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Review: Sanity of Morris (Xbox One)By Nayu At 06.09.2022 10:44

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The way Sanity of Morris is advertised, it would be easy to assume that it is a tense stealth-adventure horror experience with extra-terrestrial encounters. "Alien: Isolation meets Gone Home"? The reality is closer to if Tommy Wiseau tried to copy X-Files after a drunken night of playing half-baked walking sims. This is not a slight on the walking-sim sub-genre. These have their place, and can be immersive and compelling experiences, but Sanity of Morris is a case of all of its worst aspects in a single package.

The story begins with Jonathan Morris finding out his father is missing and sets out to his secluded home to put his investigative reporting skills to use. After bumbling around in a crudely modelled house, festooned with low resolution textures and recycled assets, the homestead gets overrun by men in black. The premise revolves around solving environmental puzzles using a flashlight, finding key-items, brain-dead stealth, and the worst quick-time-events ever designed.

The moment controls are executed, red flags rise. Jonathan is really sluggish, and unusually slow for a walking-sim protagonist. Rotating the perspective was so unresponsive, pumping the sensitivity to max made the control issue just barely manageable. Worse yet, the frame rate is about what could be expected from an unoptimized PlayStation 3 title. The overall presentation feels very choppy, and the ugly visuals are made worse from the reliance on post-processing lighting effects. If this was made by a single hobbyist 10 years ago, this might be excusable, but Alterego Games has several titles under its belt as of 2021. The most shocking and horrifying aspect of Sanity of Morris, is that it was made by experienced developers.

Getting caught by any threat involves a pursuer immediately outpacing Jonathan and slapping the player in the face with the unintentionally hilarious Game Over artwork. The visual is best described as a melodramatic screaming render of the protagonist, hands up in the air and his upper portion of his face turned into tentacles. How this can happen by getting clubbed by a government agent is never explained. Most of the scenario is set inside of an alien space craft where Jonathan will have to avoid some Astro-abominations. Their line of sight is very poor, and they react more to the sound of walking, which means having to move at an agonizingly slow pace because the protagonist sneaks like an arthritic sloth. The aliens are also confusingly designed, and it is not clear where they are facing. The artists were very obviously aiming for a H.R. Giger aesthetic, but failed to implement the sexual and deathly imagery associated with his style. Instead, the creatures look more like a sloppy H.G. Welles style Martian, but with none of the unsettling uncanniness.

Worse yet is the animation quality, which can be generously described as stiff. When being pursued by an E.T., they awkwardly glide across the floor with their limbs slowly wafting to simulate movement. This is a case where Sanity of Morris really needed to take from the pages of game design from Soma or Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Those classics cleverly obscured the monsters, because the designers knew that the more they are exposed, they less they scary they become. The aliens in Sanity of Morris really needed some kind of game mechanic where looking at them too long causes some kind of visual trickery, or potentially causes harm to the hero.

What is frustrating is that Alterego Games has already incorporated a mechanic where Jonathan sustains gradual damage if he is in the dark for extended periods. His flashlight is his only tool, and it already is used to burn alien growths - it also illuminates and can give away his position to any roaming sentry. There should have been more thought put into the mechanics, but instead the effort is unbelievably low.

Production values are shoddy, and look several generations behind. There isn't even any attack animation from the monsters; the threats cheaply glide over to lightly graze Jonathan, and he shrieks and overdramatically screams. The acting and line reading by the protagonist is made worse by the writing, which constantly states the obvious. Compounded with the low effort attempt to create jump scares from looking at random objects, Sanity of Morris may be one of the most repugnant survival horror titles released in years. The only saving grace it has is that Jonathan does not clip through geometry or fall through the floor, or corrupt save data.

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Final Score
[i]Sanity of Morris[/i] is going to be remembered as one of those kinds of ironic and unintentionally funny video games. While it is not quite [i]Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing[/i], the lack of quality control and effort suggests the developers leaned heavily on their concept. The idea of a grounded stealth/horror experience, with adventure-style puzzle-solving is an easy sell to a lot of people. The only problem is that [i]Sanity of Morris[/i] does not even try.

2

/10

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