An Abandoned Hospital? Lack of Electricity? What Can Go Wrong?
Tormented Souls joins the few titles that manage to evoke a dual emotion out of me. One where I am both terrified yet elated at the same time. An emotion where I feel tension beyond anything I’ve felt, while at the same time a point of relief when I figure out a puzzle or dispatching enemies (which, to be fair is a puzzle within itself).
It’s even rarer for a game to do this while being labeled as a “budget title,” which while that may be true, I feel diminishes what praise this game deserves. I know these are very bold claims to make from a mere hour playthrough, but, usually, an hour is enough to gauge whether I’m going to enjoy my experience or if it’s just going to be a “meh” one. Tormented Souls was a part of the former, for its dedication to its roots with a small-sized team.
Information about the developers behind Tormented Souls is limited but it appears that the development team is based in Chile according to the official Twitter account. Every other piece of information redirects back to PQube Games, the publisher of Tormented Souls and one of the larger publishers for smaller indie developers in recent years. Regardless, the teams involved in the project gave their best ode to classic survival horror games in many ways.
Tormented Souls Draws Inspiration From The 3D Survival Horror Classics.
From the game page, Tormented Souls draws inspiration from classic early 3D-era survival horror games including the Resident Evil trilogy, Silent Hill, Alone in the Dark, and many more. Within the first five minutes following the opening cutscene, this rings true as the protagonist, Caroline, is already placed in a predicament. Weeks before the events of the game, Caroline finds a letter sent to her, which is more like a photo of two girls, with a return address of a hospital in Somewhereinthemiddleofnowhere, Canada.
Of course, because it piqued her interest, Caroline heads over there which, surprise surprise, is an abandoned hospital. Moments upon entering, she’s knocked out and left soaked in a bathtub, naked, with her eye gouged out and a tube down her throat.
Yes, full-on naked, which is a surprise that such detail was even allowed on a Sony console. Anyways, after catching her bearings she gets dressed and succumbs to the horror that she did, indeed, lose her eye. What about the twin sisters? Why was she put in this predicament, to begin with? All of that must be discovered but after she finds a way out of the room she’s locked in.
Leave No Stone Unturned and No Door Unopened in Tormented Souls.
It is at this point that Tormented Souls immediately forces the player to investigate everything in this small bathroom to find a way out, as the answer to escape isn’t clear. Approaching the door will come to the discovery that the door is missing a knob, so now there must be a replacement somewhere in the room. As Caroline looks at her surroundings, she comes across diaries that explain the lore of the game and its characters in more detail, as well as subtle warnings including “not letting the shadows embrace you.”
Eventually, after discovering a cupboard with a combination lock, further investigation reveals that the code is the time of day that the aforementioned twins were born. Sure enough, there’s a pocket watch that tells the exact time, which entered in the lock will open the door. What’s behind the door? A wrench that now must be adjusted at the right shaft to pry open the door. This was the first five minutes.
There are dual controls for players to grow used to, utilizing the famous fixed camera from Resident Evil that changes depending on where Caroline is. Using the analog stick will offer Caroline a free 360-degree range of movement while using the d-pad will use classic “tank controls.”
Tormented Souls Offers a Combination of Modern and 'Tank' Controls.
For those who were fortunate enough to avoid this era of early 3D Capcom titles, tank controls meant using the left and right d-pad to turn around while pressing up and down moves the character forward and backward. Holding square while using the d-pad will cause Caroline to sprint, which she does by default by using the stick. I liked using the free-range movement a lot more than the other movement option, yet I know some players grew up with tank controls who swear by it. Different strokes I suppose, but, nothing infuriated me more than feeling trapped while ambushed by an enemy which will happen regardless as the hallways are tight and narrow.
Tormented Souls warns the player to beware of shadows and it’s not an empty threat, as moments before you enter “the darkness,” you have a lighter that you come across. Using the lighter will keep the shadows at bay, illuminating the path. The moment the lighter is tucked away and Caroline is in complete darkness, she only has a few moments before she’s killed by an unknown being, which is a trophy unlock. There’s no reason not to use the lighter in dark places as the lighter seems to run on infinite fuel.
Every Ounce of Resource Counts; Your Life May Depend On It.
Early in Tormented Souls, the player will come across another throwback to older Resident Evil titles with tape recorders as a save method. The groan and dry smile of every veteran RE player can be felt while approaching one of these, which means that the only way to save is to come across these tape recordings, while also needing a roll of tape. It wasn’t explicitly stated why these existed in the older titles, but Tormented Souls plays this off exceedingly well.
Caroline uses the tape recorder as a way to record her progress just in case she doesn’t survive the events and someone else, who would come across the tape, would listen to her tale. It’s a morbid thought, but with this, in mind, it makes the player wonder if this was what Jill and Chris felt being stuck in a mansion with zombies.
The first enemy is introduced which is a deranged mutated “tormented soul” bound to a wheelchair that will roll and slash at Caroline with intense hatred. Defenseless and running to the nearest room, she comes across a priest who points her where to go next while also offering her a nailgun to use against the various foes.
Even With a Nailgun, You Are Still Vulnerable to the Tormented Souls.
Nearby is a generator that must be activated by solving yet another simple puzzle. Upon activating the generator, power is brought back to the facility as well as previously inaccessible doors and very cranky enemies who were awoken from their slumber.
It was at this point that the interactions with the enemies became “Avoid pointless fights” rather than be a hero, as resources are highly limited. If it’s better to run and avoid conflict, then that’s the best way to go as the intention is to survive after all. The atmosphere is tense, not certain of what may lay around the next corner except for audio cues signaling an enemy appearance. Tormented Souls also has trial and error instances where, after death, the player will have a better idea of how to handle situations safely and cautiously.
This turned my anxiety with determination as I was now curious to know what was behind this door and what awaited me down that alleyway. It was an enjoyable yet disturbing experience, especially the blood spitters upon first meeting them, but overall it exceeded my expectations. Budget title or not, Tormented Souls is recommended to players who craved “classic Resident Evil” gameplay that Village surely wasn’t giving them.
Tormented Souls is currently available on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series S/X. The Switch and PlayStation 4 versions will release sometime in 2021.