There has long been a question mark around the existence of extraterrestrial beings. Some blindly believe, some believe they have seen them, and there are the ones that refuse to acknowledge their existence. No matter your thoughts on it, it makes for an interesting conversation and has been the basis for many great; books, films, TV series and games. StickyLock look to use this topic as the backbone of their latest game, Sanity of Morris.
Published by Altegro Games, this dark and creepy first-person action-adventure is a million miles away from their last title. Woven was a fluffy and fun game that was aimed at a younger audience. It had a gentle learning curve, a lighthearted storyline, and was shockingly colourful. Sanity of Morris is the polar opposite. It targets an older audience who like; suspense, puzzles, and a dark story.
A bizarre story with little handholding.
The game follows a man named John Morris. He comes from a broken family and hasn’t talked to his father for years. Out of the blue, he receives a voicemail, Hank wishes, no, demands that he come see him at his house in the small town of Greenlake. John thinks the message is odd, but cannot turn down the chance to reconcile. This decision changes his life and sets him on a journey of discovery. He will question his mental state while searching for clues, only to discover that aliens exist.
A psychological horror-thriller that uses the detective theme to perfection. You wander around poorly lit areas with nothing more than a torch to illuminate your way, and a journal to jot down your thoughts. You must use the light to identify; clues, notes, photos and cassette tapes. These collectables help to build up the story and remove the fog of mystery that lingers around this quaint little town.
When John accepted his dad’s invitation, he did not know the trap he was walking into. Hank had uncovered a secret that the government wish to be kept under wraps. He was threatening to blow the cover on the whole thing, and by calling John to the party he places his life in danger as well. This threat is a constant presence in Sanity of Morris. Not only must you; explore, uncover clues, and piece together information, you are required to hide in the shadows, avoiding the light of your enemies.
It’s frightening and full of suspense.
The constant looking over your shoulder, avoiding attention and hiding in the dark was horrendous. Mistakes cost you your life and being chased puts you on edge. Then there is the horrific imagery that flashes before your eyes as John’s mind plays tricks on him. You soon discover that you’re playing a twisted game that is anything but comfortable to play.
This creepy tale is broken down into 3 chapters. Each explores a key area of Hanks backstory. You hear his version of events through audio files and flashbacks. It’s a brilliantly delivered concept that enables you to see both father and son’s view on the same situation, even though they are seeing it at separate times, and with different issues. The documents that you discover are laced with cryptic clues to help you progress. They also help provide some much-needed meat to a confusing and unbelievable story.
Though you are provided with hints, no one will guide you. The answers will be laid out in front of you, yet you’ll not see the obvious. It makes for a brilliantly intriguing title that brings a wry smile to your face when you eventually overcome an issue.
Old mechanics and a tried and tested formula.
Most of the Sanity of Morris gameplay revolves around tried and tested mechanics that will feel comfortable to use. From a gameplay element, it doesn’t scream originality. But, this is more than made up with its brilliant story, well delivered narrative and logical puzzles that you must overcome. Each chapter has a repetitive nature with the developers using the same elements throughout. This wasn’t an issue for me as they matched the environment and setting for each of the segments. I believe that if StickyLock attempted too many ideas, it would have diluted the theme, and would have ended up a confusing mess. It was a well balanced and considered approach that worked extremely well.
3 different landscapes delivered in 1 world.
What was great about this was the delivery of three unique environments in one small area. Each has a different feel, quality and style. And though they all vary, they all have an underlying theme of; darkness, fear and uncertainty. The use of light and shadow creates an ominous and oppressive ambience that fills you with worry. At a distance, it looks great, but sadly this doesn’t hold up when you take a closer look. The finer details do not match up to the overall presentation and appear dated. It doesn’t ruin the game, it simply fails to be as impressive as the staging.
What was great was the sinister audio that was a constant companion. Like in all great thrillers, it set the scene perfectly overpowering no other elements. I loved how it shifted from its slow, sinister form to a shrill fast-paced panicky tone when danger was imminent. The gameplay was influenced by the brilliance of the music, and the excellence of the sound effects. The click of your torch, the heavy breathing, and the slap of your feet on the floor, all added to the suspense-filled atmosphere.
To add to this, the well throughout and acted voice-over work delivered both Hank’s and John’s words and inner thoughts perfectly. Fear, hope, and resignation are all present in the spoken dialogue. It captures the situation to a tee and rarely falters.
A control setup that lacks finesse.
The weakest part of Sanity of Morris has to be its control setup. It’s perfectly serviceable, easy to use. But it still lacks finesse and accuracy. I have a hunch that this was optimised for PC first, and console second. The control layout would suit a keyboard and mouse over the controller every time. It works fine on Xbox, and with a small amount of practice, you’ll be comfortable with it.
Whenever I pick up a story focussed game, I know I’m in for a potentially low replay value. If you concentrate solely on the story and gameplay, you’ll agree that there is almost no reason to return. However, 3 different groups of collectables must be located. There are also several “Easter eggs” from previous StickyLock titles hidden, waiting to be found. It was a brilliant little twist, and quite a challenge, as you must remember that you are always at risk of being caught if you venture out of the darkness.
A different direction, but just as good.
I like the work that this development team produces. I was taken back by both the theme and style of their latest game, but what they have released is of a very high quality. It will test your logical thinking, reasoning, and constitution. You need this in your life, so buy it here! Can you help John follow in his father’s footsteps? Can you do what Hank failed to achieve? Travel to Greenlake and see how you get on.