Sanity of Morris Review (PS4)
It was aliens, I swear!
Publisher: StickyLock Studios
Sanity of Morris follows Johnathon Morris after he receives a strange voicemail from his father. The thing is, him and his father hasn’t talked for a long while due to John pursuing a career as a cop instead of what his father wanted which included staying in University and working with the same research facility his father worked at. Granted, John didn’t make it as a cop either. Well, years later and John finds himself driving to the isolated town of Greenlake where his father currently lives. Though, it quickly becomes obvious that this visit is going to be much more than reuniting with his father as Greenlake’s roads are unusually empty and he gets ran off the road by a white van. John is fortunate enough that he survived, but those that did it, which turns out to be those from the research facility, want him dead.
So you make your way to your father’s house, dodging the search lights in the meantime, and proceed to comb over the house. Trying to find out what happened, why you’re being chased, why your father called you in, and what’s in the attic that’s strangely locked up. Finding the clues your father left and well, you find yourself deep inside an alien base where you don’t have any choice but to follow in your father’s footsteps. I actually did find the story interesting, despite totally not expecting the alien aspect going in. It was interesting going through the alien base, finding out what John’s father was up to, and later on, questioning if all this was real.
There are a couple of QTEs during cutscenes. These are fine, but it did feel like a bit of a weird choice. Weird enough, the button you have to press is written out rather than showing the symbol (this is also the case with the menus as instead of like highlighting what you’re hovering over, you get a mouse icon instead) and it certainly is weird button mashing the directional button. Anyway, I don’t think these will be any problem has it seems you have to purposefully fail to fail these, especially since there were a few times when the game seemed to not have registered my button press and I still managed to survive.
Split into three distinct parts, you’ll be going through each area with only your flashlight looking for anything of note or anything that you’d need to progress (which John will helpfully keep track of what you need to do). Objects that you can pick up are highlighted, though they’ll only be highlighted when you’re about close enough to pick it up (and there were two times where the key item I needed didn’t light up for a bit). At first, this mainly is just miscellaneous objects which has a chance of turning into something creepy like a sudden spider. I have to admit, these did get me especially since I played this at the best time for horror games (midnight). There was even a time where shadows grouped up to a human outline that certainly got me when I saw it at the corner of my screen. Though, while these scares did get me, there were a couple unintentionally funny moments for me when I didn’t have the object aligned correctly and the music suggested something happened and I just couldn’t see it (though, the game does just have the scary sounds normally, so who knows).
John’s main tool is a flashlight, which you’ll definitely need. For one, John may be a tad afraid of the dark (same man, same) as it makes him panic. If he is kept in the dark for too long, his sight will slowly be obscured until a small pinpoint is left and which I’m assuming is followed up by a game over. This is easy to forget, and there could have been other things done to make this aspect really show that John really is freaked out, but you’ll often need your flashlight out to see through the dark environments. The thing is that the flashlight is terrible. So don’t play this game with the default brightness settings. The flashlight is a small cone that barely lets you see what’s in front of you. Even with a flashlight, I had a hard time navigating and one of the areas I found myself stuck on was because I couldn’t see that the platform extended to where I needed to go as I thought it was a drop.
Though, I did like the aspect where the aliens you discovered are plant based. There aren’t many puzzles here, including the puzzle in the house where you have to find a code, but you may notice that your flashlight will focus into a thin beam. This gets into play in the second act as the alien plant has little bulbs that will react to the light, either making it grow to make a platform for you to walk on or to have it unblock a passageway. There are even doors which require a weird plant key that also requires you to shine that light on it. The flashlight will also show hidden writings that your father wrote to help guide you and steer you away from where you shouldn’t be going.
The weakest part of this game is the stealth, which you’ll run into a lot. Looking back, I mainly wanted sections to end not because I wasn’t enjoying the story, but because of the stealth. When you’re encountering the aliens or humans, John doesn’t have any capacity to fight and well, he’s actually pretty fragile as he dies even at heights that would be fine otherwise (looks like we know why he failed to become a cop). So he has to hide from their search lights, crouch down, and not use his flashlight. Green (or blue) indicates that they have no idea you’re there, to orange if they suspect it, and with red being that they’re going after you. The thing is, once they see you, you’re dead as there is no way you’ll be able to hide from them. Not to mention the enemy has a tendency of just staying where you’re supposed to be going, which can be so annoying when you’re right there just waiting, and I even had times when an enemy saw where I was from across the room (thankfully, one time it was in a big area where the different sections were blocked off from them coming after me) and a human enemy saw and got me through a wall twice.
Though, an upside is that if you die while you’re needing to do a sequence of actions, you won’t need to do them again. It seems to put in a checkpoint whenever you cross a certain threshold or do an action. So if you die right after you picked up an important item, you’ll have already done it when you respawn in. So it may be best to just rush in and grab whatever you need to grab before the enemy gets you (especially when it refuses to move). And even if you don’t succeed, it may respawn the enemy in a different position or finally have it move. If you were able to get or do what you need, you do have a chance of spawning right next to the enemy (and luckily, when I did, I was beside it where it strangely just couldn’t see me).
There are also collectibles in the form of recordings and documents that’s meant to shed more light on the situation and are stored on a timeline of when whatever the contents presented happened. They’re all separated into three groups: the research facility, aliens, and your father’s, which you can switch on or off depending on whether you want to have them on the timeline or not. You’ll really need to look for these. While the documents are easy to see once you pass them, but the recordings and pictures are another story. These are pretty small objects as you can easy pass a cassette tape or a tiny film roll, especially when they’re on the ground and either you didn’t look down or the red outline didn’t show. Plus, these will often be placed in places where you’ll have to take a deter to find. Though, one complaint here is the text size. The recordings are fine, since they’re read to you by John’s father (which I don’t know about you, but I found a bit funny), but the text for the others is tiny.
I’m a little conflicted with Sanity of Morris. On one hand, I did enjoy the horror atmosphere, the ideas this brought along, the story does an interesting twist on you, and it was unintentionally funny at time; but at the same time the stealth really brought it down for me, the flashlight is pretty trash (on default brightness settings), those that hate constant annoying narration will hate John (though like I said before, it didn’t really bother me much), and the ending probably won’t satisfy most. I’d put this right in the middle ground of whether I would recommend it or not. I personally don’t think this is the worst, but it’s not the best. If you find this on discount and want something you can complete in one sitting (it maybe took me about 4-5 hours), interested in the alien storyline, and okay with the stealth, go for it.