Insanity is a good-looking Facebook RPG that suffers from sedated gameplay.

Say what you will about Insanity, the new Facebook social RPG from Playflock, but you can’t deny that its heart isn’t in the right place. Consider, for instance, that it wastes no time in filling your screen with the sight of a nurse in bloody digs that have to be breaking some kind of dress code, or consider its creepy piano music that sounds like it’d be at home in the creepy PSP thriller Corpse Party. All this, mind you, before the loading screen has even finished its business. It’s a pity that most of its potential is mired in gameplay that’s better suited to Mafia Wars than today’s flashier options, and its oversimplification of horrific action bores more than its scares.

Imagine Arkham Asylum without the Joker, Penguin, and other bat-baddies, and you might have some idea of what to expect as the story progresses. It’s a pitiful place, littered with splotches of blood and piles of trash that would send even the most complacent health inspector into cardiac arrest, and perhaps fittingly, many of the early humdrum “click and win” missions focus on cleaning up the joint. It’s in this environment where you awake, outfitting your mentally instable male avatar in nasty T-shirts that speak of frat parties gone wrong, or your female avatar in skimpy halter tops and underwear that can’t be much protection against the surrounding filth.

Insanity

You don’t know why you’re there, and it’s perhaps just as well–no one cares. This is mental rehabilitation as gladiatorial extravaganza, and the only help you can expect from the nurses are pills that augment your aggression and insanity for use against “other lunatics and berserk bosses.” At least the good folks at Arkham made some pretense of helping their patients.

Playflock got one thing right about life in a place like this: it’s often dull, even in these conditions. You’ll spend much of your time leveling with the aforementioned “click and win” missions, which have you traipsing about the sanatorium attending to such helpful tasks as collecting bedpans, although the good doctors sometimes award you for switching out legitimate medicine for glucose. Keep in mind, though, that this Mafia Wars: The Disturbed Edition, and consequently you’ll never actually see any of this occur. It’s not without its attractions, however. Sometimes, you’ll walk away with goodies you can use to decorate your sad excuse for a room or in battles with other patients and bosses.

Insanity

This is where you’ll find the most fun, such as it is, but Insanity manages to make the first few levels of these battles about as fun as filling out insurance papers. That’s unfortunate, because that’s when we’re supposed to get hooked. Early on, every single fight against other players’ avatars unfolds like this: I hit them once, knocking their health down to 26 points from 50, and they’d hit me, knocking my health down to 26. We’d trade blows again, this time knocking each other down to a single hit point. And then, unless I was distracted or taking notes, I’d win, because it always started out with my turn. That’s how combat went for a full seven levels. Mind you, it does get better. In time, you’ll use weapons and augments, and you’ll put points into attributes that allow for at least some semblance of surprise and strategy. Alas, the static structure of the base combat means it might take a while to reach that point.

There are timed bosses, too–beastly things with intimidating hit points, and you’ll need to either bring along a truckload of friends (preferred) or plunk out a fortune in medpacks if you expect to down them. Indeed, that’s where Insanity‘s social aspects are the strongest, as the other options merely involve leaderboards and the ability to trade pills. Other, smaller activities abound, such as dice minigames and opportunities to control rooms and profit from them, and sometimes you’ll click on a room and find yourself up against a mob an angry orderlies. Alas, like so many other activities you come across, it’s a dull affair amounting to little more than pressing a button to see if you’ve won or lost.

Insanity

Other issues taint the presentation. If you’re a true fan on the kinds of disorders that would get someone locked up in a place like this, for instance, you’ll laugh at how Amelia the Banshee’s “agoraphobia” causes her to attack once you enter her personal space. You’d think, considering her condition, that she’d welcome the confines of her cozy, tiny cell. The game’s Russian origins also make rude intrusions from time to time, such as when you advance a level or complete a mission and find some indecipherable block of Cyrillic staring back at you. Forget slapping it into Google Translate; it’s all in images.

But can Insanity be fun? Certainly, as long as your bring along some friends and a approach it with no more expectations than you’d bring to a cheesy horror film like Alice Cooper’s 1984 disaster Monster Dog or, considering the outfits most of your female neighbors wear, 2008’s Zombie Strippers. It definitely gets the atmosphere right, and maybe after a few tweaks to the gameplay, it might even scare you.