What’s the logical step to take after you’ve developed a game all about a world created out of colourful woollen creatures, develop a dark psychological thriller about aliens and conspiracies – obviously. Woven was Alterego Games‘ first published game, which we reviewed on launch, and today marks the release of Sanity of Morris, a game that is about as different as you can get! Having played a number of similar titles over the last few years, was this game able to stand above the rest and creep me out?
Alterego Games are a fairly small indie developer that wants to create engaging games which people can wind down with and lose themselves within. Woven was a game that looks like a toddlers fantasy, yet there was a dark side to the story the further you got. They also developed True Tales of Bloodstreet 13, a free-to-play title on Steam, in which you try to reconstruct the events of an incident to solve the case. I’ve honestly never heard of the latter until today, and also sadly saw that development of part 2 has been put on hold, but it’s a game I’m certainly going to check out as it sounds similar to Bohemian Killing.
So, with the aim being to absorb you within their world and offer an experience you become engrossed in, did Sanity of Morris succeed? Let’s find out…
You are Johnathan Morris, the estranged child of Hank Morris, who is on his way to check on his father after being summoned out of the blue. You two were never that close, you hardly talk and he lives in the middle of nowhere, forcing you to dive for five hours in order to make sure everything is okay. Your father is a little strange though, he’s a conspiracy nut who believed aliens have invaded and now walk among us, nobody believed him – but should they?
After a terrible accident occurs on your way to his house, you find his home surrounded by strange men with deadly batons and bright blue headlamps. Just who are these people and is your father okay? Although you aren’t the best of buddies, he is your father, so you gather clues and set out to find him in this isolated small town. You need to avoid detection, follow your father’s footsteps, and piece together what’s going on, before choosing what you wish to believe from the evidence you gather.
Sanity of Morris isn’t the best psychological horror game I’ve played, there are a few things that could have been done better – in my opinion – but the game does follow the standard formula for these types of games. Expect stealth, jump-scares, ‘where do I go now’ moments, and a story which will only begin to make sense if you find and read all the collectable documents.
Sanity of Morris it a stealth-based linear exploration game, you don’t have much freedom in where you go or how you progress, but it does have various documents and items which you’ll have to explore in order to find. You’re a man who is slowly going insane due to the things he sees and hears whilst looking for his father, causing your vision to diminish and the voice in your head to slowly become more psychotic the longer you spend in the various locations.
As you’d expect, it’s a first-person game that loves throwing you in very dark rooms with only a circular beam of light from your torch to show the way. At times this is fine, but at others the game is very, very dark, meaning you’ll sometimes not know where to go simply because you can’t see the way. Why not have your torch on at all times? The enemies will spot you if you stand up or if your light shines in their general direction – so you have to be sneaky and cautious. One hit off anything and you’re dead.
Aside from the stealthy segments and exploring, you also have to use your torch ala Alan Wake style, focusing the beam on certain plant-based objects in order to make them grow or shrink based on the situation. There aren’t really any puzzles, as when you find one Johnathan will usually just solve it himself, but later into the game, there’s an area where you have to open doors, make plants grow, and sneak behind enemies in a way that could be deemed a puzzle, I guess.
I say it every time I review a psychological horror game, but I’m not the biggest fan of stealth games in general. I always seem to struggle with the mechanic if it’s a little too unforgiving but I’ll always soldier on and try my best to complete the game, as I did with Someday You’ll Return and What Happened, to name a few. In Sanity of Morris, the stealth segments are almost too forgiving, respawning you almost in the exact spot you died – thus reducing the threat and impact of dying. I found that I could implement a trial and error approach to some of these segments and I made it through by simply pushing to get a little further each time.
Don’t get me wrong, when games have really hard stealth mechanics, some people find themselves stuck and refuse to progress, but I feel the difficulty used in this game may do the opposite and put off those looking for a challenge. As such, I feel the game should have had a difficulty option, with an easy mode working as it does now and a more difficult one resetting you to a checkpoint before the stealth segment began.
In terms of the mechanics themselves, I’d say the stealth worked 8/10 times. I found that, in later parts of the game, if you stand too near to a cubicle wall then the enemies can somehow see through it and bash you on your head without any warning, even though you’re hidden, yet other areas have you crouched behind a block with our head clearly poking out, but you’re invisible to them despite their headlamp clearly looking at you. It’s a bit too inconsistent at times.
However, for someone like me who isn’t a massive fan of stealth mechanics in horror games, the forgiving nature and easy to avoid enemies were okay and not a negative impact on my enjoyment, it allowed me to progress without getting stressed or annoyed. But you’re mileage will vary based on your preference and level of difficulty expected.
A few things I didn’t like
For their second published game, Sanity of Morris isn’t a bad game, it begins with a number of jump scares in quick succession followed by an interesting story with lets you come to your own conclusion (in some aspects). The ending itself was a let-down, I feel the developers should have either pushed you in a certain direction based on the evidence you find, or they should have elaborated on the choice you make. As it stands, the difference between what you pick is even less impactful than the Mass Effect 3 ‘different colour’ endings – which is a shame as I was fully invested at that point and would have loved an extended ending scene.
There was one mechanic which I wish wasn’t being used – depth of field. It seems that Sanity of Morris is suffering the same issue I had with The Suicide of Rachel Foster on PC (the consoles fixed this issue) – the game frequently adjusts the focal point every time you look around, causing things to appear blurry when you’re trying to look at them. It’s not a big issue, as it can be deemed as your sanity draining so your vision is becoming affected – but I imagine it’s just a very aggressive DoF setting.
A few things I did like
I will give praise, where it’s due – I thought the game itself was very interesting and the team had some really good ideas and concepts. The use of light to adjust the plants to both allow security to move away from you and so you can climb them to get to new places, was used really well. The evidence you collect falls into three categories, with each building up a report on what happened from their own perspectives of the timeline – which was another good feature as it leaves it up to you to decide which is the truth.
The journal, where you store the evidence, also has a quest log within it. So, if you ever find yourself stuck and unsure of what you’re doing, you can refer to this and it shows you all the questions and problems that Johnathan has written down. This is very handy as it means you’ll always have a log of what you’ve done and what the protagonist is trying to do – offering you a passive hint without blatantly spelling it out for you.
The game itself will take you around 3-4 hours if you don’t use a guide – I’ve seen it done in around 2 if you do use one. At first, I thought that was quite short, but then I remembered other games in the genre and most of them are of a similar length, the brilliant Close to the Sun actually has a trophy for completing it in under three hours, I did it in around 90 minutes. Also, Sanity of Morris has no chapter select and your save is deleted when you complete the game, so if you miss any items then you’ll have to play the game again from the start.
Did I enjoy the game?
The short answer is, yes. Sanity of Morris was a rather simple game in the psychological horror genre, it was nowhere near as brutal as other games I’ve played previously, but that was fine (for me). I was more interested in the story and the setting than brutally being forced to replay sections I’ve already completed, just because I accidentally walked into an enemy. I will say that I wasn’t a massive supporter of the QTEs within the game – they don’t pop up a lot, but when they do you don’t have much time to react and are often told to rapidly push ‘up’ on the thumbstick… not hold it, tap it as you would a face button.
The voice acting was ‘okay’. I giggled as Johnathan starts to go a little crazy, laughing to himself in his head. I’ve heard much worse but some of the lines of dialogue did feel a little emotionless – but again, this could be scripted like that as the characters in the game aren’t exactly sane, so you’d expect people like that to lose their emotions and become rather robotic and blunt at times.
I felt that some of the areas went on a little too long, yet I also wished the game was a bit longer. I’m not contradicting myself, I just wanted more variety. However, looking back at the story and the narrative I’ve played through, it makes sense why the game was spread across three locations and not a lot more. I’m still disappointed with the endings though, the game does reach a good point at which the story is over, but it’s the fact you have a few meaningless choices that have no consequence to the narrative and no expanded cutscene to show what happens next.
On a side note – the platinum is straight forward, as long as you find all the collectables. So, if you’re looking for a forgiving stealth-based horror game to add to your trophy list, Sanity of Morris is a good candidate. Plus, all the trophies unlocked fine, although chapter one and two trophies are reversed as chapter two is chapter one, and vice-versa.
Sanity of Morris was an enjoyable psychological horror game that focuses on aliens and insanity, rather than ghosts and death – which is a nice change. Although there are a few things that could have benefited from a little more polish and QA, such as the endings and the enemy’s ability to unfairly see through certain walls, I enjoyed the forgiving nature of the stealth segments and the interesting story scattered as documents and cassette tapes. It has a few jump scares and a few instances of gore, but overall it’s quite mild compared to other games in the genre.
If like me, you like these games but suck at stealth, give Sanity of Morris a go – you’ll find it a lot less frustrating than other stealth-based games.
Sanity of Morris£11.99
- - Interesting story
- - Forgivable stealth segments (maybe too easy?)
- - Has some effective jumps if you're very jumpy, like me
- - Provides hints without telling you exactly what to do
- - If played with headphones, the random sounds can creep you out
- - The ending choice is a bit of a let down
- - There are a few instances where the enemies can see through walls
- - Due to the nature of the game, there's not much variety in the levels and enemies
- - Because of how forgiving the game can be, the threat doesn't seem that impactful