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Video Game / Sanity: Aiken's Artifact

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Sanity: Aiken's Artifact is a linear Action-Adventure game for PC, developed by Monolith Productions and released by Fox Interactive in 2000. You play the role of Cain, an agent within the Department of National Psionic Control who was recently taken off duty due to psychic stability problems. He is soon reinstated after the installation of an aggression inhibitor, and is placed on an assignment to apprehend the leader of a psionic radical group set out to attack the Children of Tomorrow project.

Although the plot initially appears to be a straight action comic book tale, the game gets progressively more surreal and slapstick as the story progresses, until it becomes clear that it has its tongue firmly in cheek.

This work contains examples of:

  • Block Puzzle: Quite frequent. They're solved by using the psionic push power, which propels the block until it hits something.
  • Bottomless Pits
  • Cain and Abel: Cain is the hero, and Abel is the unstable, and later completely psychotic, brother of his.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Using an ability causes the name to appear next to the caster. Near the end-game, the meat monster uses one called "Meat Monster Smash".
  • Collectible Card Game: The developers designed the game to support something similar in multiplayer. They intended to release an ability every week, which could be added to the deck of psychic abilities.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Each psychic totem is assigned a color itself, and in turn also directly applies to its power. Fire is orange, Sun is yellow, Illusion is purple, Science is green, Demonology is red, Death is dark purple, Storm is blue, and Truth is white. Each subsequent totem is considered more powerful, having a higher numerical effect. This power tier makes Truth an outlier, as that totem doesn't have any direct attacks to show off associated strength.
  • Deadly Game: In the second chapter, you need to complete "Trivia Insanity", where "One Wrong Answer, and You're Dead!" Of the four contestants, two are held against their will (including the main character), the third was willing contestant planning to win the contest. The fourth was the magician whom the main character meets after the show, and given trivially easy questions. While the questions are claimed to be general knowledge questions, they're really based on context. Since Cain won, the host later left a voicemail message asking for him for a second episode.
  • Dangerous Terrain: Used in the beginning of Chapter 2. Both Cain and Abel try using push attacks against each other to knock them into the electric fence. At the beginning of Chapter 6, the child super-psychic, Toby, has to push Abel onto some steam vents.
  • Die, Chair, Die!: The Psionic Aggression Control Chip did not affect non-living beings.
  • Do Not Run with a Gun: Psychic abilities, and shooting, require you to stand still. In multi-mook combat, this generally requires you to make an attack during a small lull between attacks.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Sanity Devourer, AKA Golgotham, which descended after implanting an artifact to the planet to advance humanity's psionic and then devour them.
  • Elemental Powers: Extremely gifted psionic individuals have created unique styles based on their own personalities and ideologies called Totems. Several of these are basic elements such as Fire, Lightning, Death and Sun.
  • Emergency Weapon: Because the player regenerates only a small amount of sanity, a few fireballs can be flung for a minor amount of damage. If hit with psi-suppressant, the pistol can also be used in the campaign.
  • Everything Fades: Or, Everything Blows Up Into Light that supposedly represent their Totems, but normal thugs did blew up to light too. However the killed contestants in Trivia Insanity did not blew up into light.
  • Friendly Fireproof: Enemies are immune to each others attacks as long as they are part of the same psychic totem. Golgathem send waves at you throughout the game, cross totem for the purpose of demonstrating his power. These cross totem enemies will damage each other from their attacks.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: As a member of Children of Tomorrow, Bobby, in the short segment in which you control him, has near-infinite Sanity Points.
  • Genetic Engineering Is the New Nuke: In 2028, Dr. Aiken discovered an artifact that enable any human being's psionic potential. Which then causes insanity to many of its subjects, Then the DNPC was established, and after Cain's offscreen rampage before the beginning of the game, the Psionic Aggression Control Chip was later developed and forced into Psionic-equipped agents.
    • Dr. Aiken then aimed to implement a new psionic research to a group of children which will not cause insanity, called "The Children of Tomorrow", in which Cain's initial mission was to ensure the research's success.
  • Government Conspiracy: A mysterious government agent calls Cain, asking him to assassinate the leader of the Eyes of Ra, instead of following his direct orders to apprehend her. You receive more calls from him later. In the end, the agent decided that Cain knows too much and tried to kill Cain, but Abel obliterates everyone but Cain in the nick of time.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The security guards are competent (one bodyguard doesn't even submit when threatened). However, some receptionists in Aiken's Pharmaceuticals don't realize that they're in a high-security zone, and that random civilians shouldn't have gotten that far.
  • Immune to Bullets: Early in the game, Abel walks past a few guards without taking damage from attacks, not even using a shield to block them.
  • Lethal Lava Land: Chapter 4. The poor lighting makes the lava look like blood, which causes the trope to look like Super Drowning Skills.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Cain start the game wearing an appropriate combat jacket with the icon of his elemental totem in the back. Halfway through the game, you spend the rest of the game wearing a Hawaiian-style shirt from a scheme Cain took to gain entry to Aiken's Pharmaceuticals.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: When the game starts a new level, one of the steps is "processing lightmaps", which the loading screen says takes a few minutes. If you die or fail an objective, you need to pass through the screen once again. Also, Alt-tabbing out and back into the game brings up a different loading screen that takes just as long.
  • Morality Chip: To ensure that Cain remains stable, his superiors install an aggression inhibitor. It can't tell the difference between accidental and intentional attacks, and takes Cain out whenever a non-hostile civilian is injured.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Cain knocks out a civilian to disguise himself as a civilian, and join the tour of Aiken's Pharmaceuticals. This is inconsistent with the aggression inhibitor which is supposed to activate if he attacks a civilian, and isn't otherwise explained why it was allowed (aside from not using a a gun or his Psionic Talents).
  • No Fourth Wall: If you use the Mind-reading talent on some NPCs, they're aware they're in a game.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Lampshaded in a Chapter 6 Death Course, where there's invisible platforms in a power plant.
  • One-Winged Angel: Golgotham. When he's first defeated in combat, it turns out he's just a projection.
  • Personality Powers: See Elemental Powers above. Aside from basic elements are more advanced ones such as Illusion, Science, Demonology, and Truth.
  • Post-Final Boss: Abel is the true final boss after Golgotham, the Big Bad of the story, is defeated.
  • Power Nullifier: The PSI Suppressant grenade and power, and Cain has a firearm to get around this. Should anyone arrange a multiplayer game, it is more powerful in multiplayer because only psi-attacks are available.
  • Product Placement: Chupa Chups Posters are spotted around the city, and at the time of publication there was a promotional run with Chupa Chups featuring merchandise from the game.
  • Puzzle Boss: Some bosses can't be damaged until you perform a certain action.
  • Ring-Out Boss: Your first encounter with Abel, where only push-based attacks are used. If you run low on sanity when playing the game on hard, it becomes a Marathon Boss since he advances just as quickly as you regenerate power. The final battle with Abel also requires you to push him into a hazard.
  • Sequence Breaking: In the second mission of the second chapter a man in a shop will ask you to retrieve a relic from the local church. Normally this requires solving a puzzle, but if you cast Star Shower in the very bottom corner of the screen, and the ability doesn't deal enough damage to trigger a Game Over from killing a non-combatant, you can actually skip the entire puzzle section without leaving the store.
  • Stealth-Based Mission: In Chapter 3, you need to sneak past guards to infiltrate the Aiken's Pharmaceuticals. On initial failures, you'll be returned to the tour group if you get caught. Once you get past a certain point in that mission, getting spotted by guards is an instant Game Over.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: It turns out at the end of the first chapter that The Eye of Ra planned to stop Golgotham by halting psionic advancement brought by the Children of Tomorrow project.