Ever had those moments when you’re playing a game, wondering why you torment yourself so much? I’m not talking about playing a terrible game where the basic controls don’t work. No, I’m talking about those types of games that make you jump out of your skin every five seconds. One of those games in which you think you can relax, before realising that you’ve made the dog jump with your screaming and you’re left as a gibbering piece of jelly.
MADiSON at times – and when it’s at its best – gives you those feelings of horror; of pure fear. At other times though, it has something that is much more terrifying, leaving you hopeless – inventory management.
MADiSON is a claustrophobic, intense first-person horror experience. You play as a teenage boy called Luca who wakes up in his family home, his hands covered in blood. How has this happened? Is it his blood or someone elses? Someone is banging at a locked door, before you try and escape. What plays out next is a haunted house experience, one that is seemingly on acid, as you go moving through time and demonic dimensions; always followed by some devilish presence. It delivers a narrative that is complex at times, well devised, and constantly keeps you on your toes. It reminds a lot of Layers of Fear, especially in terms of how you are forever being thrown into different scenarios.
The story, atmosphere, and attention to detail are exceptionally good, with a brilliant horror vibe and some nicely written text in regards to the items you find along the way. The only problem I have with the writing is the uttering of Luca himself; there seems to be a lot of “What is happening?” and “Oh, no that’s horrible”. It gets a bit boring quite quickly and sometimes you wish Luca would just get a grip of himself.
I don’t blame him too much because the only thing he is armed with is a polaroid camera. This works by letting you take pictures of certain areas, hoping to uncover secret areas or clues about what to do next. For instance, simply using the camera on a certain wall will reveal a door that you can now go through. More complex puzzles are present too though and perhaps you’ll discover numbers – like the year 1951 which will whisk you back to that era in time. It’s a clever and interesting device to have in the gameplay and Bloodious Games and Perp Games use it brilliantly throughout.
Other mechanics on show come in the usual form; the chance to duck, run and use objects around you. You can examine things, pick up certain objects and store them in your inventory. And yes, MADiSON comes with an old school inventory management system with restricted slots, ensuring you will need to be careful what you pick up. Thankfully you can store items in safes. I see no reason to have this system in modern games – it’s annoying and serves no purpose aside from to frustrate. But that’s my opinion and others will clearly love this old school mechanic.
The other puzzle elements of MADiSON feel very clever at times, but you might well be left scratching your head a few times; possibly in a very good way. There are some sections – maze-like sections – which are a tad annoying and just frustrating rather than interesting, but overall the atmosphere and the tightness of the environments build to add to the suspense, winning over any gameplay problems that might be encountered.
Visually, MADiSON is also very impressive with some great light effects and use of darkness. It’s clever in not revealing the monsters, keeping you guessing with jump scares and flashes of wickedness; something which, if you ask me, is the right way to go. Items, documents, and environmental designs are all of a high, near-immaculate standard with some great little flourishes in the textures of design.
I’ve also been amazed by the soundtrack. It utilises an ominous score intelligently, so oppressive it nearly makes your ears bleed. The environmental effects, noises, and mutterings will make you jump pretty much in the same way a visual scare will, especially if you are playing with headphones on; something which is highly recommended. The voice-over is good throughout too – except for the poor soul playing Luca. I don’t think the script is helping him much.
MADiSON is a pretty great first-person horror adventure. It has a strong story, a great premise, some impressive visuals, and amazing sound design. The inventory management side of things lets it down, as do some of the maze-like systems. But if you can hack that, then MADiSON could well be the scare fest of the summer.
MADiSON is available on the Xbox Store