Insanity review

Insanity is a Facebook game from Playflock. The game started showing activity in January of this year, but has just recently started enjoying a feature spot in Facebook’s App Center. It’s available now for all to play.

Insanity

Insanity is a social role-playing game in which players take on the role of a new inmate in a horror movie-style mental asylum. The circumstances of the player’s arrival are not made especially clear, and the rather hasty tutorial introduces players to only the very basics of the interface before leaving them to discover everything else for themselves. In some respects, this feeling of stepping into the “unknown” helps enormously with the already-impressive atmosphere of menace and dread the game evokes, but in others it is frustrating, since there are a lot of different elements to this game, and much of it is simply not explained adequately to the player from the outset.

There are a number of different activities the player can partake in while playing Insanity. While hanging out in their room, they can customize their character, including changing their name, gender, facial appearance and clothing. Some customization items require that the player purchase them with in-game currency; others may be acquired from either the built-in chance-based dice minigame; others still may be acquired from defeating bosses. In a nice touch, players can preview how their character will look with these items and see the unlock conditions, so they know what objectives to focus their attention on completing. Players may also customize their room with one of several different backdrops, each of which provides various bonuses to their “aggression” and “insanity” statistics, which affect their performance in combat. Some rooms may be purchased; others must be unlocked by defeating specific bosses.

Screen Shot 2013-03-12 at 10.04.17 AMStepping outside of one’s room brings up the hospital map. The player is initially confined to a single area of the hospital’s first floor, but as they level up additional areas become available. The precise arrangement of the rooms appears to change each time the player brings up the hospital map, but the same activities are available. Generally, there is a “jobs” area, in which the player can spend their endurance on completing non-interactive tasks for the hospital staff in exchange for items, money and experience; at least one “Berserk Boss” to defeat in combat; at least one “Profit Spot” which the player may take control of by spending money (and sometimes also items); and an “Underground Fights” spot in which other players can be battled.

Combat, whether it is between the player and a Berserk Boss or another player, unfolds in a turn-based manner from a first-person perspective. Clicking on the opponent performs an attack, and the opponent then gets to attack in response. The first player to run out of hit points loses. Damage is inflicted in a flat, constant rate according to the weapon equipped and the player’s insanity and aggression levels, which means that between two equally-matched players (as everyone tends to be early in the game), the attacker will always win. Healing items may be purchased, allowing the player to replenish their health during combat — this is often a necessity when fighting the Berserk Boss characters, as they have considerably more health than the player.

Social features for the game are relatively limited to the player vs player battles and the ability to share “pills” (used to improve the player’s insanity and/or aggression levels) with friends. There’s also a friends leaderboard that appears at the bottom of the screen which allows those playing the game to compare their performance against one another according to various factors — it’s also possible to view the top players in the world, visit their rooms and interact with them in various ways, including fighting them, asking them for energy or sharing pills and items with them. There is not a means of directly cooperating or communicating with others, but those willing to share pills and items with others will likely make faster progress in the game.

There is a lot to do in Insanity. Besides everything mentioned above, which makes up the bulk of the gameplay, there is also a crafting system whereby various collectible objects can be combined into new ones, and “mutagens” applies to the player’s items of equipment to boost their abilities. Players who do not wish to collect the items needed for crafting may purchase bags of ingredients using hard currency, but again the interface explains exactly where the player may find the items if they wish to “work” for them rather than simply purchasing them.

Insanity is an interesting game. In terms of gameplay, there’s not a huge amount of additional depth above and beyond older text-based role-playing games of the Mafia Wars ilk, but its excellent, atmospheric presentation help make it stand out. There are a lot of things for the player to do in the game, too — the only real criticisms are that some of the gameplay mechanics aren’t explained adequately to the player, and neither is the thematic reason they are doing them. The game looks like it should have some sort of unfolding story, but instead it simply dumps players in a horror movie-style hospital and implies rather than tells that the various Berserk Bosses need defeating for some reason. “Because it’s there” is an adequate justification to perform a task for many players of this type of game, but it seems like something of a missed opportunity for this game to not show a bit more personality through some storytelling. The rate at which the player’s endurance is used makes it a bit of a stop-start experience for free players, too — this could have perhaps been paced a bit better.

Insanity

These issues aside, though, Insanity is a pretty good game that will likely appeal to fans of creepy, gory horror movies. Its gameplay isn’t particularly imaginative or innovative at its heart, but its excellent audio-visual presentation and fantastic atmosphere make it worthy of note. It remains to be seen whether users will take to it in particularly great numbers, however, as it’s off to a relatively slow start.

Insanity currently occupies the 50,000+ MAU tier with a rank of 2,560 and the 10,000+ DAU tier with a rank of 3,120. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.

Wait

An enormously atmospheric game that could do with a bit more fleshing out — no pun intended.

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