Sanity of Morris review for Xbox One, PS4

Platform: Xbox One
Also on: PC, PS4
Publisher: StickyLock
Developer: Alterego Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Yes

I’ll say this for Sanity of Morris: it may be terrible, but at least you can imagine what a good version of it would look like.

After all, a lot of the time with truly bad games, it’s impossible to imagine how they could have been good even if everything had been done well. Like, take Tamarin, which was probably the worst game I played last year. Even if it had been done well, it was such an incoherent mess that it wouldn’t have mattered, because it still would’ve been a disaster.

Sanity of Morris, by contrast, makes sense on paper. It wants to be a game that’s equal parts horror and walking simulator, a game where you barely keep your grip on your sanity as you get to the bottom of a mystery involving aliens and murderous government agents. Your only tool is a trusty flashlight, which helps you illuminate clues to help you solve mysteries, and you have to skulk in the shadows to avoid being caught. All of that makes perfect sense, and, again, you don’t have to squint very hard to imagine how it would’ve looked if it had been done well.

In practice, though, it’s borderline unplayable. For starters, walking is a time-consuming pain. Despite the fact you’re running away from enemies who want you dead, your character meanders along at a crawl, rarely showing any sense of urgency. Every so often you have to mash a few buttons to move more quickly, but for the most part, you’ll trudge along like you’re stuck in a mire.

Likewise, even though your flashlight is supposed to help you, it’s practically useless. It has barely any strength, and it doesn’t really illuminate anything. What’s more, the way it’s implemented basically gives your character extreme tunnel vision, so the whole time you’re playing, it’s like you’re staring through a pinhole. Again, done well that could’ve been an interesting twist, but in practice it just makes everything blurry.

Worst of all, the puzzles are exercises in tedium. One of the first things you have to do, for example, is uncover a code to open a door. Unless you’re a blithering moron, you’ll be able to figure out what the code is the moment after you find one of your first pieces of evidence. However, rather than treating you like someone with a functioning brain, Sanity of Morris forces you to comb through every inch of your house, searching for the numbers written on various surfaces before you can finally unlock the door. It shows a serious lack of respect for your time and your ability to read, and it never gets much better beyond that.

Also, it’s completely unrelated to everything else, but multiple times my character got stuck in the scenery and I was forced to quit the game start over from my last checkpoint. I never lost a lot of progress, but it doesn’t say much for a game when you can get stuck on nothing.

Like I said, all of these things have obvious fixes, and you can easily imagine them all being tweaked just enough to make Sanity of Morris a tense, compelling game. In this form, though, all it does is frustrate and annoy you. Steer well clear of it, and maybe hope the developers can execute on their ideas a little better next time out.

StickyLock provided us with an Sanity of Morris Xbox One code for review purposes.

Grade: D+