I finally finished Sanitarium for the first time in 12 years. I had played with my friend's copy 12 years ago and only played the first three chapters, wondering how it would have ended countless times.
Now that I've completed it I can't help being underwhelmed. This is clear that the designers wanted to make a game with the surreal atmosphere of Jacob's Ladder but without any of the writing skills and coherence to go with it. The first two chapters are the best parts of the game, and then it goes progressively downhill from there.
Well I couldn't disagree more. I thought the writing was superb, and coherent through all the chapters. The story is not incoherent. The presentation of the story is. And that was a great artistic and design decision. Maybe you just didn't get it? There are a lot of subtle details which, if understood correctly, build up to a rich experience of the peculiar way reality and fiction, past and present are mixed in the mind of the protagonist.
Sure, Aztec chapter had some annoying elements, but which chapter didn't? I wished for an ability to run, for example.
But you said it yourself, it disappointed you after 12 years. Seriously, could anything live up to expectations and nostalgia nourished for so long? :)
I played the game for the first time ever just a month ago (when I discovered it on GoG), and finished it in two sittings. Did someone mention the term cliche? I don't think it means what you think it means :D