Sanitarium - the madness is within you
The introduction to the plot begins with an opening credits: A man - the player character - announces over the phone that he has solved an unspecified problem. In the pouring rain, he gets into a car and drives off. The brakes fail in a corner, he loses control of the car and falls into an abyss. In the further course of the game, the story continues with numerous animated cutscenes.
At the beginning of the game, the player character wakes up with his head completely bandaged and without knowing his name or his origin in a tower that seems to be part of a psychiatric sanatorium . From this point on, the player takes control. It is important to free yourself from the sanatorium and uncover your own identity and past. The figure alternates between different scenarios, which alternate in the sanatorium and different fantasy landscapes and seem to come from the insane imagination of the game figure. The physical appearance of the character also changes.
As the game progresses, the player reveals more and more fragments of memory. The character is called Max Laughton and is a doctor. Traumatized by the death of his sister Sarah in childhood, he had devoted himself as an adult to the search for a cure for a mysterious illness. But the company he works for already has another drug that, despite its ineffectiveness, it wants to continue to sell for a profit. Research into drugs also violates ethical standards. Max, who is about to discover an effective drug with his research approach, is led by company boss Dr. Jacob Morgan sabotaged. Max therefore threatened to leave the company with his research results and to sell his findings to a competitor. When he finally finds the solution, the intro scenario described occurs. With Morgan sabotaging Max's car, the brakes fail and Max has a serious accident. He is admitted to the hospital, where he has been in a coma ever since.
Since Max survived, Dr. Morgan used unknown drugs to prevent regeneration. Max has to successfully pass the imaginary horror scenarios in order to recover and wake up from his coma. If the player successfully completes the game, he will learn during the final credits that Dr. Morgan has been brought to justice, Max has taken over the reins of the company and the new drug has been successfully launched.
Game principle and technology
The game is played from an isometric overview perspective with pre-rendered background scenery, in front of which the two-dimensional, animated characters move. The game character is steered through the game world with the help of a point-and-click control. If you keep the right mouse button pressed, the figure moves in the specified direction. The left mouse button is used to carry out actions such as looking at and picking up objects and objects, addressing other characters and combining and using objects with objects in the game world.
The main part of the game is the solution of various puzzles. The player explores the level map and tries to find clues to the exit from this fantasy world with the help of the characters. Mostly it is about adventure-typical object and combination puzzles. Through dialogues with the characters, Max often first has to get the information necessary to solve the puzzles. Max changes his form several times in the course of the plot, between a little girl, a four-armed cyclops and the Aztec god Olmec. Towards the end of the game, switching between these characters is a prerequisite for solving the scenario. In some passages there are also action sequences in which the character has to fight opposing creatures. However, there is no classic game over , instead, after losing a fight, the character is set back to the beginning of the action sequence, from where the player can repeat the sequence.
The game was developed by Dreamforge Intertainment with a 37-person development team over 16 months. The development studio , which attracted greater attention for SSI with the D&D role-playing games Dungeon Hack , Menzoberranzan , Ravenloft: The Curse of the Count and Ravenloft: Stone Prophet , described the title as a milestone because it was a completely in-house development. Influences came from the films Jacob's Ladder , Seven and 12 Monkeys , and the television series The Outer Limits and Twilight Zone . In order to be able to combine the various ideas of the developers with one another, Chris Straka, Director of Creative Development at Dreamforge, designed the concept of an as yet unspecified central node that connects the various scenarios. This also consolidated the concept of declaring the numerous different design ideas as psychotic episodes. The project was given the working title Asylum , which was originally intended as a title, but was already in use elsewhere. For the detailed elaboration of the plot, Chris Pasetto was hired as an author.
For the design of the game world, the team used real-life cemeteries and churches as atmospheric models. From the level sketches, 3D models of the levels were created with the aid of the 3D Studio Max software and post-processed with Adobe Photoshop . These were finally pre-rendered as two-dimensional background images and show what was happening from an isometric perspective. The engine was programmed entirely by Dreamforge itself and is based in part on the program code of previous games by the developer.
The sound was recorded in digital stereo for the first time in the company's history. Steve Bennet, Dreamforge's audio manager, used a Kurzweil Music Systems synthesizer to provide his own compositions to accompany the game. In retrospect, however, the developer was dissatisfied with the budget available for the dubbing work, which did not allow renowned actors to undertake the dubbing. Shortly before closing, the publisher ASC Games also asked the developers to make the game easier for the mainstream market. After an initial rejection, the game was finally checked again to see whether enough solution aids could be found in the game world and, if necessary, supplemented with additional dialog hints. In some cases, the puzzles have also been made more beginner-friendly.
|Adventure meeting||7 out of 10|
|Adventure Classic Gaming||4/5|
|Adventure Gamers||3.5 / 5|
|Computer Gaming World||4/5|
|GameSpot||8.2 / 10|
|PC Gamer (UK)||63%|
Sanitarium was mixed by the press and trade magazines, but mostly well received ( GameRankings : 83.22%). On the one hand it was praised for the atmosphere and the horror aspects, on the other hand it was criticized for its easy puzzles and difficult operation. The game appeared with a fatal program error in level 2, which made progress in the game impossible. The developer had to deliver a patch for this.
“Once started, the intelligent story about the tragic hero pulled me more and more under its spell [...]. Thanks to cleverly sprinkled film snippets, the tension remained at the boil and the famous "only ten minutes left" effect set in again and again. Then came the sudden end: the game is over far too quickly. For a hundred [note: DM-Schein ] two days of fun are not enough. "
“Sanitarium is a damn good story. It may end a bit rough and take a while to get going, but I struggle to think of many game narratives of its caliber. "
“Sanitarium has one hell of a good plot. It may end up a little bumpy and it takes a while to get going; but I have a hard time looking for other player stories of this caliber. "
“The opening section in the dark, almost prison-like tower, remains a stunningly atmospheric opening. The later bits you explore try their best, with creepy writing and bloody scenery, but just don't have the same power. They're less personal, less connected, and just generally much less effective. "
“The entrance in the dark, almost dungeon-like tower remains one of the most impressive atmospheric game entrances. The later parts that are explored try their best with gruesome texts and bloody scenes, but no longer have the same power. They are less personal, less connected, and generally less effective. "
In 2004, the online magazine GameSpy Sanitarium ranked 4th among the 10 most scary games.
- Sanitarium at MobyGames (English)
- Sanitarium in the Internet Movie Database (English)
- Inferno's Adventures website for a Windows XP setup and technical problems with Sanitarium
- Help for Sanitarium with Windows XP ( Memento from June 7th 2008 in the Internet Archive ), Adventure Gamers Forum (English)
- Asylum Engine , An attempt to recreate the Sanitarium engine to support more platforms ( Open Source )
- Gunnar Lott: Ready for the institution: Sanitarium . In: GameStar . tape 08/1998 , August 1998, p. 128 .
- Chris Pasetto: Postmortem: DreamForge's Sanitarium. Gamasutra, December 4, 1998, accessed August 16, 2011 .
- GamesIndustry.biz: Sanitarium from XS games available for sans-DRM download. Retrieved March 28, 2016 .
- Archived copy ( memento of the original from June 26, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.
- Sanitarium Review , Adventure Classic Gaming
- Jeff Green: Crazy, Man . In: Computer Gaming World . tape 09/1998 , no. 170 , September 1998, pp. 238-239 ( cgwmuseum.org [ARTICLE SCAN]).
- Gamespot.com: Sanitarium Review. Retrieved March 28, 2016 .