You wake up bolted down to a chair while a man — is he a doctor? — asks if you remember why you are here. No matter what you answer, he asks you to try and remember how it came to be that you are a patient at The Blackwood Sanatorium and Hotel. You close your eyes, concentrate...and see yourself in a closet until a man throws open the door, shining a flashlight into your face. The doctor finishes with you, tells you that your treatments are going well, and injects you with something before speaking with a hooded figure in the shadows.
This is The Inpatient, and if you want to survive, you'll need to remember how this all came to be.
While The Inpatient is a horror game, much like it's predecessor Until Dawn, this is a story driven game. To this end, you'll run into choices that you must make in conversation. Depending on what you decide, the story will branch and change, denoted by small blue butterflies that burst from important choices.
While the main story has a general arc, that doesn't mean that your choices don't matter. Big choices can result in your friends and allies kicking the bucket in new and interesting ways.
Something is up at the Sanatorium
It's apparent within just a few minutes that something is definitely awry at the Sanatorium, but trust me, it is so much worse than you think. From the doctor injecting you with something, and your roommate complaining about 'voluntary treatments' you may think you're in a for a ride that revolves around what is going on in the here and now. Except that isn't really quite accurate.
You start having dreams of the people you run into haunting an eerie version of the hospital you're staying in. By eerie I mean full on green lighting, weird mist, blood-spattered walls, and some damn good scares. The first jump scare nearly had me leaping out of my skin, while the second major spook moment was a much slower and thus creepier vibe. In both cases, I loved it and could feel my heart jump up a notch.
In the real world, things go wrong about two days in when you hear a commotion from outside your locked door, followed by alarms ringing and personnel darting all over the place. The next time you wake up it's to bloody scratched walls and a seriously manic roomie who says it's been two days with no sign of anyone and who isn't looking so great herself.
During all of this, you'll have flashbacks that trigger, transporting you into the past. You'll need to put together what is happening in the past, and what is happening now to get through things, and even then it's gonna be a wild ride. See, it all surrounds a mining accident. 30 men were buried alive, and only 18 rescued and those 18 came back a bit differently than they ought to have.
Most of the controls in The Inpatient are pretty straightforward. You can play with a Dualshock 4 controller, or Move controllers, whichever strikes your fancy. You'll be walking around, although I had a few issues with the camera angle jumping around on me at first.
A great deal of your interaction with the game comes by choosing which path, or conversation choice you want to run with. It's here that The Inpatient has added a pretty awesome new feature. You can of course just press x to select your conversational choice, or you can say the phrase out loud. That's right, you can talk to your game and it will recognize the choice you have made.
It's pretty limited, requiring you to essentially say out loud what you see on the screen, but it's definitely an awesome start. For a game that is all about choice and adventure, it puts you more solidly into your environment, adding a layer of immersion that I didn't even know was missing until I had access to it.
You interact with the environment by using R2 on a controller to pick up and manipulate items the same way you would with a Move controller. This is definitely a game that is better suited for motion controllers though, considering you need to press buttons and pick things up to inspect them properly.
A creepy walk down memory lane
The Inpatient manages to combine a creepy atmosphere where you're never entirely sure if you're awake or dreaming, in the past or the present. It's a slower burn to a horror game than many people will be used to, but fans of Until Dawn will absolutely eat it up. I managed to sink in close to two hours worth of gameplay in my first session, and only stopped so I wouldn't give myself nightmares.
If you enjoy a good horror game, but you're okay with a slower pace then this game may be right up your alley. You'll still run into the jump scares and creepy elements that you know and love while exploring a deeper story and tons of options. That's because the game changes with your choices, and there are several different endings you can come up with.
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