FBT walks into the mind of a killer. And walks right back out again.
I’m strictly a lights-on kinda guy; when horror gaming that is. So I was kinda interested in / scared of Rise of Insanity, a horror walking sim where you navigate the mind of a man with a split personality, one of whom wants to commit murder – kinda reminds me of that Jennifer Lopez film The Cell. I'm gonna be J-Lo? Lights off please.
The opening warns me that not only should I use caution if I have a weak heart, but that the makers are not responsible for what happens after the game has been played. After?!
A psychologist is treating a man who dreams of killing his wife and daughter - but doesn’t have a wife or daughter. The good doctor, or maybe stupid doctor, encourages the man to mentally live out this fantasy in the hopes that the second identity reveals itself. And into his mind we go.
Except, we seem to have entered the mind of someone who really liked Layers of Fear - rooms change as we navigate a tortured mind where not a lot makes sense - but the key difference is in Layers of Fear it did all make sense in the end. Here, the environment – a desolate sanitorium - is so overused and cliched in gaming, it’s as if the developers used stock game layouts which came free with the game-engine. It doesn’t really help us understand what’s going on, it’s not part of the journey. Adding to the shoddy look are the unintentionally hilarious subtitles. Unless they’re supposed to represent his fractured mind?
The other thing about Layers of Fear, it had a compelling story that got harder to stomach as it revealed itself. You got increasingly disturbed and saddened at his/my acts. The idea of Rise of Insanity is fantastic; that a Dr enters the mind of a patient to understand their subconscious trauma while risking becoming overwhelmed; add in the fact that he might be entering multiple personalities, one of which is murderous, and you’ve got the makings of a great game, but you figure out the twist within minutes and the game does nothing to make the trip compelling – emotional involvement is what makes horror unsettling.
Most of the horror is derived from lazy shock-jumps and sudden audio clangers. This is like when you used to get into your car, turn the key and then the stereo would blare out and scare the crap out of you. You navigate a floor of the sanitorium, solving a puzzle so tedious or redundant you question the point, then you’re bounced back to explore again. I don’t mind that this isn’t doing anything we’ve not seen before, but it’s not adding anything to the genre and worse, it’s not giving me a reason to push on.
The game does nothing to make me feel invested, interested, or curious about why it happened; I guessed what happened, but there’s nothing to make the reason interesting. I’m just mindlessly trudging along, passing by visuals that have no relation to the obvious story.
What’s really frustrating is the compelling central idea of a man being both innocent and guilty due to his condition isn’t remotely explored, and it’s clear the game doesn’t know how to bring that idea to a boil, it just pulled together typical horror imagery and tropes and drops in ‘reveals’, as if we didn’t already know. We know the what, what we want is the why, the how, and for you to put us through the ringer to understand it.
What I don’t get is why this guy’s mind is so intent on not revealing any of the truths. Why does it block a corridor until I open a cupboard and look at things that didn't reveal anything? Why doesn’t it have much of an imagination? And why are there rubber duckies everywhere? Every time you pick one up it makes the quack-squeak. Terrifying.