There is no shortage of indie, first person, low budget horror titles available on Steam. It’s tough for a game to come into this environment and find a way to stand out from its peers. Rise of Insanity manages to do just that though, thanks to some clever story twists and the handful of new ideas that it brings to the table. If you have played a lot of atmospheric indie horror games produced by developers that are not native English speakers, then you already know most of what you are getting in this package. It is still one that you should check out though if you enjoy it when games screw with your head and you are looking for a new way to experience that phenomenon.
In Rise of Insanity, you play as -- somebody -- who is wandering around various locales trying to piece together a mystery. Exactly who you are is never told to you explicitly, although the story leaves you with enough hints to either figure it out or to make a guess with a high degree of certainty. Along the way, you follow the work of a famous psychiatrist who has developed a controversial new therapy. One of his subjects has murdered his entire family -- or has he? Are you the doctor? Are you the patient? Who is the game's guilty party? Was there even a crime? The game's story is full of questions that draw you forward through each section, trying to discover the answers. At a few points during the story you may think that you have figured out what happened, only to experience a twist that subverts your expectations. The story is a short but compelling journey that keeps you guessing until you reach a big reveal at the end.
Like a lot of first person horror games, Rise of Insanity keeps you unsettled and disoriented by shuttling you between dreamscapes, never letting you get your feet planted firmly on the ground. These areas mostly feel like real locations, but there is just enough of a lack of realism in each one of them to give them the erie sense upon which this genre thrives. The game gets a lot of mileage, in particular, out of revisiting some locations a few times, but changing a few of the details each time in a way that challenges your memory and messes with your head. There is a nice variety in the environments too. They range from a colorful greenhouse and the ordinary looking home of the alleged murderer to a dark run down hospital and a few bizarre dreamscapes. The realistic locations features late 1970s architecture and technology, which lends them a rather unique aesthetic. Overall, the game is attractive when it needs to be and it is ugly or repulsive when it needs to be. It is not an impressive game from a technological standpoint, but the visuals in Rise of Insanity are nonetheless an asset to it.
On a conceptual level, the atmosphere and story in Rise of Insanity work well. That the game can keep you absorbed for most of its length is a testament to how well it works, because it suffers from a handful of issues that could easily sink a lesser game. The worst of these issues is a horrible English translation -- one of the worst that I have ever seen in my gaming life. In some sections, it is Google Translate bad. Almost every written note or piece of spoken dialog has some sort of jarring grammatical or spelling error. That these errors exist in the written sections is understandable since the game was created by non-native speakers of English. To make matters worse though, the English voice actors still fully speak all of these errors (they are even worse out loud). The story is a good one, but a better translation and voice acting would have made it a more immersive one.
Rise of Insanity features gameplay that, for better or for worse, is about one step removed from the walking simulator. There aren't many interactive objects in each area beyond notes and recordings that provide story background and items that you need to collect or manipulate in order to advance the game. There are a few puzzles to solve, but most of them are very simple. You search environments for the object that you need and then you use it in that one area before you progress to the next area. Occasionally, you find a door code or do some button pushing/level pulling type stuff that is typical adventure game fare. The gameplay isn't the stuff of legend, but it is at least enough to make you feel like you are an active participant in the story and not a spectator. As someone who is not a fan of walking simulators though, I would have liked to see more challenge and interactivity.
At release, Rise of Insanity costs $10 on Steam. Normally, price would not be much of an issue for a small indie release such as this one, but Rise of Insanity also has one other problem -- its length. The game is very short -- about two or three hours long. It is a well paced two or three hours, but it is still disappointing that there isn't more to it.
In the end, there isn't a lot that can be said in the extreme about Rise of Insanity. It is competently executed, other than its shoddy translation. It doesn't look to redefine the first person horror genre and it doesn't shoot for the stars, but it has enough going for it with its story and its environments to make it worth a play through. It might not be an easy game to recommend at its full price, but if you are a fan of psychological horror and you would like to experience a slightly unique twist on it, then Rise of Insanity might be one worth checking out.