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Insomnis Review: Brief and Focused Horror (PC)

Insomnis is a typical horror walking simulator. It is slow and carries itself through its atmosphere and jump scares. The gameplay of the game takes a backseat to the story. But the story and its beats end up getting very repetitive which does not help the flow of the game.

Insomnis Review Cover Page

Insomnis, as described by the developer Path Games, is a first-person horror game focused on story, exploration and solving puzzles. And it is what they say it is. Insomnis is essentially a walking sim with minimal gameplay. The game is what happens when one can play a horror short. And I mean a short film and not a movie. Because the actual length of the game is very short. The game’s story barely manages to carry it through 2, at most 3 hours. The play talks about explorations on its page, but it hardly has any. The game is also very linear, carrying one from puzzle to puzzle as you go through the story beats.

The atmosphere of the game is heavy and very much haunting. This mainly carries the game through its brief time. It kind of leaves the player to explore through a home which solves puzzles. But on the whole, it feels like any other modern horror game, with a ton of walking and darkness. But at least the puzzles are interesting for the time it lasts.

Insomnis is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC.

Insomnis - Launch | PS4

Story – Meat and Bones of the Game

This is the essential part of the game as it is the most crucial part of it. You play Joe Castevet, who receives a lawyer’s call about how he inherited a house from his grandpa. And Just like any sane person, he goes to this old abandoned house at night while it is raining. As soon as he gets there, it is clear that this is a typical haunted house. There are letters everywhere which are from Joe to his grandad. These are the bit and pieces of the backstory. There is just creepy imagery around.

Spooky Door in Insomnis

Spooky Door in Insomnis

I mean to be very obvious, “Death Awaits” is written on the door you come from. As you proceed the game is mostly about finding clues all around the house. And there are some pretty good word puzzles across the game. Mostly they end up spelling the name of one of the ghost children who are haunting you. The letters and receipts laying around are the main sources of the backstory.

Creepy Notes in Insomnis

Creepy Notes in Insomnis

There are also many creepy rooms with just ghosts of children. But to go into that aspect of the game, I will need to go into spoilers for the game. The game itself is very short, so I recommend it if you like walking sim horror games. There are mild spoilers from here; beware.

Mild Spoilers for the Game

The player sees the ghost of children across the house. They are not just random and seem to be guiding you. Once the player follows the clues, it is clear that the ghosts are of the children who lived in the house. It is revealed that the house was used as a foster home for orphans. At the same time, your granddad on the face was helping the kinds. Behind the scenes, he was conducting experiments on them. As time passed, one by one, all four kids who had died started haunting the house and your late grandfather. All four kids have a pattern in which the puzzles are solved.

The pattern is simple. The player unlocks a puzzle. The puzzle is always to find the name of one of the four kids. Once that is discovered, it needs to be spelt out in order to activate an event, which is always the ghost of the person you just found the name of. They run or walk you to a place where there is a clue as to when and how they died. There are written as medical reports by your grandfather. The time they die is really important to progress through the game, as there are various clocks hanging around in the room for kids.

Beds and Clocks

Beds and Clocks

For every round, one will need to identify a child’s bed. After which, note down the time of each of the child’s death, and the same process is repeated 3 times. The visuals are varied each time by a bit but not much. The main home is pretty small, and all there is. This pattern also makes it easier to predict the jumpscares. Once done, a final secret is revealed in detail. I won’t be spoiling that, but it not competing for entirely unexpected.

There is, of course, a big story choice here that will determine the game’s ending.  That’s all there is to the story of Insomnis. The game feels like playing a mediocre episode of Twilight Zone. It is at least engaging as it plays. The game does manage to have a pretty good atmosphere throughout, even with its repetitiveness in this short running time.

Gameplay – Very Simple

The gameplay of Insomnis is extremely basic. All a player can do is walk around and solve puzzles. Doing these puzzles is nothing new in terms other than just walking and interacting. The main gameplay is just collecting the various toys and notes dispersed around the house. A good portion of the game will be spent reading multiple notes. There is also a flashlight that Joe can use when it is required. This flashlight adds to the atmosphere and is very important as many areas in the game can be very dark.

Reading Letters

Reading Letters

Other than that, there is the save system. This is an interesting one as the game can only be saved at places where one can find a phone. But with no real death state, there isn’t any point of it other than to not lose progression. It also provides save states at important points, which is helpful. But a game is barely two to three hours with no threat of losing, making it not an issue. The game suffers from the fact that there is no way the player can really fail, making the game feel way less scary to play, knowing that I would never lose, but it may be different for others.

Graphics & Sound – Barely Serviceable

The game looks pretty good. But mostly it is carried by its good atmosphere. The game, as told, is very dark; there are no real human models, as the ghosts are covered in some way or the other. Even though the graphics are rough in a few spots, it mostly looks pretty good. There aren’t many options in the game menu. They are competent, and it works fine.

Options Menu

Options Menu

The music of the game is mostly diegetic. And the sound effects work and blend with the environment and add to the atmosphere. But there is nothing much else to that. The most music in the game is the high pitches at jump scares, that’s all.

The key for Insomnis by Jaleo PR and played on Steam.

Summary
Insomnis is a slow walking simulator that carries itself through its atmosphere and jump scares. The gameplay of the game takes a backseat to the story. But the story is not the best. Even with its very short running time, the game manages to be repetitive. If you enjoy jum scares with a shallow story and interesting atmosphere, then Insomnis is the same for you.
Good
  • Great atmosphere
  • Fun puzzles
Bad
  • Boring gameplay
  • Repetitive story beats
  • Forgettable music
4
Poor

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