Good storytelling in VR can lead to a pretty profound experience for the player. When the story involves psychological horror, it can also lead to a few choice words as your heart skips a beat. Red Limb Studio shoots for both with their recent release, Rise of Insanity.
A doctor of psychology with an experimental form of treatment to test. A patient with a mixed bag of deeply disturbing symptoms. A wife and child brutally murdered. Lots to ponder here. So, lay back on that couch and tell me about your mother. I mean, let’s take a look at what Rise of Insanity has to offer.
In Rise of Insanity, you take on the role of psychologist, Dr. Stephen Dowell. With your wife and child recently murdered, you find yourself retreating to your work to deal with the trauma. As you begin to apply your very own experimental treatment to a difficult patient, you begin to suspect his involvement in the horrors that have fallen upon you family.
Dramatic! Okay, so you play as a doctor and dive into your patients jacked up mind. The setup is that your new treatment lets you explore your patient’s mind. That is what we get, visually, in Rise of Insanity. A madman’s mind that, hopefully, you can successfully search and find out his connection to your families’ death. But, you will need to overcome some logic puzzles that stand in your way of the finding clues that paint a sinister picture of what really took place.
Into the Madness
The gameplay in Rise of Insanity is fairly limited in depth. You will need to explore the environment you find yourself in and hunt for clues. These could be newspaper clippings, a child’s drawing, or even an audio recording. It is a fairly “on rails” type game and the levels will often only leave you with one path to take. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it is important to note because it makes this more of an experience than a game. This is where the puzzles come in.
The logic puzzles in Rise of Insanity are here to give the game some, well, game. It might be finding a key, or a combination, or a few of your dead kid’s toys. Unfortunately, this part of the game felt forced in, just to give the game some game-like elements. I say this because the puzzles are just obstacles without any story elements attached to them.
Where the puzzles lacked any real traction in the game, the story shines. Don’t worry, I won’t give it away. The turns and twists, paired with the crazy environments, made for a interesting ride. It does take a while to reach the conclusion and some areas of the story are a little off track, but the wrap up is pretty solid.
To control the dear old doctor, you can use your keyboard, gamepad, or motion controllers. I went through most of the game using the Touch controllers but did hit one point with a padlock that required me to switch to a gamepad. To be fair though, they do recommend using a gamepad.
Everything is set up nicely for this style of game. You look at the objects you wish to interact with and then click to do so. The game uses free motion with snap turning and smooth turning options. This is it, no complex inputs or actions. Just walking, looking, and clicking. It works for this style of game quite well.
An Okay Vibe
Graphically, this is an okay looking game. The world is set in the 1970’s and the environments reflect that well enough. The hospital, police station, and even the doctors house all look as you would expect for that era. They do feel a little light as far as content goes, but they are in someone’s mind. I will chalk that up to bad memory or good drugs. You will get some rather creepy imagery along the ride and all of the effects are well done.
The game does suffer from some strange scaling when it comes to your height vs objects in the world. At times things felt fine but then I would pass by something and feel seven feet tall. I also noticed that most of the items in the world are just filler. Early on, you will find yourself looking through a good number of containers for clues. Later in the game, they kind of limit item interaction to necessary locations.
The sound in Rise of Insanity is also just okay. You have atmospheric sounds that match your location, lots of creepy sounds that keep you on edge, and decent voice acting. Nothing groundbreaking, but solid. You will get the occasional loud noise that aims to scare you, but they are not really outrageous in volume. My ears thank you for that.
Rise of Insanity does have its share of problems. What game elements it does have, feel more like filler. They simply don’t enforce the story. The searching for clues leads you down the path, but the revelations they deliver feel empty without the world responding in turn. The puzzles had the opportunity to be meaningful to the story development but ended up just being basic puzzles.
The horror elements in the game also suffer a cruel fate. While the creepy imagery and landscapes look great, they will never be terrifying if they don’t have a reason to be. We have a great story and great setting, but no antagonist to give us a sense of impending doom. What little we do get in the way of an antagonist, was never developed in a way that causes the player to be fearful, and that’s just bad writing when it comes to horror.
Despite all of this, I was compelled to play through the two-hour story in order to get resolution. Why? Because the story is interesting. It has the ability to captivate, it just falls short on some key areas. This one really left me with some mixed feelings about what it is and could have been. So, go check out Rise of Insanity, available on Steam for $8.99, and let us know your thoughts about this journey into madness.