Back To The Sanitarium: Shades Of Sanity

By Adam Smith on August 19th, 2013 at 7:00 pm.

I have fond memories of Sanitarium, some of which may not be entirely deserved. The game came into my hands at a time when I associated point and click adventures with humour, so my troubled teenage mind was delighted to find such a game starring a man on a journey through his own fractured mind. He had bloody bandages wrapped around his face, screams were cut short as shadows ensnared one another and a man stood in a corner, thwocking his forehead against a wall and leaving a red bruise on the rusted metal. Happy times! It was the journey through different worlds – including twisted fantasy tropes and a sinisterly depleted rural town – that kept my interest. Shades of Sanity, a spiritual successor is seeking $200,000 of Kickstarter money.

Apart from the endearingly hesitant comedy acting, there are several points of concern. Obviously, a coffin crushing a crib is cause for all manner of health and safety concerns, but it’s the 3d that gives me doubts. Not that an adventure can’t work in 3d, but so much of Sanitarium’s appeal lay in the imaginative 2d art. Clearly what we’re seeing in the video is early work, but it doesn’t have the strangeness or atmosphere I’d hope for.

That said, the text on the page is more promising than the video. Alternate difficulty levels for puzzles and action is a positive, and I’m glad to see more developers exploring the Frictional niche – there’s plenty of fertile ground to be found in first-person exploration and horror.

In other related news, I’m seeing Asylum at some point during Gamescom, which is exciting. Despite my occasional grumbles about horror games set in Obviously Scary Places, I’m intrigued. Scratches was far more frightening than I expected it to be.

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19 Comments »

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  1. Danda says:

    “We worked as programmers for Dreamforge Intertainment from 1997-2001. Rob Seres worked on engine programming and level implementation for Sanitarium. Keith Leonard helped develop an in-house 3D Engine for DreamForge.”

    Programmers! Not designers, or writers. Now imagine the engineers who worked for the Beatles asking for money to record an album of Beatles-like music.

    • tobecooper says:

      Well, the awkward animations look very Sanitarium, don’t they? :D

      • Danda says:

        Yes, Sanitarium is considered a classic because of its clunky animation. I was thinking “ooh, great programming!” all the way!

        Actually, playing Sanitarium is painful, but I endure it because I love the story. Bring back the original writers and designers and we’ll talk.

        Here’s how Sanitarium was created:

        http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3299/postmortem_dreamforges_sanitarium.php

        • tobecooper says:

          I rather enjoyed the art design too – all the deformed kids and crazed clowns looked really cool to my youngish mind. Also, by going to the first person perspective here, they will surely lose a lot of the charm of the original.

          I mean, maybe the game will turn out good in the end, but it’s really difficult to see it as a spiritual successor to Sanitarium.

        • S Jay says:

          I remember playing a version that had a crippling bug that would always crash at the same scene.

    • grechzoo says:

      this is exactly what i came here to say.

      they are programmers, and modellers, not designers, creators, or writers. this is a blatant name drop to try and raise money for what looks like an average game.

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  2. DrMcCoy says:

    Mac OS X only as a stretch goal and no Linux at all? Boo! Boo, I say.

  3. misterT0AST says:

    To this very day, I sometimes yell “THE DAWN OF THE INSSSECTOIDS” and nobody gets the reference. Not that it would make sense anyway, but still.
    I wish I could link to somewhere with the Easter Egg remix “This is a test of the subject’s threshold”, stuck in my mind to this very day.

    Also, please no silly combat against birds with a scythe, and leave the Aztecs out of it unless they’re necessary.

    • funzportz says:

      In my memory the Aztecs were the point at which the game went of the rails completely (up to that point it was still on nodding terms with some kind of cohesive story telling I think) and that was a good thing considering that its about madness.
      But I agree that it is the original writers and artists this project needs.
      No chance I am getting involved in this if it doesn’t sport the cyclops king, and the aztecs.

      THERE IS A FIRE IN MY BRAIN!

  4. waaaaaaaals says:

    Praise Bob!

  5. kwyjibo says:

    Gone Home 2: Goner.

  6. Turkey says:

    If you’re working on a psychological character drama and your character animations look that rough, maybe it’s time to figure out a way around having them. Like maybe the Max Payne still image approach or something.

  7. gruia says:

    It needs to be isometric. period

    • Hunchback says:

      Gotta agree here…

      I’ve been thinking about all those resurrection projects lately, and i wonder where some devs muster the courage to try something like that. I mean, if you try to re-create an epic, legendary game, you KNOW you will be “facing” fanatic, uhm, fans. People who have dear memories of the game, created because of the combination of their age + novelty of the game for the moment in time + other stuff. Years later, achieving the same “score” would be extremely harder, because you have to add in the nostalgia variable to the equation. IMO, creating such a game, that will manage to at least not disappoint, is EXTREMELY hard. I would never even consider doing it, unless i am an absolute pro in the business, with tons of experience and resources.

      I am sorry, but indi devs shouldn’t try their hands and legendary games, it’s basically bound to fail and leave a bitter taste, dooming their company to be hated by fans and never trusted again.

  8. S Jay says:

    But it is first person. That is only a spiritual successor of Sanitarium in the awkward animations.

  9. FriendlyNeighbourhoodMurderer says:

    I thought it looked nice. Pledged. – I really started loving First Person Psychological Horror games after the first Amnesia game. Can’t wait for the next one, and this looks like it might be scary/fun too.

  10. The Random One says:

    Sorry, the coffin crushing the cradle looked more funny than scary or meaningful to me. BOMF

  11. tnzk says:

    Sanitarium is overrated. It was just a nice kooky ride… but that was it. I’m a hardcore adventure aficionado, and I played it several years ago because of people’s nostalgic recommendations. After playing the game, I just remember staring at the screen with a big fat “So what?” going through my mind.

    If they’re gonna make a spiritual successor, I don’t really want it to really just harken back to the original. They’re going to have to make it better. Make it all crazy and stuff, but have a bit of substance as well please.