- Developer: Bloodius Games
- Publisher: Perpetual
- Release Date: 23/6/2022
- Price: £29.99 / $34.99
- Review code provided by Perpetual
Introducing: MADiSON Review
Normally I reserve my adventures into the world of horror games for the Fall. To both build me up for Halloween and give me a gentle landing after it. However, there seems to be a trend of these sorts of games dropping in the summer, so there’s no time to wait around for the weather to cool off, not when this game is just sitting there begging me to play it! So, let’s take a look at MADiSON and see if it can capture us with it’s photographic gameplay.
In MADiSON, you play as Luca, a young man who awakens in a locked room with his father pounding on the door, begging and sobbing due to something that you have done. All you have with you is a box with a few photos in it and those photos are a bit disturbing, considering that they’re bloodstained and are of severed limbs. Needless to say, this isn’t looking good
So you head out, slipping through a boarded up corridor that takes you to your grandparents attached house (which is in some dire need of cleaning up). From there you’re just trying to figure out what is going on and get out of the place with the help of a camera that you’ve found, which just so happens to be the tiniest bit possessed.
What is going on (and this isn’t a spoiler since it is on the game page) is that you’ve been possessed by a demon/malevolent ghost that started a ritual a long time ago and now wants you to finish it. That ritual does involve a decent amount of killing and dismembering unfortunately, and the effects of the possession are really starting to get to poor Luca.
I admit that this game was a little longer than I expected it to be as horror games do tend to run on the shorter end of genres. However this is a beefy piece of software that’s going to keep you entertained for a good while. Well, sort of. It’s one of those that is able to go really fast if you know exactly what you need to do, but as a blind player, you’re going to need to figure all that out, which is what makes it take longer.
The content to be found here is pretty decent though, if a little jumpscare reliant. The only part that I take umbrage with is there is a portion that involves the first person recreation of a suicide by hanging that there is no warning about, so please keep that in mind if you’re intending to give this one a play and that content would be detrimental to your mental health. (Can’t stress enough how important content warnings are).
Omnis Immundus Spiritus, Omnis Satanica Potestas
This is the sort of game where you don’t have any sort of a defense and are mostly walking around and doing some light use of items in order to figure out where to go and how to get there. It’s all in good fun. However, there are some problems to be found here. If you’re going to be playing, playing on easy gives some hints as to what items will react to getting their photo taken with your haunted camera by a smattering of potoroids being laid out in the area. First time players will likely find this pretty vital as otherwise you’re going to be flashing that camera all over the place. Since you save all your photos in your pockets no matter what, it might be nice if that scrawling on the wall that you took a picture of for reference wasn’t buried beneath tons of photos of random hallways and rooms.
There are interesting things done with the camera and with the fact that Luca clearly isn’t fully himself at the moment. However, there are some segments that feel like they go on a bit too long. For example, there is a segment in which you’re in a church, able to use the camera to move between a few distinct time periods and grab and place items in order to get out. However, this area is quite large, so there is a lot of back and forth that can feel like you are just wasting time walking around at points. I feel like a very significant portion of my playtime was spent in the church despite the setting of the game really being a spooky house.
Back and forth really is the big downfall of this title. Some of the solutions to make progress will have you wandering aimlessly until you find something that wasn’t there before or something that you just never noticed before. The biggest cause of all this backtracking though, is that Luca has an inventory limit, a pretty restrictive one considering everything that you pick up along the way. It’s 8 items, but the camera takes up one of those slots and the camera is used so often that you’re certainly not leaving that behind! Photos also pile up in one of the slots for you, so that’s another one lost. Often used tools like the hammer also take up a slot and if you don’t want to keep running back to the storage to fetch those. Then again, keeping them with you also results in this back and forth as well since that’s one less slot you have. Inventory management was, frankly, more of a frustration than anything else in the game and ended up serving to make the house less scary as I grew used to bolting through the hallways to swap out items for the thirtieth time.
Omnis Incursio infernalis Adversarii, Omnis Legio
The visuals do have a nice dose of variety to them due to the fact that locations do a little bit of swapping over the course of the game, however, there are still some issues related to them. None of them are technical, aside form a texture or two that might end up looking a little fuzzy here and there. It’s more that the way the visuals are framed can make things that are meant to be scary end up looking a bit silly instead. One of the earlier examples is being trapped in a big empty room in a square of police tape that seems to be knee high at best, so it seems odd that you can’t just step over it or something of that nature. This is then accented with severed limbs floating in the air in a way that had me giggling. For sure, there are some good spooky moments here, but there are also a small handful that I don’t think came off the way that the developer intended them to.
There’s also a few other problems, like a lack of brightness settings in the options. I had to pull the blinds each time that I picked up the game because of this. Luca also bobs and sways whenever you stop looking around. When you stop moving and hold still to do something like listen to an audio tape that you found, eventually your view will begin to just drift aimlessly around. Once again, I understand Luca is not himself and not really feeling well, but it could easily make a player motion sick too. Once again, there’s no option to turn this off or lessen it.
Omnis Congregatio et Secta Diabolica, Ergo Draco Maledicte
However, I am sad to say that this game does engage in my least favorite trope when it comes to the sound for a horror game, random “spooky” sounds that mean nothing. Whenever you are doing something, there will be sounds happening around you, from large creaks to the sounds of cans being knocked over to any other tiny sound to make it seem like you are not alone. This is something that I understand is to set the tone, but it can be frustrating when the game has told you in the difficulty selection that there may be some form of enemy after you and then the noises that you are hearing do not correlate to any movement from an enemy of some sort or any noise that you might be making to alert an enemy. Worse still, while their intent may be to spook, within the first hour of the game they lost their effect as I realized that they meant nothing and were not to be paid attention to.
Ut Ecclesiam Tuam Secura, Tibi Facias Libertate Servire
MADiSON ran perfectly fine on my PS5 without any issues related to framerates or major bugs, at least none that I was able to notice. However, despite the fact that my experience was smooth, it seems that was not the case for everyone else, since some pretty big patches have needed to be released. I was okay, but it is still something to be wary of.
On PS5 there is a little bit of integration of the DualSense features as well, with some minor resistance in the triggers when trying to take a photo, much in the same way that Bugsnax did at launch, albeit a little less intensely. Though I think that any more intensity to the resistance would prove a distraction from everything else going on in the game.
Te Rogamus, Audi Nos
Overall, MADiSON is a decently solid horror experience for those who have an interest in getting spooked by a story of ghosts and demons, though there are a few things that hold it back from reaching the heights it could if these were cleaned up a little. However, it is also a case where those flaws are going to bother people at various different levels, so if some back and forth might not bother you, I encourage you to check it out.
- Interesting photo mechanics
- Luca is a very sympathetic protagonist
- Nice vocal performances
- Options are lacking
- First person suicide depiction with no warning
- A bit jumpscare reliant
- random sounds lose effectiveness quickly