Fox Interactive's latest project is titled Sanity: Aiken's Artifact. Kind
of ironic when you realize you might lose your sanity trying to
figure out the camera control in this game, but there's more than
enough fun in this action-adventure title to have you forget about
it's shortcomings… for awhile anyway. So without further ado, on
with the review.
Sanity features a compelling storyline and the condensed version
goes a little something like this:
In the year 2028, a mysterious artifact was unearthed and
subsequently studied by world-renowned scientist Dr. Joan Aiken.
The good doctor was able to develop a revolutionary serum from
the artifact that allowed humans to unlock the unused portion of
the human brain. Recipients of Dr. Aiken's serum manifested
powerful Psionic abilities and many eventually lost their sanity due
to the brain's inability to adapt to the powerful effects of the serum.
As a result, many of the subjects turned to a life of crime just as the
government had feared, and the government subsequently created the
Department of National Psionic Control (DNPC) to combat those
with Psionic abilities who abused their power. You play Cain who,
along with his brother Abel, was one of the first two test subjects
born with Psionic powers. You've been sent on what was
seemingly going to be a routine investigation, but you're about to
entangle yourself in a web of mystery that will shake the
foundation of the world as we know it.
Sanity is an action-adventure game that is played from a top-down
isometric view, much like Gauntlet or Nox. As Agent Cain, you
forge your way through 20 distinct, colourful levels in an attempt to
unravel the mystery behid the evil that has bestowed those
subjected to Dr. Aiken's serum. The level design as a whole is
extremely inconsistent. While some missions are unique in that
they require you to use espionage, among other skills, some
scenarios resort to performing absolutely ridiculous tasks in order
to advance. You'll want to make sure to stop and talk to any
friendlies you might happen to come across during the game, as
they often provide important advice that will come in handy later
on in the game. Unfortunately, the interaction between characters
and unique qualities of some of the missions fade as the game
progresses, as Sanity falls back, in the end, to the archaic action
formula we've all become accustomed too.
Sanity is chalk full of action. There are plenty of minions and other
baddies running around every corner and you'll need all of your
Psionic powers to ward them off as you continue your
investigation. Sanity ships with well over 80 Psionic 'Talents',
derived from 8 different Totems or fighting styles. Psionic Talents
include a wide variety of abilities ranging from defensive talents,
such as Walls and Shields, to offensive talents designed to destroy,
such as fireballs, laserbeams and showers of varying powerful
proportions. There's also a wide variety of general abilities such as
haste and levitate, that allow your character to perform
super-human feats. Many of the talents appear as the story unfolds,
so there's lots of surprises in store as you move through the game.
Agent Cain can carry up to 10 Psionic Talents at one time, so you'll
want to diversify your talents throughout the game. These Talents
work much like spells, in that you must have a certain level of
'sanity' (equivalent to mana) in order to perform such given
abilities. If your 'sanity' level falls below zero, you won't be able to
perform your Talents and you'll begin to take damage and act in a
One of the main problems with Sanity is the poor camera
transition. Moving from one area to another can cause some
less-than-smooth camera movements that could cost you your
game if you aren't careful. There are plenty of environmental
hazards, to go along with the ever-spawning enemies, and one
wrong step could be fatal. You can adjust and rotate the camera
using the A and D keys on your keyboard, but when you're
surrounded by a horde of baddies, rotating the camera usually isn't
high on my priority list. The resulting experience can be frustrating
to say the least.
Sanity was built using LithTech technology. It features beautiful
lighting effects that convey a very colourful atmosphere. The
effects of the Psionic Talents are pretty to watch, but the overall
detail level is slightly below par. Environments and characters
could have used with a little more touching up. Actor / Rapper /
Pimp Ice-T provides the voice for Agent Cain and does an
admirable job. Sanity is full of speech from various
characters, but none is as prominent or effective as Ice-T's voice.
Sanity supports multiplayer, although I was limited in my
experiences due to the fact the game isn't in stores yet. I was able
to play against a few opponents, but never more than three. In that
respect, the multiplayer was relatively smooth with no burps to
speak of. In the multiplayer mode, players enter deathmatch
scenarios in which you're either assigned Psionic Talents, or you
must search through the levels for Talents to equip yourself with.
With such a large variety of Psionic Talents available, it certainly
provides unique fighting sequences, although the level design for
multiplayer is a little on the small side. In an interesting move, Fox
Interactive has announced they will allow players to download, via
Real.com, new Talent packs for a small fee. While they've
promised the new Talents won't create an imbalance in gameplay,
I'm not sure if this is a way to extend gameplay or simply a means to
get more money from our wallets.
Overall, Sanity is an entertaining game, albeit frustrating at times.
While it's unfortunate the level design wasn't a little more
consistent and the camera work a little smoother, there's enough
adrenaline packed into Sanity to satisfy action fans.