Yes, yours truly screamed. Are you happy now Simon Fitzgerald? Here your humble host was, sat in a partially empty room surrounded by kindly Sony temps, with cries muffled only by the cover of a PlayStation VR headset. Much like Until Dawn before it, The Inpatient cheats with its jump scares – but goddamn is it effective. (Everyone was too nice to laugh, by the way.)
Set 60 years prior to the events of Supermassive Games’ popular schlock horror, The Inpatient takes you back to the Blackwood Pines Sanatorium, where it represents a thriving asylum as opposed to the abandoned ghost house in the main game. You play as a patient, awakened by the Colonel from KFC wielding a rather large needle.
The demo focused mostly on conversations: you pick what you say via head tracking, and the butterfly effect gets to work. Obviously it’s hard to get a feel for the consequences of these decisions in such a short sampler, but we’re told that even selecting your gender can dramatically change the way that the story plays out.
This is another game with its own spin on locomotion. Holding down the Move button sets you into motion, and tilting it left or right changes the direction. You can turn in increments with the face buttons, and obviously you can use your hands to pick things up and inspect them. It’s a bit weird because, rather than floating hands, your whole body is rendered on screen, and you end up positioned a little like an inflatable sex doll, with your forearms at right angles to your biceps.
The game looks very pretty in virtual reality, though, with dust particles floating in the air and characters extremely well animated. One neat touch is how the NPCs get so close to you, reaching out and touching you with such believability that you expect to feel their hand on your shoulder or on your leg. Again, only virtual reality is capable of eliciting these kind of responses.
And that means that the jump scares, when they do come, are probably going to leave you in tatters. We’re not going to lie, the demo really lulled us into a false state of security, only to bash us over the head with a real firecracker of a shock – we’ll be ready for it when we play the full game. Laugh all you like, Simon Fitzgerald – you would have jumped, too!