Just calling it now, the mysterious disorder is aliens.
I always take issue with the words ‘psychological horror’ in a video game description. It is a very personal thing, as a graduate in Psychology and soon to graduate again with a masters I find the title never really lives up to the game. When I think ‘psychological horror’ I tend not to think of games, falling more towards the works of people like Lovecraft. Very few games have ever really managed the ‘psychological’ side well, and off the top of my head the Silent Hill series and the Condemned series have probably been the closest to the mark.
What Rise of Insanity does well is not psychological horror. The game comes off as yet another contender in the arena of FPS horror games attempting deep stories. The story is good, I like the little notes around and it takes a different enough approach to keep you pushing until the end. But it falls into too many cheap shots and YouTube clichés to really stand out from the pile. Which is a shame, as I was hoping for something truly psychological horror.
It is really not.
You take the role as the doctor of psychology (also known as a psychiatrist but that is the wording the description uses) Stephen Dowell, either through the regular means or through VR. The VR is a nice touch, but I will avoid talking about it as I have no VR kit. In total, you wander around three small areas: What presumably is Stephen’s house, a hospital of some kind, and a garden. Each of these becomes wandering around and solving a simple puzzle, usually involving getting lights on to banish ghosts of some kind. The puzzles are not too complex, and I only got stuck for about ten minutes on one so you should have an easy time of it.
These areas are all small, presumably to accommodate the VR portion of the game, but are graphically rich. The detail is good, down to little changes between each iteration of the area which you will visit twice each. You can easily spend time wandering around in each just taking in the impressive detail.
And doing so will be easy, because this game really does not score high on being scary.
This is where the mistakes are made. First off, like the last real horror game I played, Layers of Fear, you cannot die. There is a little more risk of failing by walking up to the obvious ghosts but once again the semblance of fear disappears when there is no penalty to your actions. This is not helped by the short length of the game not giving enough time to build up any real fear, resorting to quick flashes of horror designed to shock, with only a few moments which gave me at most a small jump.
There are plenty of downtime moments in the game, which should be a lot rarer in a horror game. These are chained to bursts of horror, usually used to transition between each area. There are presumably metaphorical bits of gameplay as well where you fly around as a crow/raven. But these are fleeting and a lot of time will be spent just meandering about.
I wonder much about these styles of games: Are they built as YouTube bait? Are they just lazy horror game makers? Are they conceding a lot of vision just to keep in VR? Are they just slightly misguided and really want to make a good horror game? In this case I feel it’s the latter, there are some good steps with story here but the gameplay is too segmented and not dedicated enough to the long game to really make you feel horror. This game manages to hold onto a 4 for being pretty and little else and I’m hoping the full game will give a much more rounded horror experience but right now my hope is not high.
Also I was wrong, it’s not aliens.