Developers gleefully boasting about what they’ve managed to achieve with the humble Switch pleases us greatly – it’s the adulthood equivalent of running out the school gates while proudly clutching a piece of paper smothered with dry pasta and glue. Pineapple Works are one such developer, pleased as punch with their Switch conversion of Rise of Insanity – a first-person psychological horror originally released on PlayStation 4 and PC.
The result is a mini marvel. It moves like greased lightning with a framerate that never falters, boasting an impressive amount of detail within the environments. Trees bare individually rendered leaves, bookshelves are full of unique tomes, and the kitchen cupboards contain comical spoof brand products.
The fact that this is a slow investigative adventure – with no combat or fast-paced action sequences – presumably also assists in keeping things moving smoothly.
The majority of time is spent rummaging through drawers, locating key items, and solving the relatively few puzzles that feature. It’s the complete opposite to something like action-orientated like the recent Resident Evil 2 remake, being a more methodical experience.
Set in the 1970s, the story tells the tale of a psychologist treating a difficult patient with contradictory mental disorders. What then ensues is a venture through their troubled and fragmented mind, slowly pieced together via Dictaphone recordings, medical reports, and newspaper clippings. Appearances from other characters are reserved for in-game cut-scenes, often shown wearing bird masks – avian-based imagery is a reoccurring theme.
The scripted insanity effects help make the experience memorable, including twisting corridors and rooms filling with blood, the cliched use of a child’s creepy music box notwithstanding.
More reoccurring themes, along with other well-worn horror tropes, soon surface. Locations include the patient’s finely furnished abode, a hospital with a disused basement, a police station and holding cells, and a garden with a large greenhouse. Most have a puzzle to overcome and a central quest that’s easy to follow despite a lack of prompts. In this regard, it’s similar to Layers of Fear.
The sound of a ringing telephone indicates the end of a chapter – the sound design stands out here, making it easy to pinpoint where the constant ringing is coming from.
In lieu of combat, an evil aura must be overcome at various points, usually found blocking a doorway or similar. Clashing head-on is the only means of failure, resulting in the current chapter starting over. The means of vanquishing said evil is never tricky, however – simply lighting the path ahead will prompt them to swiftly vanish, in one instance requiring nothing more than a flick of a trip switch.
Puzzles are a tad more complex, thankfully, beginning with a cliched search for a padlock code that’s hidden within the environment, and ending with a more elaborate example involving Morse-code. It’s a shame there aren’t a few more brain teasers to bulk out the experience.
In fact, Rise of Insanity would have benefited from a few more chapters. When we first started playing, we expected a typical 4-5 hour runtime, so you can imagine our surprise to see the ending credits after just over two hours – a stark reminder of its roots, this originally being a VR experience.
This is a game that shows its hand way too early, and it’s consequently over before it really gets going, leaving little time to introduce new ideas or mechanics. If perceived as a cinematic experience, due to it lasting as long as a typical film, it fares a little better thanks to its swift pacing and slick visuals. Either way, don’t expect it to haunt you for long.