The Inpatient Review – Flatlined beauty
The PSVR has been on the market for quite some time now and it’s in dire need of a killer app.
If you’ve never used one before, strapping it to your head and taking spin through some of the games available is a mind-blowing experience. But early adaptors who’ve owned a PSVR for say, more than a year, will be painfully aware that many of the games available for it aren’t exactly the full fat experiences one expects from full-priced Triple-A titles.
The Inpatient continues this trend, unfortunately. While it’s fantastically easy on the eyes and shot through with a creepy atmosphere thick enough to choke on, The Inpatient is a pretty lightweight experience. The player has little agency beyond making decisions that branch the game’s narrative and while the different story strands offer some re-play value, there’s not a lot of quantity here. It’s possible to burn through The Inpatient in just under two hours.
The game is a prequel to Supermassive Games’s fantastic horror thrill-ride Until Dawn, which saw players deciding the fates of a group of young friends holed up in a creepy lodge. Depending on how nimble they were at navigating QTEs and the choices they made, players could save all eight characters or end the game with a pile of corpses.
In The Inpatient, player takes on the role of the titular character, an amnesiac who had been restrained by the asylum’s orderlies and who is being questioned by a doctor (who players may remember from the first game). As the plot develops, players will find themselves interacting with a number of other characters – inmates and asylum employees – but it’s not long before the excrement hits the fan.
Until Dawn’s narrative choice mechanic – The Butterfly Effect – is present and correct in The Inpatient, and it pretty much dominates the proceedings as the player tries to piece together the protagonist’s past. Over the course of their stay at Blackwood Pines Sanatorium – the asylum from the first game in which the protagonists made a shocking discovery – players will make a ton of choices that have an impact on the game’s final outcome. It’s still a compelling mechanic and it adds some juice to the stakes of the proceedings. It’s just a pity that the lion’s share of the game’s drama is hung so thoroughly on it.
The action mostly plays out over a series of scenes where the play is completely restricted in their movement. In other instances they’re confined to roaming the odd corridor. They can play with the odd door handle or light switch but other than that they’re limited to picking up objects and turning them over in their hands. There’s the odd shimmering object that may trigger a memory but other than that, interacting with the environment is pretty limited.
That’s a real pity, by the way, because the game’s soundtrack and visuals bring Blackwood Pines Sanatorium to life brilliantly. From the very first frame, The Inpatient envelopes the player with the gothic menace of the asylum and slowly starts to turn the screw with a sound effects and a score that ups the tension ante slowly before pulling the rug out. Oh, and Supermassive still know how to time a jump scare. It’s just a pity that after a bit, this asset becomes a little overused.
So rich is the environment, it’s hard not to be disappointed by the pacing at times, which slows to almost glacial. On top of that Blackwood Pines Sanatorium feels, looks and sounds like a place where a deeper, longer and better story could be told. Even though the dialogue and plotting in the game is really good, The Inpatient is over all too quickly and even playing through it again isn’t all that satisfying.
The Inpatient Review – Verdict
So this game is something of a disappointment. What it does, it does very well, but there feels like its missing too many elements to whole-heartedly recommend it. The Inpatient is a worthy and, at times genuinely terrifying experience, but ultimately it feels shallow. There feels like there should be more for players here – much like a lot of other PSVN titles.