The modern push for nostalgia might be what’s behind the prevalence of remakes and remasters these days. Along with that, though, we’ve seen many developers try to shine some light on what made classic games great. Take Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time, for instance, both had an underlying belief that the classic collectathon was its own style of game, one that deserved to come back. Likewise, Tormented Souls is a survival horror game in the old-school tradition, and it’s going to appeal most to players who have fond memories of the heady days of the early 1990s.
Our heroine, Caroline Walker, is apparently the kind of person who has terrible ideas. For instance, she’ll gladly follow the instructions included in spooky letters that show up at her house. When one arrives depicting a pair of missing twin children and instructing her to visit the spooky Winterlake Mansion, she hops on the idea and shows up dressed to the nines in an adorable ribbon dress/leather jacket ensemble. Unsurprisingly, she’s promptly captured and finds herself trapped in said mansion in somewhat less than one piece. If she’d like to remain as intact as possible, she’s going to need to explore Winterlake and see if she can find a way out.
Tormented Souls would very much like to be Resident Evil. I’m talking specifically about classic Resident Evil, the sort of game that leans into shlock horror. This is a slasher film combined with a Rubix cube and presented via fixed camera angles. It’s the kind of game where Caroline never seems to have enough ammo but there’s plenty of goofy puzzles to go around. Searching for keys? Check. Faffing around with switches? Present and accounted for. Backtracking across half the mansion? Oh yeah, you know we’re doing that.
If you’ve got fond memories of early survival horror games, you’re going to have a good time with Tormented Souls. Newcomers to the genre might experience a little system shock, though, as they learn to wrap their brains around movement in a fixed-angle system. The callbacks to classic gameplay go so far as to ape the ink ribbon system from the first few Resident Evils; you’re not allowed to save without a particular consumable item, so it’s important to regulate how often you do so. You’ve even got the option of using rotation-based tank controls! Relive the glory days of clumsily smashing into a wall while under attack!
As for the gameplay and puzzles themselves, Tormented Souls really nails that old-school horror feel in much the same way Caroline’s going to inflict pain on baddies with her trusty nailgun. Yes, the mansion doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yes, combat’s kind of goofy and awkward. We can certainly view the backtracking and item-hunting as downsides…but at the same time, they help make Tormented Souls feel a lot more accurate to its forebears than many attempts at retro-revival games. Your mileage is going to vary a lot depending on how much you liked the foibles of this genre’s early days.
Tormented Souls’ presentation aims to evoke that classic survival horror feel as well. It’s mercifully less dark than many of those older adventures, but you’re still going to spend some time digging around looking for items and puzzle solutions. Monster, character and environment designs are simple and striking rather than attempting to overwhelm the player with overcomplexity. Even the stilted voice acting might be forgiven if it’s viewed as a callback to the days of old.
As mentioned, newcomers to the survival horror genre might find Tormented Souls‘ insistence on classic tropes to be a bit too antiquated for comfort. It’s a slow burn, especially compared to the adrenaline-fueled scares of modern survival horror games like Resident Evil: Village. On the other hand, there’s something to be said for the obvious labor of love that this game represents. You really get the sense that the team at Dual Effect understood what made early survival horror tick. That special something is present and accounted for in Tormented Souls, so if you remember looking around for card-suit keys in Raccoon City, well, you might want to visit Winterlake.