Sometimes, being a reviewer is difficult, requiring endless hours, or even days, of playing games you don’t like. And sometimes, like with Roots of Insanity, the game is over in less than two hours and you’re wondering how you’re supposed to fill 1000 words with that.
You’re a doctor, suffering from hallucinations (yeah, we’re starting off that subtle), working late night in the hospital, a few months after your mother has passed away (Good Lord guys, might as well put neon signs for the twists.). As you wake up from your slumber though, the lights are going in and out and the hospital appears to be suffering from a mild case of zombie invasion. The game is only two hours long, so I might as well spoil the twist here: There is no twist, an actual zombie invasion is happening.
Your father had been researching for a way to bring back your mom to life, making the whole «suffering from illusions» thing utterly pointless, minus as an excuse to throw a few jumpscares at you, since we are clearly establishing that there are actual zombies roaming around. You guys do know that you could have just made him «paranoic from fear» or something right? Claustophobia is a pretty good excuse for violent hallucinations, no need to throw post-traumatic stress disorder in there, it’s completely irrelevant to the plot.
Roots of insanity is very clearly trying to be Outlast, with a combat system thrown in there reminiscent of all those Half-Life 2 horror mods you were playing a few years ago (Nightmare House 2 often sprang to mind). You are put in dark corridors, exploring the (surprisingly empty) halls of the hospital, with the night-light of the camera very often being your only source of light. That’s where Outlast comes in, with the whole system of heath medicine and camera batteries making scouting in the dark essential for survival, except here the zombie attacks are for the most part a lot more predictable, so it becomes more of a chore instead of a horrifying experience to open every single locker of the 100-locker corridor.
In fact it was so often that I found myself opening janitor’s closets, that I felt almost betrayed in the end when I had gone through the whole game (the whole 2 hours of it…) without a zombie jumping from inside one of them. It worked very well in Condemned 2, I don’t see why it was so hard to get ques from there when we’re clearly copy-pasting everything we can from Outlast.
Roots of Insanity is one of those games where you can get great-looking screenshots, but the actual gameplay is far from optimal. The combat has zero impact to it, so you find yourself just pressing the attack button bored and hoping the attack actually registrered, as you backtrack, taking advantage of your far superior range (hell, the knife is for some reason far more efficient than the gun). Oh, yeah, you get a gun towards the end, where the game for some reason decides to switch to third person for the shooting sections, which happen in the hospital’s yard. When you get back inside, the game conveniently tells you that using the gun in here would attract the attention of too many zombies.
Look Roots of Insanity, I can understand the logic (both the logic of telling me that in-game and of not wanting me to have a fun in areas where the camera might actually f@ck up with the walls around me), but I should be the one to judge that. Give me a warning that I should avoid using the gun and just spawn 3-4 zombies if I actually do it, don’t just straight-up ban me from using the gun when I have dead chaps lazily gnawing on my perfectly good buttocks. It’s like being in the middle of an orgy and receiving a warning that flashing your condom box will draw the attention of sex-«starved» people.
Speaking of starved people, the zombies seemed to have some serious clipping issues, getting stack in walls and turns, making a lot of chase scenes end without a climax. «Oh, no! The incredibly slow zombies are giving chase! Will you have time to find the key to the door before they can figure out how to turn from a corner?!» In all likeliness yes Roots of Insanity. In fact, thanks to the aforementioned ridiculous range of the knife, I might as well murder the whole horde from the safety of two solid inches of wall that the dead can’t pass through. The funny thing is that even after I’ve murdered everything, the music won’t stop, soon getting on my nerves as I can’t figure out why I can see the key but not pick it up (spoiler warning, I wasn’t standing in the right angle).
All that flew by your head though, didn’t it? All you can see in the review is images of increadibly atmospheric-looking monsters and dark hallways, so of course you feel like buying the thing regardless of what we say here. Yes, it looks good, since the images can’t convey the ~frankly ridiculous~ movement of the zombies, or how stupid third person is at the later acts. Lets give credit where its due though, as no anti-Trump activist ever said, the game looks good, especially at the start. The atmosphere is great (before it’s ruined by the gameplay) and the game runs rather smoothly for the full graphics I was playing it at (I’m not even sure if it registered on Cortex).
Being an Unreal 4 game though (the engine is new but I’m already noticing some of its trademarks, the in-game performance might be great, but good Cthulhu the menus are SLOW. Pretty weird if you think about it, but just like Hide&Shriek, the initial main menu seemed to be desperately crawling on the floor, like a dehydrated man in the desert.
The sound on the other hand was at surprisingly good levels. Usually, one of the first things you notice in low-budget games like this is the horrible voice acting, but here it was good, exceptionally good in fact. That goes not only for the main character, but also the two side characters as well, along with the occasional damsel in distress who’s acting as the zombies’ le petit chou fleur for the evening. The music was also at generally acceptable levels, though it occasionally got annoying due to the programming. Regardless, it served the jumpscares well.
(disclaimer: Gameplay vid by Nokzen, we don’t own this)
Look, it’s 10 euros for two hours, only the first of which is actually scary and atmospheric, the second being predictable and slightly «arcade» for lack of a better word. Personally I wouldn’t buy it at either full or half price. When you find it at a lovely -75% though, give it a shot, Roots of Insanity might pleasantly surprise you, before it makes the stupid, STUPID decision of giving you a gun.
Roots of Insanity
- Great graphics.
- Surprisingly light at max settings.
- Impressive voice acting.
- Great atmosphere.
- Maximum immersion at the start.
- Lots of jumpscares.
- Night-vision makes everything better.
- Good Lord, WHY A GUN?
- And WHY on third person?!
- The story is indifferent at best.
- The dumb police in the end.
- The music can be obnoxious when the zombies are dead.
- Could have used more exploration.
- Too many batteries lying around.
- Backtracking works too well.
- Clipping issues.
- Bad zombie animations and AI.