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SANITARIUM

Developer: DreamForge Entertainment

Release: April 1998

Genre: Point and Click Adventure

Format: PC

Long live the point-and-click genre! And long live psychological horror games – as long as they’re done right. And Sanitarium hits the nail on the head.

Sanitarium chillingly tells the story of Max Laughton, a sufferer of amnesia that’s been brought about after a car crash. Horrified to find out he’s been institutionalized, Max frantically searches for the truth behind the bizarre asylum he finds himself in, and must face past demons in order to unveil his identity and ‘the truth’. The game brilliantly captures an ominous mood with dark graphics and eerie atmospheric music. Using an isometric view, Sanitarium takes Max to the very edge of insanity and players will see some pretty mind-boggling events. The game is split into different chapters, each having a different atmosphere and style. The chapters take place in Max’s imagination and the real world, but as the game progresses the difference between the two becomes quite obscure. It’s this obscurity that captures most of the horror in the game.

The overall design of the game is very impressive and each chapter reveals the true skills of the game’s developer, and the choice of an isometric view gives the game a classic RPG feel. Controls are fluid – just simply point-and-click of course – and the non-tiled 2D navigational system is basic and easy to employ.

This game will take you to the brink of insanity, so if you believe you’re cut out for it, we dare you to try and uncover the mysteries behind the Sanitarium.

11/13

This article was originally published in Issue 21 of Thirteen1

All games are available to download on gog.com

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We’ve all experienced them. The instances when we jump back from the screen. The moments in the darkness when its too quiet that we spook ourselves with our own footsteps. The music reaching an eerie crescendo as we slowly move around the corner. What was that shadow? Who made that noise? Fear takes control, and we witness a scene that truly disturbs and unnerve us.  In the spirit of Halloween, we want to honour these spooky times with our T1 Countdown of the Scariest Moments in Videogames.

Number Thirteen: Banjo Kazooie – Shark Attack

It’s probably not what you were expecting after that intro, but ten years ago – when we were tiny – we were used to playing fun and adventurous  platform games like Banjo Kazooie. However, we were naïve and not used to developers taking advantage of us.

We saw Treasure Trove Cove and wowed at its golden beaches and clear waters. “Oh look! There’s a Jinjo in the water. Let’s go save him,” we enthusiastically decided. We dived in, and all of a sudden Jaws-esque music began to play. “Huh? I wonder why that music is playing. Let’s get tha-ARGH! SHARK!” Now it’s laughable, back then it was terrifying.

Number Twelve: Metal Gear Solid – Stealth Guards ambush Snake

Stealth games are scary. It’s like playing hide-and-seek in the dark with opponents that want to kill you, so the tension is already high. After a dramatic battle against a Hind D, we find Solid Snake in an elevator. He believes it’s odd that the elevator’s weight limit warning sounded, since he’s the only passenger.

Beep, Beep! It’s Otacon on the codec. He informs Snake that four optic stealth camouflage suits are missing from his laboratory. To really piss on your parade, the elevator’s weight limit is 650 pounds, so it would take up to five people to go over that limit….Oh crap.

Number Eleven: Sonic the Hedgehog – Drowning

Here’s a moment we’ve all shared. That lil’ blue hedgehog is useless in water. He can’t move as fast, he jumps out of control and he can’t hold his breath any longer than 30 seconds.

The moment that countdown starts and the erratic music blares, we frantically search for an air bubble to keep the sneaker-wearing speed freak alive. The search is impeded by his aforementioned inability to move in the water, and the chances are that Sonic will bounce towards the screen…dumbstruck.

Number Ten: Dino Crisis – The T-Rex’s Surprise

Capcom has done a lot for the survival-horror genre, especially when considering their number one franchise, Resident Evil. However, in October 1999, between Resident Evil games, Capcom released a new IP called Dino Crisis. Often described as ‘Resident Evil with Dinosaurs’, Dino Crisis has similar scares to that of its zombie-filled big sister.

One particular moment has the games protagonist, Regina, searching an office, the scene suspiciously viewed through a window. The player decides to leave, however a T-Rex doesn’t want you to. The extinct beast smashes its head through the glass, jaws open, showing those pearly whites.

Number Nine: Dead Rising (Adam the Clown’s Death)

On the face of it, Dead Rising looks like a scary game. Its premise is a shared nightmare – or dream, depends how you look at it. However, it isn’t really that scary compared to other survival-horrors. The boss fights introduce some disturbing aspects to the story, but one in particular provides a pure bone-chilling moment.

Adam, the chainsaw wielding clown, is defeated after attempting to stop Frank West from turning off the shopping mall’s rollercoaster. He falls to the floor dying, and lands on two chainsaws. As the blades begin to cut him in half, he just laughs uncontrollably.

Number Eight: Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem – “Your memory card’s been erased”

A game that fits comfortably in the psychological-horror genre, Eternal Darkness relishes messing with the player’s head. The most intriguing feature on the GameCube game is the Sanity Meter, which causes various effects to occur the lower the meter gets.

While there are plenty of great in-game effects, such as random screams and imagined enemies, Eternal Darkness decided to take a note out of Hideo Kojima’s book and smash the fourth wall. Along with the fake TV technical mishaps, one moment has the game switch into a computer boot up screen, claiming that your memory card has been deleted. “NO! Not my Super Smash Brothers Melee data!”

Number Seven: Sanitarium – Village with Deformed Children

Ever been in a situation where the air you breathed told you something was wrong? Your mind going stir crazy and your throat drying up as you formulate the answer? If no, then play Sanitarium.

Part of this point-and-click psychological-horror is set in a village that seems to be entirely populated by deformed children. As you speak to more of them, a back story is gradually revealed, explaining why they’re deformed, where all the adults went and who this Mother is that they all mention so ominously.

Number Six: Dead Space – Ten-Minute Interlude

No surprise that this space horror makes the list. A lot of the techniques Dead Space uses to scare the player are pretty cheap and standard, and tend to be repeated throughout. Albeit one bone-chilling moment, which has the player go ten-minutes without witnessing any Necromorphs, and it’s this trick of luring you into a false sense of security that EA have executed so brilliantly.

The mixture of noises that accompany this interlude is what makes it so disturbing; whispers, movement in the walls, and the Hunter’s growl. It’s an underrated – and not widely known – moment, but one that had us biting our lips with anticipation.

Number Five: Silent Hill 2 – Pyramid Head

Creating enemies that could only appear in your nightmares, Konami’s Silent Hill 2 is an absolute classic. Our most terrifying moment in this twisted sequel takes place in the apartment building.

The games protagonist, James Sunderland, walks towards the end of a corridor. His radio, which emits static when enemies are nearby, is going berserk, but we can’t see anything in the dark. At the end of the corridor is a wall of bars, moving closer we can just make out a shadowy figure. As James gets as close as he can, his flashlight reveals the figure to be Pyramid Head, stood silently, watching…waiting.

Number Four: BioShock – Morgue Killer

You know what made BioShock such a brilliant game? Its ability to keep on surprising us. From the plot twists to the enemies, players learned the hard way to expect the unexpected. An entire city built under the sea; Rapture sees some of the most deprived acts ever performed by NPCs.

While searching the Medical Pavilion, Jack stumbles across a seemingly empty morgue. As he turns the corner we see the shadow of someone, who seems to be dissecting a body. He moves in for the kill, but the lights flicker off for a few seconds and when they illuminate, the shadow’s gone. But where? We advise you don’t look back.

Number Three: F.E.A.R – The Ladder Scene

If you buy a game called F.E.A.R, it doesn’t take a genius to deduce that you’re about to have the fright of your life. F.E.A.R is a different kind of game, one that mixes action with psychological torment. With an impressive A.I, Monolith Productions created a first-person-shooter that handles the element of fear delicately. You won’t find monsters jumping out from under the bed here.

What you have is a horror game that gets underneath your skin. Our defining moment has the creepy little girl, Alma, appearing over you as you climb down a ladder. If that wasn’t enough, there’s something else waiting for you at the bottom.

Number Two: Condemned – Mannequins

That’s two Monolith Productions games in the final three. The reason for this is simple; they know how to make your skin crawl. Condemned was a launch title for the Xbox 360, and remains memorable for being one of the most distorted games available.

Our moment takes place in an abandoned shopping centre, in which the mannequins have an unsettling tendency to follow you when your back is turned. It’s enough to reduce you to online shopping for the rest of your days.

Number One: Resident Evil – First Zombie Encounter

In 1996 Capcom released a game like no other. Influenced by games with horror themes such as Alone in the Dark and Sweet Home, the Japanese developer created the very first game to be tagged a survival-horror. We’re talking, of course, about Resident Evil. It should come as no surprise to many of you that this game takes our number one slot, but it wasn’t an easy choice. Resident Evil is a genre defining game, without it we wouldn’t have the great – and poor – sequels it spawned. We probably wouldn’t have any of the games that feature on this list. Though now it may be dated, and plays nothing like the later games, Resident Evil does what survival-horrors are suppose to do; terrify us. The origin of survival-horror comes from the influence of films, books and – even more importantly – videogames. In 1981, Haunted House was released on the Atari 2600, which contained elements found in most survival-horror games, particularly Resident Evil. The game mainly focused on puzzle-solving and evasive action, something which recent Resident Evil games consider as an after thought due to their attention focussing on action. Haunted House also included inventory management and item collecting; a must for survival-horrors.

Making a decision on the scariest moment was already hard enough, and we also carefully considered other games in the series. If we wanted to, we could have filled this list with Resident Evil games, we could have even filled it with moments just from one game, but we didn’t – obviously. The first game makes the cut because it deserves it, it kicked started a genre that still manages to scare us today.

The start of Resident Evil sees the S.T.A.R.S team chased into a seemingly empty mansion by a pack of ‘wild’ dogs. After such a dramatic – and poorly performed – introduction, the team find themselves in a huge entrance hall – its grandeur stolen by the ominous music and bad voice-acting. Either Jill or Chris is asked to investigate gun shots that just sounded. After a quick run through an equally grand dining hall, we find our character in a narrow hallway. Instantly we’re drawn to one end of the corridor, where a squelching sound is coming from. The fixed camera angles obscure the view of what’s round the corner. So we take a deep breath, and move in for a closer look. What follows is a short FMV, revealing a dead member of the S.T.A.R.S team being viscously eaten by a zombie. The un-dead creature, with his back to us, pauses from his meal and he half turns, exposing his decomposing face. This would be the future image for Resident Evil. This scene was so memorable, that in the 2002 remake for the Nintendo GameCube, Capcom matched the FMV perfectly with a reconditioned CG clip.

When we first played Resident Evil in 1996, we weren’t used to such an experience in videogames. This chilling clip of less then ten seconds remains a fond and frightful memory of our introduction to the survival-horror genre, and with that we’d like to conclude our T1 Countdown of the Scariest Moments in Videogames…Happy Halloween.

This article was originally published in Issue 19 of Thirteen1

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