In 1996, Capcom captured lightning in a bottle and rode it all the way to forge a successful franchise about zombies, B.O.W. Since then, other game developers have dabbled in the genre, but never quite captured the same vibe of late ’90s survival horror. Maybe it’s pre-rendered backgrounds, static camera angles, tank controls, the monsters themselves, or any combination of these, few games have the same feel. With the release of Tormented Souls in summer 2021, fans of the genre thought the wait might be over, and it turns out, they were right.
Tormented Souls is developed by Dual Effect and Abstract Digital, published by PQube Limited and featured in many “Best Horror Game” lists of 2021. It invites the player to play as Caroline Walker, but doesn’t let the player know who she is or who her motives are. Immediately, the player will receive a mysterious letter containing a picture of two twin girls in a place called Winterlake. The disappearance of the twins without a trace must have devastated Caroline as she traveled to Winterlake to unravel the mystery of their disappearance. Caroline’s motives for wanting to find the twins are unclear, but she makes her way to the lavish mansion/hospital nonetheless.
Upon arrival, Caroline was knocked unconscious and later woke up naked in a bathtub. After removing the respirator and finding her clothes, she was devastated to find that one of her eyes was missing. With no memory of what happened or why she lost an eye, she steps out of the bathroom to explore the mansion. The only person Caroline encounters (besides the monster) is a priest who seems to know her, but doesn’t feel mutual. Armed with a pressurized nail gun and a lighter, Caroline must navigate the corridors of Winterlake, unravel the twins’ tale, and find a way out, dodging terrifying creatures along the way. Overall, the story doesn’t offer much to the player, but it adds to the simple retro feel.
Throughout the second half of 2021, Tormented Souls will only be playable on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Now, new and returning players alike can experience the game on Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, Tormented Souls doesn’t benefit from this mobility; playing on the Switch seems to have more disadvantages than advantages. Tormented Souls is an incredible game, but playing it on the wrong console can ruin the experience.
Tormented Souls has visuals that make it feel like an old horror VHS, without the grainy filter that many indie horror games use today. Graphics quality seems to have even improved on the Switch’s smaller screen, but inconsistent frame rates can take away the sense of immersion for players. The game does offer options in favor of visuals or frame rate, but standard consoles and PCs trump the Switch version.
The Switch version control also has some shortcomings. While Caroline’s moves are not considered traditional tank controls, they are similar to tank controls. That means, in most cases, moving is easy. When the atmosphere is tense and panic sets in, Caroline might crash into a wall, or worse, into a monster.
Tormented Souls’ camera angle choices also make it harder to control. When a character is being chased by a monster in a wheelchair with a knife, the player needs to be able to escape cleanly. But it gets a bit harder when the camera angle changes, now up means down and down means up. Even worse is the cursor control for item inspection. Players have a hard time getting the cursor where they want it, regardless of sensitivity. The results were frustrating to say the least.
Aside from changes to the feel and efficiency of the cursor controls and some stuttering cutscenes, Tormented Souls remains one of the few successful attempts to recreate the survival-horror vibe of the late ’90s. The cinematic camera movement and beautiful but eerie atmosphere (not to mention the nightmarish monsters) give the game some scares, while the grisly voice acting and oddly empty plot leave players with more questions than answers by the end of the game . The best and most authentic way to play Tormented Souls seems to be on Playstation 4, Xbox One, or PC. Very slight graphics improvements on smaller mobile screens don’t take away the benefits of playing the game on other consoles.
Tormented Souls is out now on Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Game Rant obtained the Switch code for this review.