Point-And-I-Think-I’m-Gonna-Be-Sick Adventure: Asylum

Next time, on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition...

True fact: nothing good has ever happened in an Asylum. Every media form short of the Etch-A-Sketch has worked tirelessly since the dawn of time to drill this into my head, so it must be true. Senscape’s long-awaited Asylum, unsurprisingly, is no different. What is surprising, however, is the sheer amount of detail that’s gone into each and every inch of this beautifully hideous locale. At its heart, the dread-soaked playable not-exactly-a-demo is a point-and-click adventure, but I found myself not really caring about searching for items or getting from point A to point B. I just wanted to, well, look at things.

Asylum’s playable teaser – which isn’t actually a demo of content that will make it into the final release, apparently – really is a feast for the senses. Granted, it’s a rotten-to-the-core, writhing-with-maggots feast, but that’s sort of the point. The whole asylum is a cesspit – lousy with dust, mold, grime, and furniture that’d sooner explode into a hail of splinters than support a human body. Meanwhile, via the main character’s ragged breathing, fits of coughing, and frightened protests, the game does a great job of conveying world-building bits that the sense of sight can’t quite reach out and touch. For instance, he hacks violently near dust and begins drawing short, sharp breaths in cold areas. This building is the most miserable goddamn place on Earth, and Asylum goes to incredibly admirable lengths to drive that point home.

It is, however, an old-school point-and-click adventure at heart, so all the hallmarks are there. The teaser, at least, struck me as a bit vague in terms of direction, so I just ended up wandering around for a while and clicking on everything. Admittedly, I didn’t mind so much since the environment’s so detail-rich, but I hope Senscape does a better job with that in the final release. Because goodness, there’s potential here for something special. This bit from Asylum’s official FAQ, especially, has me slowly-but-surely losing my mind, eventually going mad, and hallucinating tearing off chunks of my face in anticipation.

“You will have complete freedom to explore the main body as you see fit, all four floors. Furthermore, we aren’t showing the basement (of course there is a basement!) and all the secret areas in this render. All in all, you will be able to explore about 100 rooms, and note we’re counting long corridors and large areas (such as the central courtyard) as rooms.”

“One of our main goals has always been to accurately reproduce a rundown asylum and, you know, asylums are pretty large buildings. On top of that, the game has a complex story that is intimately connected to the environment, so we have additional requirements to address besides modeling the realistic building. We’re also quite stubborn when it comes to accuracy and we’re making sure that the Hanwell Institute is as “architecturally correct” as possible. Suffice to say, the project scaled way out of proportions. But we’re managing OK.”

On top of that, Senscape’s concurrently developing its own engine for the (so far) sole purpose of powering this dying beast of a building. And, once it’s in the wild, that engine will be fully open source. So basically, Asylum’s taken ages to get this far and it won’t be out until 2013, but someone at Senscape still deserves a high-five. Or, based on the near-masochistic level of work this endeavor involves, a trip to a mental ward. But then again, maybe not so much, seeing as those are places where bad things always happen.

At any rate, try the teaser. It’s pretty excellent. Also, keep an eye out for a fourth-wall-annihilating Easter Egg or two. I can’t say if anything of that sort will be in the final game, but there’s actually some solid laughter to be found in this asylum’s dingy depths. And not just the totally insane, horrifically creepy kind.

If you for some reason need more convincing (perhaps because you cannot read), here’s a cinematic trailer from a while back. I still definitely recommend the playable teaser, but this video does a pretty solid job of conveying Asylum’s general atmosphere.


  1. Mrs Columbo says:

    Nothing good happening in an asylum? We haven’t seen the new Doctor Who opener yet – ‘Asylum of The Daleks’. That’s guaranteed to be splendid.

  2. Kaira- says:

    I’ve been following this since… last year, I think? And it does look very splendid indeed. Gives me vibes from Darkness Within and Scratches, which in my books is just a very good thing.

  3. Groove says:

    Nothing good happening in an asylum? Arkahm Asylum was frankly amazing!

  4. Reverend Speed says:

    Nothing good happening in an asylum? Have a fondness for Sanitarium myself. link to gog.com

    • mr.black says:

      Yeah. Truly wonderful game!
      Tough was there something good in it – doubtful. I still remember the scene with the man slapping his head into the wall on the loop..
      I’d die for a HD remake!

  5. scorpion_wins says:

    Never again. Not after The Cradle.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Dat sound 0.-

      One of the things TDS at least did right like the first two was sound design.

  6. Dervish says:

    In-game footage for those like me who are mostly curious about the movement mechanics and such (it’s Myst-style with panoramic views for each node):

    • beema says:

      I don’t really understand this format. As long as you’ve already gone to the trouble to create a viewable 3D environment, why not just allow for normal walking through it? Why have the screen transitions every couple of steps?

      • Kaira- says:

        It’s one of those mechanical things which affect a lot of things. I think Darkness Within 2 was worse than the original, and that was partly because they allowed free moving. There’s certain… magic on moving between waypoints.

      • Dervish says:

        Performance is the main reason for pre-rendering. But there is also something to be said for artistic control over composition (including the ability to guide the player’s eye) and things like keeping the player from sticking his nose up against the textures to make them look bad. Limited movement nodes also can make it clear which bits of scenery are important and which are window dressing.

  7. Kefren says:

    Scratches was fun. This looks fun too – reminds me of Amnesia: The Dark Descent (finally played and completed it this weekend). I was glad we didn’t see a wheelchair rolling across the corridor in this trailer.

  8. Harlander says:

    Good things happening in an asylum, eh?

    Anyone remember that web-game where you had to diagnose and treat the psychological illnesses of cuddly toys?

    • mr.black says:

      Yeah, “The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys”. One of the best flash games I’ve played!

  9. Xari says:

    Oh my god.. Why? Why do they have to release these utterly terrifying games that look like I need to have played?

  10. Unaco says:

    I don’t think they could have chosen a more generic, over used and cliched setting for a Horror game, than an Asylum. I bet there’ll be lots of arcane symbols drawn in blood, maybe what sounds like a small child crying at one point.

    • CrookedLittleVein says:

      *ominous Latin chanting*

      Whatever do you mean?

    • Tyraa Rane says:

      Yes, and Scratches took place in the generic, over-used cliche of an abandoned (or is it?!, dun dun dun, etc.) manor in the north of England. It was also a damn fun and occasionally terrifying game that I enjoyed immensely, and in the end more or less forgot the fact that the setting started off as a cliche–I was too wrapped up in the story by then.

      A cliche isn’t necessarily a bad thing if spun in the right way, as was done–IMHO–with Scratches. Given the developer’s track record I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the asylum cliche next. I suspect I’ll thoroughly enjoy it.

    • maninahat says:

      Poor psychiatrists. They spend over a decade in medical school, learning to help some of the most unfortunate people in society, and yet when they get out, they always turn into maniac sadists who brutalize the inmates.

      Wouldn’t it be nice to play a game in which you actually help psychiatric patients? One where insanity is the real enemy, and your extensive medical knowledge is used to help the afflicted, rather than torture them? There must be a speech based, LA Noire-esque game in there somewhere.

  11. pilouuuu says:

    This looks very interesting. Like a mix between 7th Guest and Sanitarium. Some sort of interactive virtual haunted house. Well, I don’t know if it’s really haunted, but you get the idea.

  12. Chaz says:

    There’s something very Mindscape about Senscape’s logo.

  13. beema says:

    The protagonist in every one of these types of games an out of shape asthmatic. I get that it adds to the feeling of helplessness, but it starts to venture in to obnoxious trope territory too.

  14. MrEvilGuy says:

    Yikes that video threw me a flashback of a bad trip I once had on LSD.