MADiSON Review

MADiSON, the debut title from developer Bloodious Games, is a first-person puzzle horror game in which players control Luca, a teenage boy with a penchant for photography and stumps. In MADiSON, players solve various puzzles to uncover clues about a mysterious serial killer, a demon possessing children’s books, and Luca’s dead family. Along the way, they see Luca mentally and physically tortured by malevolent entities that either want to use his body to inhabit the Realm of the Living or kill Luca.

Veteran players familiar with common horror tropes may initially see MADiSON as an Outlast or P.T. clone. While the game does seem to take inspiration from those games, it also stands out with its Polaroid camera mechanic. MADiSON requires players to take pictures of various objects to advance in puzzles, and the camera can also be used to illuminate dark areas and ward off demons.

A related new horror game for July 2022 could be one of the scariest games of the year

MADiSON makes good use of this mechanic to create subtle horror. In one clip, Luca walks down a hallway to his grandparents’ living room after surviving a horrific encounter. A statue that had been at the end of this corridor was suddenly enveloped in darkness and red light, and it looked. wrong. By snapping a photo and waving it to clear it, players see the image bloodied and charred–a telltale sign of the game’s primary antagonist. MADiSON doesn’t even show the imagery on the photo, just fills the player with dread by suggesting that danger lies ahead.

MADiSON  spooky  clock  red  lighting Bloodious Games builds a palpable sense of tension from beginning to end, thanks in large part to the remarkable sound design. Creaking wood, slamming doors, and disturbing sounds keep players on edge. The photo frame accidentally fell to the ground, and the shadow suddenly moved in Luca’s peripheral vision. Although some hints will be repeated, they will always make the player feel uneasy. There’s no time to relax, and the sound design reinforces that.

The great sound design is phenomenal in the voice acting, especially that of Luca’s voice actor, Jacob Judge. Luca’s fear and pain are palpable, from the way he speaks and groans during the events of the story. Even though many of the lines are read in a similar tone, it’s refreshing to hear horror protagonists speak as if they’re actually in mortal danger. The other voice actors, though rarely used, are equally charming in their performances.

MADiSON also incorporates overt horror in the form of jump scares. Some of them are completely unpredictable and cause real horror when they happen. New players might be caught off guard by them, but longtime horror players might see them coming. Unfortunately, the game relies heavily on them, and by the end of the day, they feel cheap and frustrating rather than scary. As the game progresses, their frequency increases, which is more of a nuisance than a scare. They’re especially problematic in the final puzzle, where if the player is “afraid to jump”, they’re back at the start.

MADiSON  clock  puzzle  room  with  multiple  clocks  on  the  wall MADiSON’s puzzles are quite challenging and may be rewarding for players looking for a more difficult horror game. The answer isn’t always obvious, and it takes some deductive skills to figure it out. The puzzles are varied–although many still fall within the adventure game “find an item and use it” trope–and the puzzles are full of scares. On top of that, players regularly revisit the locations they saw at the start of the game, adding a lot of depth to the environments.

The only downside to this higher level of challenge is that the path forward is sometimes unclear, so players may need guidance to know what’s next, especially if they’re playing on the hardest difficulty. Even on the easiest difficulty, players can become confused about what to do next. Luca occasionally offers hints in his notebook through dialogue and drawings, but they’re very vague and don’t always point the way forward.

The game features high-quality textures and fantastic visual and level design, which is not often found in most indie horror games. Every location Luca visits, from his grandparents’ home to a sprawling 1980s cathedral, is thoughtfully designed. Especially in the dilapidated houses, the attention to detail is outstanding. While most locations aren’t visually stunning, they perfectly capture the haunting atmosphere the game is aiming for.

MADiSON  starting  room  steam  image Where Madison drops the ball is the story. It’s not hard to see a demon trying to gain control of Luca through a gruesome ritual involving dismemberment and sacrifice. This predictability is where the story fails. By the middle of the game, the player can easily guess how it will end. This makes subsequent playthroughs pointless, except for achievement hunting.

The story is also marred by a lack of connection between the three demons : Madison Hale, Blue Knee and Hans Gulling. Madison is a serial killer and the demon who tried to possess Luca, Blue Knee is a completely separate demon whose grandmother tortured her for reading the book, and Hans Guerin was the man who ran poison gas during WWII chamber of the third demon. Each demon is its own entity, with no apparent connection to any other demon. While this gave the developers more flexibility to create interesting and unique episodes for each demon, in the big picture, it wasn’t clear to the player why all these demons were attacking Luca’s home and torturing him and his family.

While the story doesn’t offer anything new, it serves the game well and provides a platform for the game’s good design and well-crafted horror. Step into MADiSON without any pretense of a groundbreaking story, and find a terrifying journey inside the mind of a painful and overlooked killer. Overall, MADiSON is a great first game from a new developer and sure to pack a lot of fright.

MADiSON is available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S and Switch. GameRant received the PS5 code for this review.

Leave a Reply