Sanitarium Mobile Game Review for Android & iOS


Sanitarium is Back, Now on iOS

Released back in the late 90's, Sanitarium was a PC title that managed to get a humble following thanks to its incredible delivery. Just last year, the game has gotten an updated port for the iOS and the Android. Graphics-wise, the game looks exactly like it did so many years ago, but the controls have been adapted for the touch screen, which adds new context commands on the top of the screen and using finger-dragging for movement. Of course, what really stands out about the game is the narrative delivery -which uses a combination of pre-rendered cutscenes and character dialogue to bring players into a mind boggling world.

Familiar Start

Sanitarium begins with a CG cutscene -you play a man named Max and after a rather strange phone call to what appears to be his wife, he gets into a car, and in a moment of something being totally 90's, pops a music CD into the player. It really takes one back to a different time, an old era when things were different. But before one can fully appreciate the nostalgia of it all, the virtual drive is cut short by an untimely accident. Then the player character wakes up in a completely strange place.

Strange is an understatement. The whole structure looks old and ancient, like a castle. But there are many fixtures and elements that clearly state that you are still in a more modern era. There are lights, electric switches, proper beds, and of course, the odd look of hospital patient scrubs. Even your character is wearing one too -which instantly labels you as a patient in whatever loony bin this is. And loony bin is an appropriate word, the other patients are showing very obvious signs of mental distress, and they do everything from sulking in a corner to bashing their heads quite violently against the walls.

While the player obvious still remembers the odd cutscene at the start of the game, the character does not. In true horror fashion, the main character wakes up in this asylum without his memories.

Release Date: 30/04/1998

Available on: iOS, Android

App Store Rating: 4.3/5

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If You Haven't Seen It

Players not accustomed to old school games will find the visuals and gameplay of Sanitarium to be a bit odd -and that is not surprising. The game is literally overflowing of everything late 90's -the Playstation-esque CG, the Interplay inspired characters (check out the original pre-Bethesda Fallout games for those), and the campy voice acting make for a pretty trippy combination. The controls may seem a little off, not only because they were adapted to a touch screen, but also because the original PC controls were not that intuitive to begin with. Still, those who have played the original would be able to say that the mobile version's touch screen controls are a massive improvement.

The gameplay for Sanitarium is your typical point and click fare -talk to NPCs, find items, retrieve stuff, pull levers, trigger switches, and solve the occasional onscreen puzzle to unlock more things and progress further into the game. Nothing all that new or different from other similar games (or in this case, many other titles on the mobile platform), but it does make for a satisfying experience.

What makes Sanitarium among the better games in the same genre is the fact that the puzzle solving and objective fulfilling is a lot more sensible and enjoyable. Clues are given and delivered in a logical manner, players are given plenty of times to figure things out on their own, and no puzzle ever feels too convoluted to solve. The difficulty does get a little higher as the game progresses, but nothing ever feels too frustrating to solve (some of us would even consider the general feel of the game as easy -but more on that later). Oh, except that one little maze-like challenge near the very end of the game, that one can get pretty hairy (it was way harder on the original PC version due to the sloppier mouse controls).

A Tale of Tales

If you have played a lot of similar games (like Myst), Sanitarium's challenges will be quite underwhelming. In fact, expect to breeze through most of the game's obstacles and puzzles. But the core value of Sanitarium is not the puzzles or item finding, it is the experience that it offers. Normally, we would complain about the ridiculously slow pace of movement, and the amount of backtracking that you need to do (especially when you are playing the game without a guide and have to do a lot of trial and error attempts with items).

It would be easy to assume that the entirety of the game happens within the large structure you wake up in, but it is not. As you explore more of the sanitarium and meet the denizens trapped within, you are also able to visit new locations. Each place you visit will have its own unique problems that you will need to fix in order to progress. There's a small town enslaved to a cruel mistress, an alien environment with robots, a bizarre circus, and more. Visiting each of these places, getting to know new characters, and also, learning more about the nature of the sanitarium is the general flow of progress for the players in the game. Since this originally launched in a 3-disc game format, expect a lot of content in terms of story.



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Sanitarium is developed by Dot Emu.

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