Sanitarium is a dark story revolving around your character who wakes up in an insane asylum with serious memory losses. Don't know why you're here, what your name is or even what you look like. As you look around, you realize your nightmare is just beginning. Grotesque, unstable and freakish people surround you and your immediate concern is to escape this loony bin and get some answers. Your quest for truth and identity becomes paramount to survival and your journey of discovery will open up fantastic realms.
The really bad news is easy to dispense with early. For the most part, the voice acting in Sanitarium is not particularly good. It seems to improve as the game evolves and occasionally lapses into fairly talented and inspired voices but unfortunately not often and that's a shame since dialogue (which is well written) is one of the most important aspects of the game (only the artwork and plot compare in importance). Fortunately, there is enough gameplay and plot development to overcome this shortcoming.
Using a photo-realistic, 3D rendered environment, Sanitarium is an inspired piece of eye-candy. There are nine major episodes (plus four sub-chapters) to work your way through and each of them is beautifully drawn and captures the essence of the important backdrop to each segment. The episodes are as distinct and separate from each other as they could possibly be and it's through exploration and discovery within each of these levels that the surprising central theme is pieced (and held) together, bit by bit. Your character (and possibly you) will experience an emotional joyride while working through the various scenes due in part to the storyline itself as well as the exquisite atmospheric artwork and musical interludes associated with each segment. The interface is point and click and can be annoying. Sanitarium is very linear and you'll feel at times as if you're being led through the game by the nose. This can be forgiven as it tends to ensure the game remains well-paced and, in fact, there is a logical progression required to make the wildly entertaining story unfold in a meaningful manner. Unfortunately, this can result in getting "stuck" when you've done everything and talked to everyone, but there is always a way out, so keep searching. The well-produced video cut scenes are an integral part of the game and keep things moving forward to build a tapestry of memories for your character.
Sanitarium is a solid game, made so through the strength of the writing, artwork and story. Despite the minor flaws, one being that the game is somewhat short (but worthwhile) even though it ships on 3 CD's, another being puzzles which are probably on the easy side for experienced gamers, the experience is rewarding. Like the best games of the genre, Sanitarium contains the one element essential to adventure gaming: the ability to make you want to find out what happens next, to peek around that next corner. A trip to this Sanitarium is just what the doctor ordered.
Graphics: Exquisitely rendered artwork and well-produced video cut scenes. The contrast of colors within the various segments is beautifully done and adds significantly to the atmosphere of the game.
Sound: If it weren't for the weak voice acting, the rating would be higher. Great background sounds. Superb music score which enhances rather than detracts from scenes.
Enjoyment: Minor flaws notwithstanding, Sanitarium is an adventure game worth the effort (although short) because of its intense, well-written story. Underneath the stiff interface is an intriguing excursion into one man's nightmare. The lure of
Replay Value: Because of the linear nature of the game, once through it, you're through it. Period. The only conceivable replay value would be to view the story (by knowing all the right responses) quickly and enjoy the artwork again.
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Phantasmagoria, Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Scratches, Real Myst, Ripper, Riven: The Sequel to Myst, Secrets of the Ark: A Broken Sword Game
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