Rise of Insanity is a first-person psychological horror game from the people at Pineapple Works and Red Limb Studios. It heavily draws inspiration from many great psychological horror IPs such as The Shining, The Exorcist, and Silent Hill. In particular, there is a very blatant and direct reference to a Stephen King film. I won’t spoil it, but it should be obvious to fans of the famous horror novelist.
Mental health has a long difficult history of being misunderstood and misdiagnosed. To this day it remains a fairly taboo subject to many people. It is slowly but surely becoming a topic that is more acknowledged and better understood though. And video games seem to be a popular medium to explore it.
Explore the mind
As the name suggests, Rise of Insanity incorporates themes of mental disorders into its narrative. Story-wise, the game introduces Dr Stephen Dowell. He is a troubled psychologist struggling to diagnose his latest patient, a gardener from his own home. It’s up to the player to help Dr Dowell figure out how to help. This is done by exploring exploring two locations. The main one is a large and suitably creepy house. The other significant one is a stereotypically abandoned mental asylum. Both areas are unsettling, with the stand out being the decrepid asylum. Sneaking down dank hallways as the next jump scare triggers was genuinely disturbing.
Whilst traversing these locations players are directed to the next area using a mixture of techniques. Scripted events such as a television turning on or a telephone ringing may occur. Once a major event is initiated, a series of vignettes in various locations have to be played through. After this, the player is circled back to the house. This does mean that locations are recycled somewhat, but not to the point of it getting tedious. The vignettes are enjoyable to play, each with its own small areas to explore and puzzles to solve.
Gameplay is quite minimal and is very much a walking simulator. For instance, simple actions include picking up objects to solve puzzles and opening doors. Many of the items give some context to the world. Newspaper clippings and dictaphone recordings also act as collectibles. Pretty standard stuff really for this type of horror game. Amongst all the items that you pick up, the rubber ducks are definitely the strangest. They can be found throughoutut the game.
A murder of crows
Talking about ducks, there is a notable bird motif weaved through Rise of Insanity. Crows can be found everywhere. Caws can be heard frequently as well. Artwork and books dedicated to birds are also dotted around the environments. Additionaly, during some parts of the game they can even be controlled in short first-person flying sections.
Visually, it looks pretty decent. It isn’t an ugly game by any means, but it doesn’t really have much to make it stand out. There are a few trippy visuals which is a nice touch though. I did notice that in some of the outside areas the trees and bushes didn’t load correctly. Many of naturally occuring aspects of the world like water aren’t as detailed as man-made elements. This didn’t really break my immersion.
The game is best when freaky things are happening. Things appear and disappear, leaving the player feeling disorientated and on edge. Best of all, due to the underlying mental health narrative, the jump scares that happens seem justified. It isn’t a scary ghost moving things about. Rather, it can be perceived as the character’s mind playing tricks on them. Seen from that perspective, it’s quite interesting.
Rise of Insanity is a short game and can be beaten in a few hours at most. The story didn’t feel rushed, but the end did come abruptly. For indie horror fans, I would recommend checking it out. If you do want to see a video version of this review, i’ll link it below.