11 January 2012

Sanitarium review

Some of you might have noticed a trend in my PC game reviews, lots of old games make their way into this segment of the blog. These are mainly the games I grew up with and which I still think retain that original sense of magic and wonder. I wouldn't mind a remake of some of those games just for the sake of getting slightly better graphics and making them available to a broader audience. Something like the Monkey Island Special Edition would be great.

Anyway, Sanitarium is a game from 1998, but it was re-released in 2002. You can also get it from the "Good old games" site. It's a psychological horror point and click adventure centered around a man with a damaged face and memory loss who wakes up in a mental hospital.

The game is pretty disturbing and creepy in art direction, and worth to try out just for that. The gameplay itself is rather simple, you hold down one mouse button to move your character around and click on him to bring up a small inventory from which you select a very limited amount of found items which can be combined with objects in your current location. Classic point and click adventure puzzle solving, talking to characters to get anywhere and you can't really die either - again just like in any other classic point and click adventure akin to Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max etc.

The huge difference is the tone and mature content, as already mentioned this is a psychological horror game. The game has you moving between chapters that contain various repressed and twisted memories where you try to piece together your past and the mental hospital location where you try to piece together your current status. Clues about your person and family are given through short cinematics or directly by characters you encounter. Interactions with other characters are also streamlined, most of the time you just ask them a bunch of questions to make sense of your current location or situation. The characters range from other patients at the mental hospital, to manifestations of your twisted memory (there is one amazingly bizarre and disturbing level early on that is like “Children of the Corn” on crack) and also mental hospital personnel and doctors.

If you are a veteran "point and click"-adventure gamer you will find this game challenging enough not to become totally frustrated. There is not a huge amount of object interaction, and the puzzles are often a lot more logical than in other similar adventure games. It does take a lot of clicking around though, just to make sure you don't miss any objects and clues in each location but that is to be expected from this genre.

This is a game played more for the mystery of the story rather than to fight some big boss towards the end. But if you enjoy grotesque horror themed games this one could be to your liking. There is enough to this game in terms of variation of locations and variety in puzzles to keep you going for many hours. And while the story takes shape slowly and the weird clues about everything are portioned out over the 8 chapters of the game form a very engaging mystery I must admit that the game ending is a bit of a anticlimax. Perhaps not as frustrating as the ending of Deus Ex: Human Revolution if I have to compare good games with bad endings. It's a shrug after the mystery has been solved. Still a good game overall though.


  1. Another good old classic. Which Alas I no longer have the time to spend upon. would be good to see it updated

  2. Thanks for the nostalgia trip. Great game, a real surprise. And incredibly, the only one I have ever played through to the end.


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