(This is part of my journey playing through Sanitarium. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)
Well! After a long trip through survival horror with System Shock 2, I thought I’d switch things up with… more horror and general creepiness? OK, I’m a pretty predictable fellow, I suppose. Our next retro game playthrough is going to focus on an adventure game that I know little to nothing about: Sanitarium. It caught my eye on GOG.com a while back when it was on sale, and the idea of combing through a bizarre asylum intrigued me. Sanitarium. Made in 1998. That’s all I have to go on. Let’s start it!
The game begins with a black screen, some screams, and the voice of a guy urging his coworker to evacuate, saying that the place was on fire or somesuch. But he deliberately leaves one guy behind — I’m presuming me — because I tried to steal his car?
Anyway, when the lights come up, I find myself inhabiting a bandaged guy in a hospital smock who can’t remember who he is. I’m calling him Amnesia Guy, or AG for short, because we have to have a little fun with this well-worn trope. The doors are open and there are several crazy people scattered around the screen.
Amnesia and a grim setting — feels a lot like Planescape: Torment already.
After shutting off a rather annoying alarm, I start chatting up the few residents that will speak to me. It’s not really the best voice acting I’ve ever heard, especially in AG’s case, but it’s not the worst either. “Serviceable” is the word I’ll go with here.
Each resident has a different angle on what’s going on, seeing the world in a different way. This stuttering inmate calls this “the village,” which I guess is as good a term as any. It’s obviously not a nice mental hospital, but a smelly gothic asylum — and the guards are gone.
In the center middle is a rather ornate angel statue that lights up when I go near. It’s also got a locking mechanism, which is my cue to start exploring all over in the hopes of finding pieces for the puzzle. I come up with a towel. Hey, don’t laugh at me, I’m going to conquer worlds with that towel.
More than one of the remaining residents talk about a Dr. Morgan, although they see him in different ways depending on their mental fantasies (I hope). I need to catch up with this guy; maybe he’ll tell me what’s going on.
Oh goody, an exploding generator from the 1800’s. That ain’t not good. Time to get to the middle control room, and to do that I use my handy dandy towel to zip line down there. Towels: Don’t leave Earth without them!
The control tower holds a few more snippets of info. There’s a VHS tape that shows me with the doctor, who is talking about my failed escape via stolen car, and in another files I read that there’s some sort of Aztec artifact here in the asylum. Well, that clears everything up!
Unfortuantely, I discovered that if I press any button during the cutscenes, it exits out of them, so I can’t take screenshots with FRAPS. Sorry!
The key goes right into the base of the angel statue, which predictably comes alive and starts weeping blood and chewing me out. The angel is less concerned about answering my questions than it is about the fates of innocent children. It then wraps its wings about me and transports me into the middle of the creepiest town ever.
This is the setting for Chapter 2 (man, Chapter 1 was dang quick!). I pop into a town square where children are playing nearby. Of course, they’re horribly mutated children (one has two mouths, another has two peg legs) and there’s nary an adult to be seen.
The kids are relatively friendly after I remember that my name is “Max,” although they keep mentioning “Mother” and seem a little in awe/scared of her. Apparently Mother is the one who disfigured the kids, all of whom seem happy with the changes.
Nearing the cemetary, a cutscene shows me a news report talking about unexplained child deaths “world wide.” I guess this is not going to be a happy-go-lucky game, is it? But I’ve got to say one thing, which is that I’m very intrigued with where all of this is going — and where I am. Am I in my own head?