Sanitarium suffers from awful controls, an inconvenient perspective and a lack of puzzles. It might’ve been excusable had the story delivered. However, after enduring many issues throughout the games, it turns out the game is just weird for the sake of weird, and there’s absolutely no point behind most of the visuals.
The worst issue is the controls. The developers were too lazy to implement any form of path-finding, so instead of point and click you get an awkward “hold right mouse button and move character around”. This is extra inconvenient because the game is implemented with an isometric view, so you can’t move in the four cardinal directions. Moreover, the lack of path finding means you often click on something that’s right next to you and get a stock “I can’t go there”. Really annoying.
To compound this, there are parts where you have to navigate a maze, sometimes quickly. The stiffness of the controls and the slow movement of the character make this an unnecessarily trying ordeal - and those sections really have no room in an adventure game anyway.
The isometric perspective causes other issues. You sometimes have to go behind things you can’t know have a path behind them. This is the most arbitrary form of difficulty imaginable, with the player view being obscured for no in-game reason. There’s also a maze where the perspective makes it impossible to tell which level your character is on - this is most likely deliberate, but it’s really annoying, and a very far cry from an “enjoyable maze” as promised in the AG review.
The interface is also sorely lacking. If you stand near the edge of the screen, you can’t access some of your inventory items. Once you’ve looked at something, you often can’t look again. There’s no hotspot highlighting, which at some points is a serious pain in the ass - I was stuck on a puzzle for a very long time until I found out a part of the background was, in fact, a button. This also leads to several pixel hunts, which are manageable (most screens are relatively small) but not a lot of fun nonetheless.
There are two action sequences which are downright retarded, but at least they’re very easy so there’s nothing to complain about. They also don’t reset when you die, so you can practically brute force your way past all the fighting.
Puzzles are either inventory or operating various machines. The mechanical puzzles where you operate machinery aren’t bad, but most of them are way too easy, with all the difficulty derived from not being able to identify all the interactive parts. The inventory puzzles are all trivial fetch quests.
Voice acting is hit and miss. Some lines are read with way too much drama - your character sometimes exclaims things like “This is a pipe!” or “A HIGH WINDOW” without any real reason to. The stock “I can’t do that” responses are also problematic in that regard, and also they tend to be very confusing. One of them is “this would hurt”, which sounds like an actual clue as to why you can’t accomplish what you’re trying to do, which threw me off until I realized it was just a random canned response.
The most disappointing aspect is the plot. This game has a LOT of style. It’s intriguing. The various worlds you visit are varied and interesting. You’re dying to see how the story is going to tie all the stylistic elements together. Then you finish the game and find out it doesn’t. The game has no clue what to do with the atmosphere it built and the motives it used, so it just ends with a “and now you won and everything is good. Hurray!”. This is an “a winner is you” ending if I’ve ever seen one, and it caps the overall disappointment that this game was.
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Time Played: 5-10 hours