Preview: Rise of Insanity - Psychological Horror Done Right

Despite its early stage of development, Rise of Insanity is already showing utmost promise, with an intriguing plot, great atmosphere and well-designed horror sequences.

Psychological horror has always been something of a rarity within the video game industry. While most developers aim for the more known and popular horror sub-genres like survival horror, every now and then we get a psychological horror classic such as Silent Hill 2 or Sanitarium. And now Rise of Insanity is stepping up to take a shot at becoming the next classic in the genre.

Rise of Insanity is a psychological horror game currently in Steam Early Access. It is being developed by indie developer Red Limb Studio. Despite its early stages of development, the game is already showing plenty of promise. With a gripping and intriguing plot, wonderful visuals, great atmosphere, and well-designed horror sequences, there is plenty for all horror fans to enjoy.

Enter the human mind

You take on the role of Dr. Stephen Dowell, a psychologist who lost his wife and son. The death of his family remains a mystery, and the police have had no success in their investigation. Were they murdered or simply just lost? The only suspect is Dowell's latest patient, who suffers from multiple varying disorders.

You must venture into the human mind, an ever-changing place where anything is possible. It is only there that you can find the answers about what happened to your family. But some places, a man was never supposed to go -- and your greatest fears will stand in your way. Only through overcoming them will you finally be able to gain the closure you so sorely seek.

The plot to Rise of Insanity is one of mystery and intrigue. As you progress, it begins to give you answers, while also introducing more. It is a story that keeps you thinking as you begin to make your own theories as to what is going on and what happened to the Dowell's family.

The game's well-written and expertly paced plot  keeps you gripped from beginning to end. And while the current build of Rise of Insanity gives you just a taste of what is to come, it is a satisfactory one that makes you excited for what the developers will add later.

There are a few typo errors throughout the game, along with rough English translation in some areas -- but aside from that, it is a story that does the psychological horror genre justice.

A well-executed horror "walking simulator"

There is no mistaking that Rise of Insanity is essentially a "walking simulator" that plays a lot like Layers of Fear. But don't let that comparison fool you -- its design and execution isn't quite as similar, leading to a very different gameplay experience between the two.

While Layers of Fear bored me to death within the first 15 minutes of playing it, Rise of Insanity thrilled me from beginning to end (of the current build), and a lot of this was due to how the game handles its horrors.

Layers of Fear felt more like a horror mansion ride you would find in a theme park, with things jumping out at you every five seconds. But here there are well-designed horror sequences that have tension and excellent build-up. Sure, it has its occasional jump scare from time to time, but they are generally well-placed enough that they don't become predictable or obvious.

As for the general gameplay, it's basically what you would expect from a "walking simulator". You explore each area, searching for clues and evidence to the mystery at hand while solving puzzles in order to progress to the next -- all while trying not to get a case of brown trousers when things get weird.

Rise of Insanity also has a unique little feature where you take control of a crow flying through a cave system. While it is a minor feature, it is an enjoyable one that fits in with the strange and ever-shifting world. And it shakes up the gameplay just enough to keep things fresh and interesting.

You can technically die in Rise of Insanity, and it is always through your curiosity or stupidity that this happens. Any possibility of death in the game is made fairly obvious, and it's always avoidable. But if you are like me, you just won't be able to help yourself in finding out what will happen.

Overall, Rise of Insanity is a "walking simulator" that does things right, especially in the all-important horror aspects. It is well-paced, resulting in a good build up of horror sequences and a careful balance between that, relatively easy puzzle-solving, and consistent exploration. 

A great atmosphere that grips you

One of the biggest highlights of Rise of Insanity is its atmosphere. Throughout the entire game, there is always a lingering sense of dread and unease. Never do you feel particularly safe, nor does the game ever give you a real moment of ease.

No matter the location you are in, there is always a dark and foreboding feeling. You know you are somewhere that you aren't supposed to be, and anything is a possibility. It really helps to absorb you into the game, giving you an even deeper sense of immersion.

Indeed, there is still some work to be done with the atmosphere in certain places -- but overall for an early build of the game, it does a cracking job.

Potentially a psychological horror classic

Rise of Insanity has all the potential of becoming an absolute psychological horror classic. Its plot is everything you could hope for in a title of this genre, its atmosphere is great and the horror sequences are all really well-designed.

It has been quite a few years since a game genuinely scared me, and there were parts of this game that did just that. It may not appeal to players who are looking for jump scares galore -- but for the more hardcore horror fans who want scares with creativity, it is sure to thrill and well worth its price tag.

So far, Rise of Insanity is off to a great start in Early Access. It has me gripped and I can't wait to see the conclusion of the plot. I really hope that the developers up the ante with the horror, while maintaining that great balance between scares, exploration and puzzle solving.

Rise of Insanity is available in Early Access on Steam at $6.99 for Windows and VR. It is currently on sale at 10% off for $6.29.

[Note: A copy of the game was provided to the writer for the purpose of this preview.]

Published Aug. 7th 2017

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