Publisher: ASC Games
Developer: Dreamforge Intertainment
Year: 1998
Platform: Windows

If you’ve ever crushed hard on somebody and then saw those sparks disappear almost as fast as they developed, then you’ll know what it’s like to play Sanitarium.

You begin the game in an asylum with no memory of who you are or how you came to be there. This plot device has been done to death but it still appeals to my sense of wonder. Over the course of the game, you learn more about your self and your history through gameplay and flashbacks. Traveling through different dimensions (reality, or simply your disturbed psyche?), you meet with many strange and wondrous people and creatures who give clues, both direct and symbolic, to your true nature.

Sanitarium Windows Elementary school

Gameplay is intuitive and very similar to The Longest Journey. Conversations involve exhausting many topics, plodding through endless babble. While strategy involves typical inventory fare, there are also several logic puzzles to rack your brain. And despite situations that would suggest tension, there is no real way to die.

What this game lacks that TLJ had was a progressively engaging plot. Things start about as perfect as a game can, with mystery, intrigue, and the general creepiness inherent when one’s suffering from amnesia. However, as each chapter rolls around, the game morphs into an exercise in psychoanalysis, trying way too hard to appear intelligent and insightful. Ultimately, it fails, and the game grinds to a snail’s pace until it blissfully ends long after the original appeal has faded. Even the actors appear to be going through the motions as the game trudges along.

Still, the ease of play and excellent introduction is worth the effort for most gamers. Recommended, with reservations.

Sanitarium Windows The asylum

2 thoughts on “Sanitarium”

  1. You misspelled “wrack.” That’s my only comment.

    Actually, no, it’s not. I’m always amused by games built on tension where you can’t truly fail. It doesn’t make any damned sense.

    1. The adventure game community was notorious in the 80’s for multiple ridiculous and unfair ways to die (e.g. instant death rooms, with no warning). Then LucasArts righted the ship and successfully convinced other developers to eliminate aggravating and pointless ways to die. Unfortunately, it went too far the other direction, and developers became afraid to kill the player off for any reason, in fear of the player getting frustrated. That’s fine in a comedy game. Brutal in a horror game.

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