Sanitarium (Windows)

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Written by  :  kbmb (435)
Written on  :  Dec 22, 2002
Platform  :  Windows
Rating  :  4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars4.67 Stars

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Awesome unique game keeping the dying adventure genre alive.

The Good

(eh, I'll just start by saying that I refer to the main character as "the character" as well as "you", since it is you playing it. I just can't remember the guy's's been a while)

I heard nothing but bad things about this game. My uncle thought it was horrible, my friends thought it was the worst game ever made. They probably weren't alone, since at the time the only places I'd even heard of the game was through their ranting. I picked the game up out of boredom - just to see what was so bad about it, if nothing else - and was surprised to find such a great game!

This is what an adventure game should be. It reminds me of the old Lucas Arts adventure games, but with updated graphics and a story that's completely unique to the computer gaming world.

Sanitarium was one of the few games nowadays that actually brings a chill to my spine. Not necessarily because it was scary (though, there were times...), but because surprise plot elements that were revealed were actually interesting. It wasn't just a "oh look, he's a demon" or "oh wow, that guy's evil" plot twist that you find in so many other games.

The thing that adds to the game's atmosphere the most is that it all takes place in a man's own reality. Because of this, the game is not limited by what can and can't be, but every area and object you find is related to, and contributes to the game's plot. Every part of the game you see is coming from some deep recess of the character's mind, some dark, destroyed, warped, fading image of something, and it is a wonderful thing. You will journey into images from his childhood, from the insect-like world from a comic book, to a melting image of his once home, through his mind and destroyed memory all the while trying to understand who you are and what lead up to this. And the second area you visit, with the mutated children - it is one of the most chilling and memorable places I've ever seen in a computer game.

Though it becomes obvious who the real "bad guy" is in the game, you are never distracted from it, because you get the feeling the character in the game suspects as well, but he is more concerned with finding out who it is and what part it plays in his madness.

Puzzles are fairly simple, but I like easy puzzles in adventure games. I love the adventure genre because it often feels more like playing an interactive movie than just killing brain cells playing a computer game, and too many adventure games have ridiculously pointless, impossible puzzles in it.

When you complete some of the more plot-contributing puzzles, you are rewarded with fantastic cinematics. They're all high quality and very well-done. Sometimes they're just a more detailed view of what you just accomplished, and sometimes it's another journey into the character's mind. And you can go back and view them all later, if you want, which I loved.

Even though all the characters in the game were either warped memories of someone from the character's past, or a completely imagined person, most of them were quite interesting and had some actual depth to them. I liked listening to them talk about themselves and coming to realize how they might have spawned from the character's madness.

This game gets my highest recommendation. The adventure genre is dying, but it's because there aren't more games like this.

The Bad

While I grew to love the character in the game, I thought that (especially in the beginning of the game) his voice was annoying. It was acted well enough (though not perfect), but it just had a certain tone to it that was annoying.

Maybe I'm just stupid, but I wish there had been more emphasis or explanation as to some of the parts of the game, particularly the Sanitarium areas, especially the second one, since it seems much less insane than the first one. Were they the character's subconscious realization that he was trapped within his own mind? Or were they spawned from coming in and out of a coma and interacting with doctors? Well, like I said, maybe I'm dumb or missed the reference, but if we were expected to just draw up our own conclusions...well, I don't like that.

Some quests involve asking dozens of characters the same questions over and over. Now, I didn't mind this because most of the characters were so interesting, but some parts had characters that were no different than the one next to it, save for a unique name or something. Though I think there were only two parts where this was necesarry, I think this is the game's biggest drawback.

The Bottom Line

Journey into the mind of a madman and follow the footsteps through your destroyed memory to find out who you are and how you got here. You'll begin to question what is reality and what is madness. This game is one of the best adventure games ever created.