The Good: Creepy atmosphere, great voice acting, enticing characters, engaging story
The Bad: Tons of technical problems, puzzles get way too hard, it's not clear what to always do
Adventure, strategy, and RPGs were the pinnacle of PC games back in the mid to late 90's, and Sanitarium is one of those games. You play as Max who suffers a car accident and is stuck in his own insane delusions, or is he? You explore 12 sick and twisted chapters with excellent voice acting and very interesting characters, but don't forget those adventure puzzles.
The game isn't much different from the standard adventure game where you wonder around and click on items to proceed to the next area. Your icon is a magnifying glass and you hold down the right mouse button to move your character around. This was my first annoyance with the game being that the characters walk so slowly and there's no run button. Despite this clicking on things is actually interesting because most of it doesn't even pertain to the real world. Your first area is an asylum where guys are bashing their heads against walls, and the people you talk to are completely out of their minds. This gets even worse as the game progresses, but that's a good thing.
As you collect items you find ways to use them in interesting ways, and it actually make sense. However, most of the times the way to use them is so obvious that you will miss it. This game isn't exactly easy and just gets harder as the game progresses. You get thrown a couple of puzzles at the beginning, but towards the end the game gets very puzzle heavy and they are not fun or easy. Sure they are unique to the individual worlds, but they aren't easy. I had to use a walkthrough through most of the game because I just couldn't get what to do most of the time.
My favorite part about the game was wandering around and talking to people and hearing their strange voices or weird stories. The world themselves are characters because each one has a big problem to solve, but thankfully each level is small and it's not easy to get lost in. The game is paced well with some CGI cut scenes (of course they look horrible being from 1997), but it's nice that this game feels high budget for its time. I always looked forward to the next zany world and what weird character I would run into. I never got bored, and always wanted more. The game is nicely paced at around 5-6 hours, and it had a satisfying ending. The one surprise I had, however, were the couple of boss fights. Most adventure games don't have these, but these were strange.
Overall, Sanitarium is an excellent adventure game that shows how great the 90's were on the PC. You can pick the game up on GoG.com for only $6, but I did run into one huge problem. The game crashes a lot on newer operating system, and GoG never addressed the issue. If you can, get the CD and use on an older operating system (like Windows 98), but otherwise you will have to trudge through the constant crashes.