Game Over Online ~ Sanitarium

GameOver Game Reviews - Sanitarium (c) ASC Games, Reviewed by - Jove / DaxX / Phire

Game & Publisher Sanitarium (c) ASC Games
System Requirements Pentium-90, 16MB RAM, 4x CD ROM, 1MB PCI Video Card, 30MB HD
Overall Rating 87%
Date Published Saturday, May 2nd, 1998 at 01:45 PM

Divider Left By: Jove Divider Right

Getting scared has become one of the great thrills in modern entertainment and probably produces the most intense and overwhelming feelings within us. When these qualities are brought by a computer game I have always dived at the chance to play it, so as soon as Sanitarium came along I couldn't wait to try it out. Sanitarium is an adventure game along the lines of dark games such as Beneath a Steel Sky and Dark Earth: it delves into the depths of human fear and sanity (or rather, insanity). While this may sound very ominous, it is also very compelling and if you are at all like myself you will be drawn to this game. So has the preamble intrigued you? If not, read on anyway.

Let me begin with what is usually on all gamers' minds these days: graphics. The graphics of Sanitarium are in the same style as Diablo and Alien Earth, while being the most crisp of the lot. Sanitarium uses dramatic lighting effects intensely and superbly to create an atmosphere unlike anything I have experienced in an adventure game before. One example of such great effects is in the second chapter where, when you enter an abandoned church, the light streams through the stained glass windows emulating real stained glass lighting very well and in full color. Fortunately, Sanitarium does not only rely on its great lighting, but it also has some very unique and stylish animations to accompany it. Streaming water shimmers and sparkles leaving a feeling of awe after looking at it while crazy institutionalized people hit their heads against the wall showing quite a bit of detail. Not only are these in game graphics great, but cinematics and dialogue graphics are some of the best I've ever seen, in any game. Characters have amazingly atmospheric drawings of their faces adding a great deal to the atmosphere. It is this kind of effort that allows me to say that artwork in computer games still far surpasses anything that digital photography can produce, especially for character portraits. The cinematics are more professional than many movies, which is no small feat, and they portray the story very well, even without speech, using only subtitles. The movies consist of faded pictures to represent the hazy past, black screens with only talking emulates near unconciousness very well and truly makes you feel like the character. The only complaint I have about Sanitarium's graphics is the lack of animation frames for the main character, as his movements seem to get just a bit too repetitive.

Sound and music are, in my opinion, crucial to any game, but to an adventure game such as this they are required. It is whether they are done well or not that truly differentiates between the good and the ugly. Again, Sanitarium shows itself as a superior title in its dynamic and creative use of sound and music and their integration in the game. If you don't have sound in this game, you are missing quite a lot. Footsteps are emulated nicely and change dynamically according to the surface upon which you are walking. Additionally, ambient sounds and noises truly freak you out, especially at night when you are alone. Crows cawing, people murmuring, water flowing, a rusty swing screeching and doors creaking are just some of the sounds that you will hear. However, its not just the presence of these sounds that is nice; it is the fact that they are integrated so well and have such good quality that you don't consciously pay attention to them, which is exactly what ambient sound should be like. Sanitarium's music is good. The music is not loud and is probably the most spine-chilling thing in the game. The fact that it's not loud is very important because in such an intense and dark game music should act like ambient sound to increase the atmosphere and mood, but not to intrude. This is exactly what Sanitarium's music does. Again there was one small item that annoyed me: some of the voice acting was just plain bad. Fortunately, not much of it is and most of the worst parts can be shut off as they are used as side comments when an action can't be performed.

Gameplay is, simply put, compelling. The puzzles that one must solve to continue range from easy to damn difficult, but they are always mixed together well so the player feels like he is getting somewhere at any point in the game. One example is in the second chapter where you have to find five kids that are playing hide and seek. Finally, after a few minutes, you find them all so you think you've won the game (hide and seek), but there is a catch: a secret weapon, another hiding child, and this one you have not seen before and, well, she is very hard to find without some lateral thinking. This is a near perfect mix of adventure and is downright classy. Dialogue is performed with simple dialogue trees that serve their purpose, however they could have been a little better as only being able to choose from key words limits the realism of the game and the immersion of you as your character. Despite this, the game is just fun as hell to play, addictive and never so frustrating so as to make you bored of repetitive actions. That's a damn fine combination if you ask me.

Now we come to the worst aspect of the game, and the most frustrating: the control. To move your character you must hold down the right mouse button and point a golden arrow to where you want him to move, however he often gets stuck in corners or on small bumps that he just shouldn't get stuck on. At least there is no clipping. The left mouse button is used for action, either look, talk or use. The problem is that sometimes things just don't make sense. For example, I was behind a kid and tried to talk to him and the game said that I was too far away. The only solution was to walk to the other side of the character and talk to him: that's not very realistic. The inventory is seen by clicking on your character with the left mouse button. Icons of the items he is carrying are then shown around his person. This is an okay way of doing inventory and could have been improved. I know that if you could have only one wish you would wish that the developers could have designed a better control interface. Oh well I guess you'll have to suffer because I wasted my wish on that infinite wealth and power thing.

Replay is non-existent, and there isn't much more to say about it than that. Adventure games usually don't have any replay, unless they have multiple endings, but personally I find that that method is usually not well done. Multiplayer is also non-existent. I didn't expect multiplay from an adventure game and neither should you.

In summary, Sanitarium shines in every area except control, which is what unfortunately brings it below 90. It is hard to get everything perfect, but it would have been so nice. Graphics, sound, music and gameplay are the most important aspects and they were done very well. The atmosphere is unlike anything I have seen in an adventure game before (no, I did not find Phantasmagoria fun or scary) as it not only delves into human fear, but into the realm of insanity as well -- very cool. This game is perfect for anyone who enjoys adventure titles and doesn't mind adventuring in dark and unknown places. This reviewer loved it, and so should you.

Graphics: 18/20
Sound: 13/15
Gameplay 23/25
Fun Factor: 19/20
Multiplay: N/A
Control: 6/10
Overall Impression 8/10

Overall Rating: 87/100


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Divider Left By: DaxX Divider Right

Reviewed On: P200MMX, 64mb RAM, #9 Motion 771 (2mb), Monster 3d

Finally, a good game to really dig your teeth into. Sanitarium is a very stylish, very cool and dark adventure game, where you are trying to find your identity and figure out the mystery of the world you are thrust into. This game is highly addicting and the plot evolves very nicely.

Graphically, this game is quite impressive, combining stunning pre-rendered backgrounds with well-animated and large characters. All the environments are very atmospheric and conducive to the gameplay. The framerate is decent, however there is a slight "load" at certain areas of the environment where the camera moves towards the center of the new area. The video is very well done, they look like a movie, and help the story line quite a bit. The whole look is very smooth, and you will find it draws you into the game. Very well done.

The sound is also great, especially the speech. The voice acting is unusually professional and well done, taking a feature that is usually laughable in most games (Resident Evil etc) and turning it into a valuable tool. The quality is comparable to that of Monkey Island 3. The sound FX are nice, there aren't very many, but the ones that are there are of high quality. The music is also quite atmospheric, and nicely subdued. As with the graphics, the entire sound package seems very polished, and carefully planned to suit the atmosphere.

The plot of this game is quite interesting, and it is for that reason you are motivated to keep on going, to see how things progress. You wake up in a sanitarium, with absolutely no recollection of who you are. The quest for identity is not a unique one, but when combined with the other elements and mysteries of the world, makes for a very interesting and captivating game. The puzzles start out quite easily, and for the most part knowing what to do is not too big a problem. For instance, there is a collapsed bridge. When you click it, it says "This bridge is collapsed. You need a stone of some sort to place across it." This gives a very nice difficulty curve, with the puzzles getting more difficult progressively. I doubt many gamers will get frustrated with obscure clues and items to find, which is a definite bonus. The game has a lot of atmosphere, the whole game oozes mystery and a constant uneasiness. One of the few problems I have is the slow pace that the main guy walks at; it takes quite a while to walk from one end of an area to another, and for impatient gamers like me, it seems like an eternity. If there is a run command, I haven't found it yet. As well, the way you use items isn't immediately obvious, the item usage interface takes a _little_ time to get used to, but once you figure out it's no problem. The game is long, and a blast to play. Obviously there is little replay value, but that's a problem with adventure games, not this game itself.

Overall this game is a welcome addition to any adventure game fan's library; the slick graphics and sound, coupled with an absorbing story line, makes for a great gaming experience.


Graphics: 18 / 20
Sound: 12 / 15
Gameplay: 22 / 25
Fun Factor: 23 / 25
Multiplayer Play: NA
Packaging: 5 / 5
Overall Impression: 9 / 10

Overall Rating: 89 / 100


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Divider Left By: Phire Divider Right

Wow, this game is huge. I asked a few months ago if this was going to be released but people answered no and said it was unreleasable. This game is 3 CDs, a very large game. Razor somehow managed to bring it down correctly though, also leaving the sound-fx in. And the next day 2 addons were released for it, the music addon and a video addon. I don't think a speech addon will be released because it is probably too large and probably doesn't compress either. Having 2 addons and the game with sound fx is lucky considering its large size.

A good thing was that this game had subtitles, if it didn't we probably wouldn't have seen this game released. What they meant in the .NFO about the speech corresponding with the subtitles was that the subtitles don't just pop up out of nowhere, they work with the wav files and display as the speech goes on, if they made the wav's to zero bytes than the subtitles wouldn't appear at all. This game compressed pretty well, it installs to 600mb and is only 68 disks.

Sanitarium consists of 80 characters according to the box text, and 3D rendered environments. The 3D environments in the game look spectacular, a good example of a pre-rendered 3D environment game would be Diablo. Sanitarium has very good graphics and some pretty cool sounds. The pre-rendered 3D characters are completely smooth and if you get any problems then you can just change the performance meter under options (see the readme.txt for more on this). There is also a very detailed options menu in the game for your needs.

I was really amazed when I first played this game. You start off in this dungeon-like place which is really a crazy house. It seems that the character you control has lost his memory, he doesn't remember who he is, where he is or why he's there. His face also seems to be bandaged, because you can't see his face when you talk to other people. At first you spot this crazy guy who's just repeatedly banging his head on the wall and you can see some blood spatter where he's banging it.

The sound fx to this game are awesome, when I walked near the headbanger, the sounds got louder and louder and more detailed. And when you talk to characters you get to ask them questions that are provided to you: after you finish saying Hello to the person, a box appears with questions you can ask. Also the menu has a really awesome ghostly voice for each time you move your mouse over an option. It's creepy :)

Sanitarium's environment is pretty big, so you won't be able to finish this game easily and the game is more exciting and challenging that way since you're walking into newer territory. You also have an inventory in this game which you can carry items in, etc. I haven't spotted any weapons in this game, but I haven't played it too much yet, so I'm not sure if it has weapons or not. But I know there are definitely puzzles in the game which you must solve from gathering items and using them in places.

Graphics: 17 / 20
Sound: 14 / 15
Gameplay: 22 / 25
Fun Factor: 18 / 20
Multiplayer Play: 0 / 5
Packaging: 5 / 5
Overall Impression: 8 / 10

Overall Rating: 83 / 100


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