In 1996, Capcom caught lightning in a bottle and rode that lightning all the way to a successful franchise about zombies, B.O.W.s, and a not-so-clandestine evil corporation pulling the strings from behind the curtain. Since that time, other game developers have dipped their toes into the genre but have never been quite able to capture that same atmosphere of late ’90s survival horror. Maybe it was the pre-rendered backgrounds, the static camera angles, the tank controls, the monsters themselves or any combination of those, few games have had that same feeling. With the release of Tormented Souls in Summer of 2021, lovers of the genre thought the wait may have been over, and it turns out, they would be right.
Tormented Souls was developed by Dual Effect and Abstract Digital and published by PQube Limited and was included on many a “best scary games” list in 2021. It invites the player to act as Caroline Walker but gives them no insight into who she is or her motivations. Immediately, the player will receive a mysterious letter containing a photograph of two twin girls at a place called Winterlake. The twins vanished without a trace, which must really gnaw at Caroline because she travels to Winterlake to solve the mystery of their disappearance. Caroline’s motivations as to why she wants to find the twins are very unclear but, nonetheless, she makes her way to the extravagant mansion/hospital.
Upon arriving, Caroline is knocked unconscious and later awakens naked and in a bathtub. After removing the breathing apparatus and finding her clothes, she is distraught to find that one of her eyes is missing. With no memory of what happened and why she is missing one of her eyes, she exits the bathroom to explore the mansion.The only person (monstrosities aside) that Caroline encounters is a priest that seems to know her, but the feeling isn’t mutual. With a pressurized nail gun and a lighter to corner shadows, Caroline must traverse the hallways of Winterlake to unravel the story of the twins and find her way out, dodging horrific creatures along the way. As a whole, the story doesn’t offer a lot to the player, but it adds to the bare-bones retro feeling.
Throughout the second half of 2021, Tormented Souls was only available to play on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Now, new and returning players can experience the game on Nintendo Switch. Unfortunately, Tormented Souls doesn’t benefit from that mobility; there seem to be more cons to playing the game on the Switch than there are pros. Tormented Souls is an incredible game, but playing it on the wrong console can ruin that experience.
Tormented Souls has a visual quality about its graphics that makes it feel like an old horror VHS without the grainy filter that many indie horror games utilize these days. The graphic quality seems to even improve on the smaller screen of the Switch but inconsistent frame rates will knock players out of the immersion. The game does offer options that favor visuals or frame rate but the standard console and PC win out over the Switch version.
Controls on the Switch version also leave something to be desired. While Caroline’s movement isn’t considered traditional tank controls, they are akin to tank controls. That means, for the most part, movement is easy. When there is a tense moment and panic sets in, Caroline could go running into a wall or worse, a monster.
Tormented Souls’ camera angle choices also make the controls a greater struggle. When the character is being chased by a monster in a wheelchair with knives for hands, players need to be able to make a clean getaway. But that can get a little difficult when the camera angle changes and now up means down and down means up. Worse still is the cursor control for item inspection. No matter the sensitivity, players will struggle to get their cursor where they want it. The result is frustrating to say the least.
Aside from the changes to the feel and efficiency with the cursor controls and some stuttering cutscenes, Tormented Souls remains one of the few successful attempts at recreating that late 90s survival horror vibe. Cinematic camera movements and a beautiful but eerie atmosphere (not to mention nightmarish monsters) lends some scariness to the game, while terrible voice acting and a strangely bare plot leaves players with more questions than answers by the time the game is over. It would seem the best and most authentic way to play Tormented Souls would be on Playstation 4, Xbox One, or PC. The very slight graphical improvements on a smaller mobile screen don’t take away the benefits of playing on other consoles.
Tormented Souls is available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a Switch code for this review.
- Tormented Souls Nintendo Switch Review
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