[Game Review] Tormented Souls for Nintendo Switch
I absolutely love horror games and more often that not, Indie titles make the best horrors. Let me tell you - this one is no different. Spoiler alert - Dual Effect Games have created an absolutely outstanding horror game. But we'll get into all the hows and the whys shortly. First of all I want to extend a massive thank you to Daniel McGrath from PQube, the publishers of Tormented Souls, who very kindly gave me an early access code for the new Nintendo Switch version of the game, which is released today. It's been out on other platforms for a while now, and I've played through it on both PC and PS5 so I'm familiar with the story and the puzzles - I was even going to learn the speedrun at one point.
The game itself is beautifully atmospheric and a true homage to the old school 90's survival horror - it's a real blend of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, incorporating fixed camera angles with tank controls, exploration and puzzle solving. The difficulty of some of the puzzles astounded me on my first play through of this - anyone remember how difficult the piano puzzle was in Silent Hill 1? Some of these puzzles are on part with THAT! The game itself takes part in a massive mansion turned hospital with trips into the darkest areas of the basement and beyond with an OST that just absolutely SLAPS. Every so often you come across game music that makes the hairs on your arm stand up - Elden Ring being one of the most recent, but putting this on again? Yep. It's beautiful. The old school combat, tank controls and camera angles also took me right back to my childhood - it felt so good to be playing a game that made it so you were anxious about what was waiting around each corner. Remember that anxiety when playing Resident Evil for the first time back in 1996 - that feeling was a by-product of the hardware limitations of the time but it became synonymous with survival horror. It felt great, at least for me, to go back to that. And then you have the clunky tank controls that only add to that - they take a bit to get used to for sure, and certainly won't be everyone's cup of tea. Modern day players are used to being able to move smoothly and switch between weapons with just the press of a finger. In this game though, as with the survival horror games of yore, you have to go into the inventory. I think this might end up being one of the major sticking points for those new to the horror gaming scene. But for those of us who grew up with them...? Well, I think you get my point.
Exploration is key in this game and you'll find yourself needing to backtrack quite a lot to solve some puzzles. This is again a throwback to the games of yore. Personally I think that this only adds to the experience of a survival horror game and encourages the player to see more of the map. Again this is something that may put off newer players - exploration in many modern games is lacking in such a way (excepting the open world games of course, but that's a different kettle of fish entirely) so some might find it tedious. But for me it brings back the excitement of finding something and working out where to use it, having to go back to the other end of the map or delve deeper in.
Without going into spoilers, the story is weird and wonderful and dark. Some of it doesn't make much sense but then again, how much truly makes sense in some of the AAA horror titles? That's part of the charm with any horror game - it doesn't have to make much sense and if anything, adds to the experience. There's also a rather big 'twist' at the end which most people will probably see coming if they pay attention to the lore files and everything going on as you play through. So it's weird, it's wonderful and it's dark with a nice amount of cheese thrown in along with voice acting that's made to sound as if it harkens back to the 90s.
I suppose what I'm trying to say here is that it's an actual love letter to the glory days of survival horror.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the switch version hadn't really downscaled its graphics all that much. Even played through on the big TV it looked stunning. Of course I wasn't expecting the game to run quite so smoothly on the switch as it does on both PC and PS5 - there were definitely some FPS issues particularly during cut scenes. Every so often you'd be running down a corridor and the frames would drop so much it looked as if Caroline was moving like a robot. Loading times are also a little slow but again, this is to be expected given the hardware. These are minor issues however, and a patch or two would likely easily solve those problems.
To score this game is a difficult one. Whilst I loved it from the moment I played it first on the PC, I'm acutely aware that it's certainly not perfect and nor will it be everyone's cup of tea. What I love about this game could be seen as being viewed through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia, but for a lot of people these points will cause frustration and contention. And then of course there's the differences in performance on the Switch when compared to other platforms which at the time of writing will slightly affect my scoring - not by much mind you as I have to take into account that a) it's not the PS5 and so there are hardware limitations and b) patches will happen in the future.
For me then, it would be an 8/10. Though given the very minor technical hitches on the switch version I'll have to knock it down to a 7.5. What I will say is this though - if you're a fan of old school survival horror and need a fix of nostalgia on more modern platforms with better graphics then this is the game for you. Please do pick yourselves up a copy of this and venture into the heart of the Wildberger Hospital to uncover it's very, very creepy secrets.