Head Games: Sanitarium (1998)

The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.
-Francisco Goya

Sanitarium is a very special game here at the clubhouse as it is the first game I ever really owned... sorta. See, when the game was first released by Dreamforge Entertainment in 1998, the company sent out a series of demo discs in the mail. I can only guess that the recipients were chosen completely at random because at age 15 I was lucky enough to get one, my name on the label and everything.

At the time, all I knew of the game was that the cover looked pretty wicked and reminded me a lot of a mix between DC Comic's Shawn Martinbrough illustrated Creeper miniseries and TurboGrafx-16's Splatterhouse. Aside from that, the cover had a man who resembled a mummy and promised plenty of freakish denizens to interact with including monsters, demons and aliens.

Since I've only ever played the demo, I can't say how the entire gameplay experience feels, but for the one chapter I did play it was pretty stunning. From the tortured cries to your fellow filthy Sanitarium inmates who wander around aimlessly to the challenging psychological puzzles, Sanitarium offers a mind-numbing mix of reality and imagination. As each chapter represents a different aspect of the players mind/memory, the game was pretty liberal with its creative license and, from what I'v read, it only got crazier the deeper into the game you got. From the titular Sanitarium you'll visit a literal parade of bizarre locales such as an amusement park, haunted cemetery and even an ancient Aztec temple. This is definitely one that'll keep you up all night long.


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