When P.T. released in 2014 it had a massive impact on the horror genre, and the remnants of that can still be felt today. Particularly in the realm of psychological horror indie games, which MADiSON neatly fits into, you will regularly come across titles that take inspiration from the now unplayable Silent Hills teaser. While none of the games since have quite managed to reach the heights of Kojima’s masterpiece, plenty of them are still worthwhile in their own regard by competently executing similar ideas, or by building upon them in interesting ways. Sadly the new game, developer BLOODIOUS GAMES is co-publishing with Perpetual Europe, MADiSON doesn’t really do either of those things.
In MADiSON you wake up in a room with some pictures of bloody, severed limbs nearby. There are hints indicating that those might be your mother’s and sister’s limbs. Your father keeps knocking on the door trying to get in, shouting at you and blaming you for whatever it is that happened to the family. You then have to journey through the family house, which shifts around you, slowly revealing what’s really going on here. The different story beats tread familiar ground and don’t offer anything you haven’t seen before. On top of that they can sometimes feel a little disconnected, focusing on creating individual set pieces, rather than a cohesive whole.
A lot of the story is told through audio logs. Therefore the quality of the voice acting is quite important, and luckily most of the voice actors are doing a fine job. One of them however clearly stands out, and that’s the voice actor for the main character, who also happens to be the character you hear the most. The main character is talking constantly, often pointing out the obvious in case you somehow missed it. This is already annoying as is, but the lackluster voice acting makes it even worse.
What sets MADiSON apart from other horror games is the gameplay element of the photo camera. By taking pictures of your surroundings you can reveal hidden information, or interact with the environment in unexpected ways, allowing for some interesting puzzles… at least in theory. In practice it’s a lot of unveiling of codes you need to progress, or uncovering and accessing hidden passageways. Apart from the similar puzzles that are repeated multiple times throughout, there are also a couple of puzzles that feel a little inorganic. Nothing you won’t be able to solve, but the solutions don’t feel entirely logical at times.
What you can’t really complain about though are the graphics. MADiSON is a great looking game that renders a very realistic looking house with incredible lighting, which stands out above some of its peers in the genre. It creates moody rooms by utilizing darkness in very effective ways, hiding just enough of the corners to make you feel uneasy while exploring the complex.
This leads me into talking about another thing MADiSON does fairly well, which is establishing atmosphere by utilizing a well crafted soundscape that makes you feel as if there’s someone else in the house alongside you at all times. This results in a tense atmosphere that will leave you scared to move towards the darker areas of the house. Too bad that the game regularly destroys said atmosphere through jump scares. Now, let me be clear in saying that I don’t think jump scares are always bad; you absolutely can use them to great effect. MADiSON does not. The sheer amount of them that the game throws at you in some of the later chapters will leave you with one emotion only: Annoyance. Adding onto that is the fact that the designs of the monsters aren’t particularly scary and also the realization that there’s no real danger for the majority of the game, leading to a slow deterioration of an atmosphere that is effective in its own right, but sadly unable to carry the mediocrity that is the rest of MADiSON.
Is MADiSON a complete failure? No, while the game feels largely uninspired and the plot points aren’t exactly original, they are still competently written and presented, with an atmosphere that’s at least in parts quite effective. Sadly, there are too many elements here that are either lackluster or lead to frustration while playing to recommend this game.
Nairon played MADiSON on PC with his own copy. MADiSON is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, and Nintendo Switch.