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Video Game / Die Anstalt

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"In a soulless world...its inhabitants spineless, spoiled by a consumerist culture, and yet...lonely. This gives birth to frustration...and makes one even lonelier. The last friend remaining is...the cuddly-toy. These creatures can't defend themselves. They cannot run away. their only way of escape."

Die Anstalt - Psychiatrie für misshandelte Kuscheltiere ("The Asylum - Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys") is a German point-and-click game made in 2003. The player takes on the role of a psychiatrist treating plush toys that have been driven to mental disorders due to abuse by their owners. Gameplay consists of selecting a patient to treat and then selecting different treatments from a list on a clipboard. Choosing the right treatments at the right time is essential to win, although there are several that won't do any harm or help.

The game started with only three patients, but has since expanded to six. The current list is as follows (in order of creation):

Kroko: A paranoid crocodile with severe aquaphobia. He has a pillow for a Security Blanket.

Lilo: A hippo with symptoms resembling autism. He never speaks, and spends all his time trying to solve a wooden puzzle.

Dolly: A chronically depressed sheep who sometimes believes herself to be a wolf. She has fits of anger from time to time.

Sly: A rattlesnake with severe ADD and delusions, who sometimes holds extended conversations with his rattle. Added in 2007.

Dub: A hyperactive turtle who spends all his time jumping rope, stopping only to reset his stopwatch. Added in 2009.

Dr. Wood: A raven who's a renowned psychiatric doctor and always carries around a notepad and pencil. Unlike the other patients, you actually start out as trying to converse with him on a professional level until it becomes clear that he has deep-seated psychological issues himself. Started in 2010, added completely in 2011.

Based on posts on the corresponding Die Anstalt Facebook page, there may well be a seventh patient on the horizon, although since there has been no update as of 2016 it may be Vaporware.

The game is playable on browser here. A port for mobile devices can be found here.

This game provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Rather, Abusive Owners. Three of the toys are subjected to this:
    • Sly was used as a drug stash, and tossed out of a car when the cops pull them over. Sly's rattle was subsequently run over by another car.
    • Dolly was used as a fetch toy for a large, scary dog.
    • Kroko was used to mop a bathroom floor!
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Subverted. While the excuses themselves are indeed Freudian, more of an emphasis is placed on psychodynamic and biological psychology. Indeed, the "certain lopsidedness" of Dr Wood towards Freudian methods is one of the obstacles you need to get past in his therapy.
  • Alter-Ego Acting: If you order one of the plushies, along with the "patient" you receive a letter giving additional detail on their condition and recommendations for further home treatment.
  • Bedlam House: Averted. The hospital is modern, clean, and fully dedicated to helping patients.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Sometimes, when the motivational tape has been damaged or the characters are hallucinating, you can see the English text translated into Korean, possibly Thai, and Russian.
  • Break the Cutie: The patients' backstories... and you, if you decide to be a jerk and torture them.
    • Combined with Break the Haughty for Dr Wood, since you have to break him down in order to build him up again.
  • Character Blog: The game's Facebook page and other periphery sites. In a survey on their media, they even insisted that stuffed animals were not allowed to take part.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • After Dr Wood's first foray into astral projection, you can see him trapped in a glass box way above the forest as he makes his way back - something that will turn out to have caused his insecurities and narcissism in the first place.
    • On a more general level, if there is something striking about the design of a character (for example, zips or a stomach pouch), you can bet it will come into play later in the therapy.
    • The first "Professional Assistance" for Dr. Wood contains a large amount of Foreshadowing, including the line "Do not miss a demonstration of Dr. Wood's unique hypnosis technique".
  • Circling Vultures: Used for one of Dolly's dream sequences, but the vultures are part-wolf.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Dr. Wood, being a psychiatrist himself, is all too happy to turn your treatment methods back on you. He's also somewhat trigger-happy about deciding you need help and administering electroshock therapy.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: Some of the treatments are hard on the patients, but necessary. For instance take Dub's entire treatment, which requires ECT to get him out of a severe depressive episode, AND in the end makes him cry his way through an entire box of tissues. It's all important, but still feels incredibly cruel to the poor little animals.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Dolly's wolf form turns out to be nice, and protective of Dolly to boot.
  • Dreaming the Truth: The "Dream Analysis" option.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Improper use of the "Administration of Drugs" option. Also, Sly's problems stem from accidentally receiving a severe overdose of various hallucinogens.
  • Dysfunction Junction: A small group of mentally ill toys? Hmm.
  • Epiphany Therapy: Downplayed. The final flashback plays a huge role in curing the patient, but actually getting there is most of what your job is.
  • Fission Mailed: A red bar on the patient's progress meter usually means that you've messed up your patient even more and need to "reset" them with electroshock therapy. At only one point is electroshock actually necessary, as you have to do it to break Dub out of a catatonic state and continue with his therapy.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: When Dr. Wood ultimately snaps and becomes a cult leader, he tries to hypnotize you, the player (or at least the player character) into joining his Claw Association.
  • Freudian Excuse: Sort of the whole point. Averted with Sly, although the help does point out that from the Freudian Excuse position, his symptoms don't make a whole lot of sense.
  • The Ghost: Dr Kindermann. He leaves for a study in Japan prior to your arrival, and all communication with him after that consists of analysis from him in the aforementioned guide.
  • Guide Dang It!: There is an in-game guide that usually indicates the best treatment for the current patient and situation. Using this guide is pretty much essential if you want to avoid accidentally doing damage to the patient. However, its hints are occasionally vague enough to leave players scratching their heads.
  • Guilt Complex: At the heart of Lilo and Dub's troubles.
  • Happy Place: Sly and Dolly experience this in their dream sequences... but it doesn't last.
  • Hand Puppet: The "Therapeutic Interview" is given by a sock puppet, which Sly actually falls in love with.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The driving force behind the patients' problems is abuse by their owners, although it's usually unintentional - Sly's owners are the only ones to do anything deliberately malicious to their toy, and even then hiding drugs in his tail for easy access probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It only became a severe issue when Sly's tail got crushed and all those drugs started to mix. Lilo is even reunited with his owner happily when he's cured. Notably, we seldom see an entire human from the patients' point of view, except for a somewhat eerie silhouette of a glasses-wearing girl.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The game's intro claims that society has been made "soulless" and "spineless" by consumerism, yet since December 2008, the game sells actual cuddly toys. Hopefully, the message of "escape the horrors of consumerism by buying our toys!" was intentional.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: An update to the graphics of the site spoils the existence of Dolly's inner wolf.
  • Living Toys: Fluctuating between 2, 3 and 4 on the Sliding Scale. Apparently, whether or not the humans in the game acknowledge them as sentient objects depends on the "host consciousness" and how well it projects to the cuddly toy, dictated in a sliding scale of its own. Rough translation of the concept here.
  • Lonely at the Top: Implied in Dr. Wood's case. One of his dreams has him rise up to the stars after gaining the other patients' attention, only to find out that it's cold and lonely there.
    • The origin of his issues: being put on a high shelf, behind glass, forbidden to be touched. When healed, a child is pulling him about, and he is happy with the affection.
  • Merchandise-Driven: The game was made as an advertisement for a line of actual plush toys.
  • Mushroom Samba: You see one when administering drugs or when they're already administered, in Sly's case.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The e-cards you can send out at the reception desk include imagery that isn't seen while treating the patients.
  • Nightmare Fuel Coloring Book: Most of the artwork produced in Paint Therapy; such as Lilo painting himself getting strangled by a gnarled hand, and kudos goes to Dolly for attempting to paint a peaceful meadow, only to flip out and gouge the canvas with her paintbrush (and in some situations, her face).
  • No Medication for Me: Mostly averted. For four out of six patients, you cannot successfully treat them without the "administration of drugs" option, as they either get too agitated or otherwise need the help.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: It is usually easy to tell when the game switches from reality to dream sequence, due to appropriate transitions and circle borders. However, Dr Wood's cultish takeover of the asylum in the middle of his therapy blurs the line between the two planes by not showing these indicators.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: Dolly does this when the sock therapist shows her her reflection in a mirror at one point, smashing the mirror with her face.
  • Reset Button: Electroshock therapy reverts patients back to the way they were when they started. The mandatory electroshock for Dub is an exception.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Most of the dream sequences. For example, the silhouette of a faceless woman in Dub's dreams = CG Jung's metaphor for depression.
  • Scam Religion: After Dr Wood loses his grip on reality, he founds the Claw Association, and pretends to heal the other patients in exchange for their most precious items.
  • Screen Tap: In the patient's lounge, Lilo sometimes taps the screen with part of his wooden puzzle.
  • Shout-Out: References include 2001: A Space Odyssey, Edward Hopper, and Henri Rousseau.
    • Dolly is named after the real-life sheep Dolly, the first mammal to be successfully cloned.
  • Single-Issue Psychology: For each patient so far, their issues all stem from one single traumatic event that the therapist (i.e. you) has to find out about to treat them.
  • Swapped Roles: Do the wrong thing with Dr. Wood, and you end up on the bed yourself as Dr. Wood gives you a dose of electroshock therapy!
  • Tender Tears: Dub, when his abandonment issues come to the surface. He uses up a whole box of tissues. Kroko sheds a tear as well when he's cured and reunited with his beloved hot-water bottle.
  • Timed Mission: You only have a certain time frame to interact with Lilo while playing Tetris before he removes the game from the handheld and returns to his compulsive behavior, and to take Dub's timer away from him when he's unconscious. In stages 1, 4 and 5, Dr Wood is also not in any mood to be kept waiting, and will leave if you take too long.
  • Waiting Puzzle: Near the end of Dub's therapy, when he starts crying and using up tissues, you have to wait until he uses up all the tissues before you can proceed; and even then, one foot wrong will set him off again.
  • The Unintelligible: The sock-puppet therapist, Dub, and Lilo.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Will you do your job, helping the patients on the road to recovery...
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: ...or push their buttons until they're driven over the edge?
  • The Voiceless: Lilo, and it's not just because his mouth is zipped shut.