Sanitarium (Windows)

Teen
ESRB Rating
Genre
Visual
Gameplay
Narrative
79
Critic Score
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
4.1
User Score
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Katakis | カタキス (38336)
Written on  :  Aug 17, 2008
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars

10 out of 14 people found this review helpful

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Summary

One-line summary not available

The Good

As the main protagonist of this game, the player gets involved in a car crash and ends up in a nuthouse. They are trying to figure out who they are and how they got there in the first place. This storyline is similar to Countdown where the player has to escape from an asylum in a certain amount of time. Unlike Countdown, however, the player gets to see the sorry people who ended up at the asylum. The dark and dirty look of the asylum and the constant noise of the other prisoners help create the atmosphere.

Answers to the questions the protagonist has are given through a series of flashbacks (cinematics) he gets throughout his adventure. Sanitarium is supposed to be a game of suspense, so I won't spoil it for you here. Anyway, these flashbacks also focus on his past, and most of these are rather interesting to watch. Some of them are even quite scary, especially the ones toward the end of the game. These flashbacks were probably enough to warrant a 15+ age rating.

Sanitarium is spread throughout nine chapters, with each one containing a distinct atmosphere and represents the real or imaginary world of the protagonist. Each chapter has its own objective for the player to accomplish. I enjoyed playing some of the chapters, particularly the early ones where you are trying to find your way out of the nuthouse; deal with some deformed, innocent children; and kill whoever distorted them. The background music reflects the situation the player is in. I love the energetic music that is played later on in the game.

The protagonist has the ability to transform into different characters, and the player gets to play these characters in every second or third chapter. There are two characters that I like playing as, and one of them is the protagonist's little brat, who, as long as you keep playing her, will churn out those annoying comments that brats usually make. What's more: if you press the function keys, she will churn out such classics like “Wheeeeee!”, “Oh poo!”, and “Uh oh”. The other character is an Aztec god who is trying to save his people from an erupting volcano.

The conversations between the protagonist and the characters are well-scripted, and most of them are related to what you're doing in each chapter. They were easy to follow, and I really enjoyed how angry the protagonist gets throughout the game. The window in which the conversations take place appear in the game quite nicely, and it is good to see the protagonist's face change to reflect what mood he is in.

Some elements of the game are rather disturbing. I just finished playing this game, so I will never forget how deformed the children from Chapter 2 are, especially a girl named Jessie. But what's more disturbing is the fact that something is making them deformed and that it puts them in the dreaded “pumpkin patch”, where bad things happen. As I mentioned earlier, the flashbacks can be quite scary, especially the ones near the end.

The small animation effects are quite nice to look at, and these effects are mostly found in the control panel: effects like the rotation of a symbol when you hover your mouse over it, as well as the way the person's eyes follow the mouse cursor. I also like how a CD icon travels from one end of the screen to the other (in the chapter opening screen) and the way that flashbacks appear.

The Bad

No matter what anyone thinks, almost all of the puzzles in the game are quite hard and have no logic to them. When players are faced with such puzzles, it is just a matter of “click this, click that”, and except for a puzzle near the end of the game, there are no clues to help them solve it, taking them about thirty minutes to complete all of them.

Players are limited to just twenty-five save slots, including a slot reserved for quick-save. Like the recent adventure games I played, Sanitarium is a rather long game, and keeping more than twenty-five slots are necessary for the important events that occur in the game. Seriously, the limit on the number of saves players can have is comparable to those of Sierra's earliest games.

I am not the only one who thinks that disc-swapping is unnecessary. There are about three chapters stored on one of the three game CDs, and players are asked to insert each CD during the game. Disc-swapping is the reason why my old CD-ROM drive died in the first place. If only installation programs ask players to insert each CD while the game installs itself.

The Bottom Line

ASC Games did an excellent job at portraying what life is really like inside an asylum, and it wouldn't take long for players to be hooked; and like Countdown, the entire game doesn't take place in an asylum. Each chapter in the game has players accomplishing tasks that may or may not be related to the flashbacks they have, and the music suits the situation that they are in. The flashbacks are scary, especially the ones toward the end of the game. Finally, it is nice to be certain characters in the game, especially if players are tired of playing the same one all the time.

Players will have no problem playing Sanitarium on Windows Vista, as that OS's capability of running old games like these is high. I really enjoyed playing the game, and would play it again in the near future. What a shame there was never a sequel.