturbing details. It can also be hard to distinguish what items you can interact with, leading to you awkwardly pushing against everything in a room hoping for a prompt to pop-up. There’s also issues with the character models that just make them look very plasticy and shiny; whilst this is mostly prevalent in the human NPC’s you will notice oddities in the monsters. It can lower the tension just a little bit.
Sound design is also very similar. The soundtrack does a great job of building the atmosphere, especially in the hospital’s basement, where things are at their darkest and creepiest, with every camera cut and every door bringing a sense of dread thanks to the sound design. It makes it all that much better when you make it to a save room and a relaxing tune takes over. It does, however, suffer from the classic loud noises trope that becomes more of an annoyance than an actual scare and voice acting isn’t good at all.
Tormented Souls is a magnificent return to the classic days of 90’s survival horror, bringing in tense atmospheric environments that successfully replicate the good old days of the genre, especially with its excellent usage dynamic camera. The puzzles are great as well. This is one little gem tailor made for us old-school fans of the genre, who were craving for something more akin to the horror we grew up with back in the day.
Whilst the hospital is wonderfully designed (and creepy!), character models really needed an extra layer of polish.
The core gameplay is simple but smart puzzle design and use of a retro-styled dynamic camera system make for a satisfying experience.
Rough voice acting with a solid atmospheric soundtrack that make Winterlake Hospital a terrifying place.
Fun Factor: 9.5
Tormented Souls is a wonderful callback to the best of proper, “we don’t care about your well-being” survival horror.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Tormented Souls is available now on PC.
Reviewed on Ryzen 5 3600X, RTX 2060, 16GB RAM.