Game Over Online ~ Sanity: Aiken's Artifact

GameOver Game Reviews - Sanity: Aiken's Artifact (c) Fox Interactive, Reviewed by - Clarence Worley

Game & Publisher Sanity: Aiken's Artifact (c) Fox Interactive
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium II-300, 64MB Ram, 3D Accelerator, 8x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 75%
Date Published Tuesday, September 12th, 2000 at 09:09 PM

Divider Left By: Clarence Worley Divider Right

Fox Interactive's latest project is titled Sanity: Aiken's Artifact. Kind of ironic when you realize you might lose your sanity trying to figure out the camera control in this game, but there's more than enough fun in this action-adventure title to have you forget about it's shortcomings… for awhile anyway. So without further ado, on with the review.

Sanity features a compelling storyline and the condensed version goes a little something like this:

In the year 2028, a mysterious artifact was unearthed and subsequently studied by world-renowned scientist Dr. Joan Aiken. The good doctor was able to develop a revolutionary serum from the artifact that allowed humans to unlock the unused portion of the human brain. Recipients of Dr. Aiken's serum manifested powerful Psionic abilities and many eventually lost their sanity due to the brain's inability to adapt to the powerful effects of the serum. As a result, many of the subjects turned to a life of crime just as the government had feared, and the government subsequently created the Department of National Psionic Control (DNPC) to combat those with Psionic abilities who abused their power. You play Cain who, along with his brother Abel, was one of the first two test subjects born with Psionic powers. You've been sent on what was seemingly going to be a routine investigation, but you're about to entangle yourself in a web of mystery that will shake the foundation of the world as we know it.

Sanity is an action-adventure game that is played from a top-down isometric view, much like Gauntlet or Nox. As Agent Cain, you forge your way through 20 distinct, colourful levels in an attempt to unravel the mystery behid the evil that has bestowed those subjected to Dr. Aiken's serum. The level design as a whole is extremely inconsistent. While some missions are unique in that they require you to use espionage, among other skills, some scenarios resort to performing absolutely ridiculous tasks in order to advance. You'll want to make sure to stop and talk to any friendlies you might happen to come across during the game, as they often provide important advice that will come in handy later on in the game. Unfortunately, the interaction between characters and unique qualities of some of the missions fade as the game progresses, as Sanity falls back, in the end, to the archaic action formula we've all become accustomed too.

Sanity is chalk full of action. There are plenty of minions and other baddies running around every corner and you'll need all of your Psionic powers to ward them off as you continue your investigation. Sanity ships with well over 80 Psionic 'Talents', derived from 8 different Totems or fighting styles. Psionic Talents include a wide variety of abilities ranging from defensive talents, such as Walls and Shields, to offensive talents designed to destroy, such as fireballs, laserbeams and showers of varying powerful proportions. There's also a wide variety of general abilities such as haste and levitate, that allow your character to perform super-human feats. Many of the talents appear as the story unfolds, so there's lots of surprises in store as you move through the game. Agent Cain can carry up to 10 Psionic Talents at one time, so you'll want to diversify your talents throughout the game. These Talents work much like spells, in that you must have a certain level of 'sanity' (equivalent to mana) in order to perform such given abilities. If your 'sanity' level falls below zero, you won't be able to perform your Talents and you'll begin to take damage and act in a frenzied manner.

One of the main problems with Sanity is the poor camera transition. Moving from one area to another can cause some less-than-smooth camera movements that could cost you your game if you aren't careful. There are plenty of environmental hazards, to go along with the ever-spawning enemies, and one wrong step could be fatal. You can adjust and rotate the camera using the A and D keys on your keyboard, but when you're surrounded by a horde of baddies, rotating the camera usually isn't high on my priority list. The resulting experience can be frustrating to say the least.

Sanity was built using LithTech technology. It features beautiful lighting effects that convey a very colourful atmosphere. The effects of the Psionic Talents are pretty to watch, but the overall detail level is slightly below par. Environments and characters could have used with a little more touching up. Actor / Rapper / Pimp Ice-T provides the voice for Agent Cain and does an admirable job. Sanity is full of speech from various characters, but none is as prominent or effective as Ice-T's voice.

Sanity supports multiplayer, although I was limited in my experiences due to the fact the game isn't in stores yet. I was able to play against a few opponents, but never more than three. In that respect, the multiplayer was relatively smooth with no burps to speak of. In the multiplayer mode, players enter deathmatch scenarios in which you're either assigned Psionic Talents, or you must search through the levels for Talents to equip yourself with. With such a large variety of Psionic Talents available, it certainly provides unique fighting sequences, although the level design for multiplayer is a little on the small side. In an interesting move, Fox Interactive has announced they will allow players to download, via, new Talent packs for a small fee. While they've promised the new Talents won't create an imbalance in gameplay, I'm not sure if this is a way to extend gameplay or simply a means to get more money from our wallets.

Overall, Sanity is an entertaining game, albeit frustrating at times. While it's unfortunate the level design wasn't a little more consistent and the camera work a little smoother, there's enough adrenaline packed into Sanity to satisfy action fans.


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