Every now and again a narrative-focused horror game comes out that defies expectations, delivering scares, interesting mechanics, and a compelling narrative. Sanity of Morris is decidedly the exact opposite of that hypothetical game. From its slavish devotion to tired alien tropes, to its slow, laughable stealth sections, the game would feel right at home with the silhouettes of a guy and two robots plastered at the bottom of the screen. It’s not the worst thing you’ll ever play, but anyone actually looking for scares or competency will want to take a turn onto the next exit ramp.
The titular character in Sanity of Morris is Johnathan Morris. He’s been called to the unassuming town that his father Hank attempted to move himself and his mother to years prior to the game’s events. This attempt to move destroyed the family and changed the trajectory of their lives. The game doesn’t remotely attempt to make a compelling case as to why Johnathan would drop what he’s doing and go see Hank just because he was asked. But there wouldn’t be a story otherwise, so that’s what he does. Upon arriving at his father’s home, he discovers that the place is crawling with soldiers. Something has gone horribly wrong.
Johnathan searches Hank’s house to find an arbitrary code that grants him access to the attic. Suddenly, he finds himself drawn into a ludicrous conspiracy involving the government, an alien spaceship, and your dwindling patience. The story in Sanity of Morris is painfully generic, while the game is visually bland and lifeless. That doesn’t stop it from being heavily demanding resource-wise, as it made my GPU fans whirl harder than when running Red Redemption Dead 2.
To be fair, the game is funny, just never intentionally. Johnathan will often find voice recordings where Hank leaves him breadcrumbs. However, Hank’s voice actor sounds like he’s in a totally different game. He comes across like a cartoon character, and the dialogue and writing in the many documents scattered around only make things worse.
Be afraid. . . of having to play more
The story is bad? That’s hardly a deal-breaker. What about the other stuff? Well, lemme tell you about the other stuff — it’s worse. Sanity of Morris bills itself as a horror game, but it’s not scary. It’s never even creepy or tense. I’m not sure why “sanity” is in the title, as there isn’t much of a focus on Johnathan’s mental state. This is an adventure game with stealth sequences. There are three levels where you lead Johnathan through linear areas to make it to the next. Sometimes there are hilariously terrible quick-time events, where you’re commanded to mash the “W” key. Oddly, there was never much reason for these to be in the game at all. They could have easily been accomplished with standard movement.
Speaking of which, Johnathan can walk, run, crouch, and use his flashlight. Sanity of Morris is in first person, and it’s one of those games where it’s hard to tell if you’re running or not. The flashlight is the most important thing here, as Johnathan’s entire vision gets clouded in shadow bit by bit if you leave it off too long. There’s never any explanation given for this. Additionally, objects and items that can be collected or interacted with glow red, but only when the flashlight is shined on them. This is often the case even when the area is clearly lit. The flashlight’s beam can also be focused, which is necessary for activating certain alien devices. Once again, I have no clue why.
Making your way through the levels in Sanity of Morris is similar to every other game such as this. You search the environment for ways to move forward, whether it be shining your flashlight on a spot to create a plant tendril that can be walked on or a keycard for opening a door. It’s typically not difficult to figure out how to progress, although I did get stuck a couple of times. The game is standard in terms of mechanics and progression and, hey, it’s all functional. But I never enjoyed myself, as I found many of the sections to be boring or tedious.
But there’s a wall there!
Johnathan can die. He is exceedingly fragile and will bite the big one in a single hit with alarming frequency. Johnathan can fall normal distances that people could easily survive and then die immediately. He also likes to die in mid-fall. I guess he’s dying from shock? The real problem in Sanity of Morris is, naturally, the enemies consisting of useless soldiers and aliens. Stealth rules are at play here, and they have clear cones of vision. It’s blue if everything’s normal, yellow if they’re suspicious, and red if you’re about to get your shit ruined. If they see Johnathan, he will almost certainly die. But the way this plays out is ridiculous.
Enemy animations are horrid. The humans move strangely and they all carry batons that will incapacitate Johnathan on contact. Aliens, however, mostly don’t have attack animations. Johnathan will simply die after they approach him. Humorously, he can merely touch either of them and then drop dead. The rules for what constitutes a fatal touch are up in the air, as I’ve been killed by an enemy multiple feet away. Other times, I got spotted through walls or died from having an enemy that wasn’t aware of my presence clip through a wall to reach me. Good grief. Sanity of Morris loves to task you with exploration, only to have enemies hang around. And they love to hang around. I spent a lot of time waiting for them to leave an area, as they linger for inordinate amounts of time.
I will say this, though: Sanity of Morris made me laugh. The awful narrative combined with the janky enemies and graphical dodginess on display elicited a fair amount of cackles in between the near-ceaseless derision that comes with playing this game. It takes about five hours to finish and has a binary choice at the end. But all that changes is the last 15 seconds. This is not a good game and I repeatedly regretting playing it. But if you or your friends like to laugh at drivel, this would probably fit the bill nicely.