Sanity of Morris
Developer: Alterego Games
Publisher: StickyLock Studios
Genre(s): Psychological Horror, Adventure, Mystery
Platform: Steam (Also available on Xbox and Playstation consoles)
Age Rating: Mature
Release Date: 23/03/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Do you ever wonder if there is life out in the vast expanse of space? It’s a question that has been asked time and time again, and one that lies at the heart of new psychological horror game, Sanity of Morris. Yet it doesn’t ask you to believe if anything is up there but down here, walking among us. To some, that’s a scary prospect, especially if extraterrestrial life doesn’t want to be our friend. But where I expected Sanity of Morris to tap into this fear, I instead found a genuinely fascinating story that had me hooked from start to finish.
A Strange Invitation
Sanity of Morris puts you in the unfortunate position of John Morris, a failed cop and disappointing son, who is mysteriously invited by his estranged father, Hank, to visit him in the small town of Greenlake. When John arrives, he can immediately tell that something’s not right. A strange mist covers the town, people are missing, and squads of government agents are actively hunting him down. On a mission to find his father, John uncovers a dark secret about Greenlake, and begins to question why his father put him in such danger, and whether or not he’s losing his own mind.
Got to Keep Sane John…
I was wondering where the sanity of poor John fit in all of this, as moments in the game where he has a brief mental break seem somewhat out of place. But when you put yourself in his situation, you start to understand why he’s losing it. I find it’s always important to really understand what the protagonist is going through. So when you put yourself in John’s shoes, you can’t blame the guy for losing his mind a little.
For one, he’s been trapped in a dark hostile environment where not only Aliens want him dead, but other people. Secondly, he has to process a lot of revelations really quickly. John isn’t just dealing with a government cover-up, but also the fact the Aliens exist, and that they definitely do not come in peace. I know if I, or anyone for that matter, had to go through what he’s going through and see the things he does, I’d probably lose my mind too.
It really isn’t something I thought the game would make me think about, but I really do pity John, the situation he’s in, and empathise with the fact that the stress of the game’s events could be really getting to him. That being said, he’s also high as a kite.
You see, the mist surrounding the town isn’t natural, and is doing some wacky things to John’s mind. After all, why would a pickle jar suddenly turn into a human heart? Especially when John had only been in Greenlake for all of 20 minutes. But when you realise that John has been actively breathing the Alien equivalent of LSD, you start to understand his failing mental state a little better. When John finds himself in an alien ship, it’s not long before his head is sucked into an alien plant that sprays a spore-like hallucinogen in his face, making him see things he otherwise could not. What’s even more baffling is the fact that John keeps doing it.
Any time he sees one of the plants, he willingly jams his head in there and inhales all the fumes he can take. Considering the fact that John is in the middle of an Alien spaceship with hostile extraterrestrials lurking around every corner, his pursuit of calming alien drugs could maybe be excused, especially when it seems to be helping him out. On the other hand, it’s pretty clear he is not in his right mind and seeing things that aren’t real, and that maybe getting high on space drugs is not the best idea. Though, what John’s sanity and exposure to alien spores do for player participation is actually quite genius.
The realisation that John is high and drugged up challenges you to question whether everything going on is even real. Even John questions throughout the game whether anything he’s seen is real, and whether or not he’s lost his own mind. For all we know, there could be no aliens and no grand conspiracy, but rather it is all just a figment of John’s growing insanity. Yet the game never makes it as clear cut as that. It leaves the decision in the hands of the player whether or not to believe anything John’s endured, actively engaging the player in the story. That for me is one of Sanity of Morris‘ biggest strengths.
Conspiracy Theorists Wanted
Building on the idea that the game encourages player engagement, the story it tells is intelligently crafted, as the devs have used everything from gameplay elements to great voice acting to make this a mystery you’ll want to solve.
As much as the game is promoted as a horror, the game is very much one big mysterious adventure, with multiple conspiracies at play. Not only is there a government research facility on your way into town, but the game hardly waits around to introduce you to its extraterrestrial terrors. With the only man who knows anything, John’s father Hank, now missing, you’ll have to piece together clues found throughout the game to help uncover what’s really going on in the small town of Greenlake.
The game actively encourages you to explore your surroundings for new evidence and clues that will help you understand the events leading up to that of the game. In each level, you’ll find audio recordings, classified documents, and photos that John pieces together in his journal according to a set timeline of events. Everything comes with notes on what a clue reveals about the particular case it belongs to, which can be tied to either the government conspiracy, the alien conspiracy, or Hank’s disappearance.
Gather enough of these clues, and you’ll uncover the truth behind each case, or at least whatever you believe to be the truth. I loved finding a new part of the story with these collectables, and it is a big part of the experience that really shows how much effort the team put into crafting a compelling narrative that’s guaranteed to make you reach for your tinfoil hat.
It isn’t often I pay attention to the quality of a game’s voice acting, at least not when it’s good. But my god I can’t tell you how impressive the voice performances are in this game. While the only two characters that have any real dialogue are John and Hank, both are complimented and uplifted by the great voice actors behind them, whose performances are really quite phenomenal. I was left stunned numerous times by the level of emotion and commitment the actors had given to their roles, with one in particular leaving me in total awe.
It’s abundantly clear that the voice actors committed themselves to the role and to bringing the characters to life in ways that I never expected. Given the small size of the game, you’d think that not much effort would be put into something like its voice acting, but the team and the cast have gone above and beyond in developing their characters in a way that enhances the overall quality of the experience, and that itself is worthy of commendation.
Visually, the game is more detailed than you might expect. I’ve personally never taken much note of the visuals in games built in the Unity Engine, but Sanity of Morris is actually very well designed. The game takes you through three distinct environments, each with its own look and feel. The opening section of the game will have you sneaking through dark woods, and the creepy abandoned home of John’s father. The house has all the hallmarks of a contemporary horror game, with creepy pictures on the wall and rooms enveloped in total darkness. I’ll admit, it’s here I was most creeped out and genuinely nervous to turn a corner.
Other areas like the cylindrical corridors of an alien ship give off classic sci-fi vibes, with the addition of bizarre alien fauna. The final area isn’t as interesting, but will still have you tense navigating its halls. Unfortunately, the latter two areas of the game lose their horror touch, not feeling as eerie as the opening of the game, but they still remain fun to explore nonetheless.
Overall, the graphical quality of Sanity of Morris far exceeded my expectations, with a healthy selection of graphic options you can tweak on PC, and stunning features such as volumetric lighting, which not only produced some stunning effects but contributed to the game’s creepy atmosphere in a way that heightened the scare factor at certain moments.
If I’m being honest I expected more horror from this game, and the opening section of the game had me believing my expectations would be met. John is immediately run off the road at the start of the game by a white van as men wearing high-tech suits hunt him through the woods. The first encounter with these ominous green men is tense and exhilarating, as you make a daring escape through the woods. However, they’re not the only thing you should worry about.
The government might be at the heart of the game’s conspiracy, but so too is everyone’s favourite boogeymen; aliens. It’s not long before John’s quest to find his father lands him in an area still inhabited by its extraterrestrial denizens. There’s nothing particularly unique about how the aliens act compared to the government goons, but they most certainly differ in appearance, as they are hideously grotesque and frankly quite disgusting. For example, when I’d get spotted by a human, I’d concededly bow my head and take my beating before trying again. But when I heard an otherworldly screech and turned to see a space-faring abomination charging towards me, you best believe I ran for my life.
Though, ultimately the horror wasn’t all there, despite what its incredibly unsettling soundtrack would have you believe, as encounters with foes make the game feel more like a stealth title than survival horror. It was never too hard to get by enemies, as you can visibly see an enemy’s line of sight, shown as a cone of light exuding from their heads. Wait around long enough and you’d even be able to predict how and when they would move through a room. In some situations, I was even able to get really close to an enemy without being spotted, because they apparently can’t look down, and lack a few basic senses. In one room I was practically breathing on an alien’s back the entire time, with the big-headed freak none the wiser.
For a game that can be completed in a matter of hours, it will always be one I’ll look back on fondly. More could be expected from the horror side of the game, but all in all, Sanity of Morris is worthy of your attention thanks to a well written and compelling narrative, bolstered by convincing character performances and engaging gameplay that will draw you further into the mysterious conspiracy surrounding Greenlake, for better or worse.
Rapid Reviews Rating
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