Okay, I admit it. I was losing faith in the whole 2D adventure genre as a whole.
Sure, I loved games like Full Throttle (and its 2D origins), but after
a peek at the horde of 3D games coming down the road (including adventure titles
like Grim Fandango), I had serious doubts whether Sanitarium would
still keep me interested.
Well, I was
wrong. While, visually, Sanitarium is nothing special, its intriguing
story and twisted plot make it one of the most original games yet. Just trying
to explain Sanitarium's plot is a bit of a challenge.
At the onset of the game, you find yourself in some sort of a run-down asylum,
covered in bandages as a result of a car-crash. A case of amnesia (and perhaps
a bit of brain damage) prevents you knowing where you are, what you are doing
there or how you got there. After talking to a number of insane characters,
the game starts to get weird.
The different chapters of the game are based on "demons" and hellish beings
from the unconscious mind of the main character, as he (and a she at one point...)
searches for his self-identity. Deformed, demented children, a run-down circus,
and 4-arm cyclopes are just a few examples of the many twisted characters making
appearances throughout the story. Also, as odd as these beings get, they are
usually tied, somehow, to the mind of the main character through a variety of
is made extremely simple and involves clicking the mouse to move, use item,
talk etc. The only drawback I found was with movement: when the player clicks
at a certain point where he wants to move, the character makes a straight line
to that point (while the mouse is held down). In the end, there will be many
unwanted stair-ascensions (a process which cannot be interrupted) and other
Like most other adventure games, Sanitarium consists of a variety of
puzzles as well as a few simple action sequences. All action sequences are pretty
basic, involving the use of an object on an enemy while moving around to avoid
its attack. Puzzles, on the other hand, range from simple tasks such as finding
and using objects to more complicated ones such as altering and rotating the
pipes in a watermain. In general, while puzzles don't get as intricate or complicated
as in games like Myst, they do a good job of testing the intellect of
the gamer while maintaining the freaky gaming atmosphere.
Sanitarium basically looks like most other adventure games currently
on the market. All backgrounds are 2D, pre-rendered scenes, and characters are
obvious 2D sprites. Sounds, like the graphics, are what you would expect from
a well-done adventure. What DreamWorks did do a good job with was the fact that
all audio and visual facets of the game, from the opening menu to the ending
cutscene, always maintain the constant eerie mood of the game.
While Sanitarium does have its minor drawbacks, it is one of the best-executed
adventure games on the market. The plot, described by some as being "sick-made",
keeps the player involved until the end of the game. In the end, Sanitarium
is one of the most weird, twisted sick games that you will ever play. Bravo.