Psychiatric Evaluation Is An Adventure With A Crazy Twist

By Nathan Grayson on September 29th, 2012 at 11:32 am.


Psychiatric Evaluation‘s probably a bit better as an idea than an actual game, but wow, what a neat idea. It begins as a text adventure – because obviously, crazy people see only in eloquent prose – but as your sanity improves, the game evolves. So talking to a doctor once transforms your mad world into an ASCII symbol jambalaya, twice yields a top-down Atari-style adventure, and three times bumps the graphical fidelity up to something you might have seen (and heard) on a Super Nintendo. What’s even more impressive, though, is how that clever representation of your sanity gets weaved into this psycho-not’s central puzzle.

Before I explain, I actually recommend just playing through Psychiatric Evaluation yourself. It was originally made for Ludum Dare, which is why it’s not particularly fleshed out. But that also means it’s over in the blink of an eye, so there’s not much of a time commitment involved.

Anyway, your objective is to escape from the asylum, but you can only accomplish some of the necessary steps in certain interfaces. So moving through the world is far easier with actual graphics, but you can’t talk to friendly, password-dispensing ghosts unless you’re stark, raving mad. Granted, it all ultimately boils down to (literally) bouncing back-and-forth between madness-curing doctors and sanity-sapping patients, but some of the nuances are clever. For instance, a major puzzle solution draws on obtuse text adventure logic to such a degree that I had to look up a walkthrough. Maybe it’s just bad game design, but I dig it regardless.

Definitely give Psychiatric Evaluation a go, if it sounds like your kind of thing. If you even exist. If you’re not just the final sanity stage in a sequel to the game you just read about.

(Props to Gameological Society for digging this one up.)

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23 Comments »

  1. Mr. Mister says:

    Why is the objective of all asylum-based videogames (Batman doesn’t count) escape, instead of sanation?
    How crazy is that?

    • mispelledyouth says:

      Because only a sane man would want to escape!

      Gimme a biscuit Yossarian my mothers arrived. Wibble.

    • maninahat says:

      Are there any games out there in which you work as a psychiatrist, actually trying to help people? That would be a nice change. Sorta like Trauma Center, but with more multiple choice/LA Noire-esque interviews, and less blasting alien tumours with lazers.

    • DuddBudda says:

      I didn’t see anything telling me to escape (I might have missed it ofc) but I inferred from the doctors’ powerup abilities that mental health was a priority

      having recieved that impression, I wasn’t impressed by the conclusion

    • dE says:

      Because in popular perspective, an Asylum is a place where you lock away “dem crazies”. In the not that long ago history (early 1980s), this included people that were simply different or born to the wrong culture. A lot of the asylum crap was based on eugenics too.
      So even though Asylums changed a lot in the last 30 years, popular culture is still based on those earlier days where a lot of actually healthy people were put into those places because they didn’t conform 100%.

      • SonicTitan says:

        Asylum’s are still that way, and arguably always will be. You should do some reading.

        • The Random One says:

          Even if they are, at least in recent times their stated focus has changed, which means they are supposed to recuperate rather than incarcerate. It may not happen yet, but a shift has happened.

        • dE says:

          @SonicTitan: Maybe you should actually visit the place, not as a patient – but to actually inform yourself. You know, not just read about it in some newspaper.
          Or since you love reading that much, read some actual scientific texts about it. -> doaj.org
          Reality doesn’t mimic the pop culture image of Asylums. And even though pop culture loves to deny it (the image of the crazy house is too valuable for shock value and horror entertainment), there have been huge paradigm shifts in treatment.

  2. yogibbear says:

    Well that took me 5 mins to complete.

  3. Unaco says:

    What an appallingly insensitive and poorly thought out treatment of mental health issues. I would have thought that, in the 21st Century at least, we’d have got beyond the “crazy is contagious” line of thinking… but no, brush against another patient and the world degrades. Hideous. And ‘Doctors’ are the sole means to recovery? An insulting and dangerous simplification. And the player is suffering… what, exactly? The ‘crazy’ – just a generic mental health condition? Why? Because they view the world in a different way? A way that isn’t the ‘norm’? I’m surprised they didn’t try and explain it through demonic possession or the poor balance of humours.

    • El_Emmental says:

      The day a game dev will spent 3 to 6 months in a psychiatric hospitals (as an active observer), and will, several months (or years) later, come up with a good game design idea, we will have a decent game on mental health issues.

      Otherwise, we’ll get the same “crazyness is a virus” (like in this game), “crazyness is funny” (any game with over-the-top characters, most recently being Borderlands 2, who’s got a whole squad of these) and “crazyness is scary/mysterious” (Far Cry 3… no need to say more). I haven’t played “Spec Ops: The Line” yet, but it seems they genuinely tried to make something a little more credible than the usual reheated soup, while keeping it commercially viable ; nothing too mind-blowing, sadly.

    • Anzekay says:

      If you’d really like a game that has a take on psychological problems that is respectful and pretty accurate in its portrayal, then have a look at “To the Moon”.

    • PixelBoy says:

      If you would analyze better the game mechanic you would see that actually the “insane” state is the only state where you can experience everything and you can see everything and as you go more “sane” you are blinded by graphics, colors, music and sounds. You can actually go through all the game on the “insane” mode as an exception of the other states where you are limited by audio visual barriers. Taking all that in mind actually getting more sane actually means a bad thing.

  4. Lucky Main Street says:

    I always thought it would be cool to have a game where your health was represented by your character’s polygon count. As your health dropped, you degraded visually, from hi-def/cgi to looking like Interstate 76′ or early Virtua Fighter models before becoming a grainy 2D sprite. It’s cool to see someone explore a visual gradient as a representation of character status.

    • Savagetech says:

      Rez did something similar to that. At lowest health you’re some 2d triangles in a ball shape but as your health increases you turn into several 2d rectangles resembling a humanoid->a wireframe human->a smooth 3d model->a smooth 3d baby (yeah, that one’s weird).

      It worked great in that game, and I’d love to see the idea evolved in the way you described.