Rough around the edges is more than an understatement, but there was something about Sanity of Morris that kept me playing.
A short first-person horror adventure set in a small town in America, Sanity of Morris puts you in the shoes of Johnathan Morris. He’s not seen his dad for some years, but thanks to a very peculiar voicemail message from him, he makes the trip out to his house to make sure everything’s okay.
Arriving in the sleepy town of Greenlake, it’s immediately clear that no, everything is not okay. First, Johnathan’s car is run off the road by a group of men who seem to be looking for him. And upon finally making it to his father’s house, he’s greeted by an empty building shrouded in darkness.
But it seems that his dad’s voicemail message wasn’t as peculiar as Johnathan first thought; it’s filled with clues, you see. And so, starting by solving some simple search-and-find puzzles in the house, Johnathan embarks on a dangerous journey that will see him unmask some very dark secrets hidden underneath Greenlake.
Sanity of Morris‘ story, then, is captivating from the start. Initially fed through documents and recordings picked up around the house and the odd bit of decently-spoken dialogue from Johnathan himself, there’s enough here to keep you wondering. It’s just a shame that the game’s less-than-stellar presentation fights against it. Graphically, this isn’t a nice-looking game. You’ll spend practically the entire run time making your way through dark rooms, with only the cone of a torch’s light to guide you. Textures are mediocre, and animations aren’t anything to write home about.
The gameplay, too, is a mixed bag. Simply exploring and solving small puzzles is where Sanity of Morris shines. Uncovering more of the game’s story will give you reason to push on, but coming up against one of the game’s several annoying stealth sections will likely leave you frustrated and exasperated. Signposting isn’t always all that clear either; there were several instances where I met a brick wall, and needed to spend time scouring the area to find what I needed to progress.
And once you uncover what’s going on in Sanity of Morris, that initial intrigue in the story may well fade, depending how you feel about the subject matter: aliens. It seems creatures from outer space have made a home for themselves underneath Greenlake, and after Johnathan’s dad discovered their existence, the company he works for seems intent on making sure nobody else finds out. And so, after the initial cliché horror game setting of an abandoned house, you’ll find yourself in an alien lair, manipulating extra-terrestrial technology and sneaking past hyper-vigilant aliens.
It at least makes a change from the typical horror games of recent years, but it also means there’s not one truly scary moment in the entirety of the game. Wandering through Johnathan’s father’s empty house is where you’ll perhaps most be on the edge of your seat, expecting something to jump out at any moment. The threat of being caught by an alien in the rest of the game, however, is never horrifying; it’s simply an annoyance.
Still, there’s an intriguing twist of sorts that comes to a head near the end of Sanity of Morris, which will have you questioning everything that’s happened in a somewhat satisfying way. Is it real? Has it all been a figment of Johnathan’s imagination? You get the opportunity to draw your own conclusion – not that it has any impact on the outcome of the story.
In the end, Sanity of Morris tries to do something different from your typical horror game. And while a few moments shine, it’s ultimately a disappointing endeavour. The story may well keep you invested enough through its four-or-so hour runtime, but its visual presentation and ropey gameplay mechanics will likely leave you wanting.
Sanity of Morris Review: GameSpew’s Score