Outlast. Layers of Fear. Visage. Maid of Sker. Amnesia. PT. If you’ve played any one of these games, you’ve essentially already experienced MADiSON. Replicating the familiar mould of indie horror games released throughout the PS4 generation, very little sets the Bloodious Games project apart.
Waking up in some decrepit house with a demon on your tail, you’ll perform the typical tasks of solving puzzles through environmental clues and matching up items with the unusual contraptions they correspond to. You’ll have free reign of the house, unlocking new rooms as you go and encountering ever-escalating brain teasers. Limited inventory space then makes you pick and choose the items you carry on your person, with unwanted wares stored in the safe to cut down on backtracking. Sound familiar?
The one thing MADiSON does differently is its camera. Not the player-controlled camera, but rather the one protagonist Luca holds in his hands. The old-school device is used during specific puzzles to change and modify them, revealing new clues or interaction points after taking pictures.
While it is a neat mechanic that suggests there could always be an extra layer to any single puzzle, it can become frustrating when there’s not. The game occasionally succumbs to that all too familiar feeling in horror games where you’ve got a bunch of items to use and a load of puzzles to solve, but nothing seems to be matching up.
As you’re wandering the house, it doesn’t do a particularly good job of keeping you on edge either. You’ll hear noises off in the distance and objects — like the telephone — will seemingly turn themselves on and off at random, but you’ll quickly acquaint yourself with the title’s tricks. At least scripted sequences provide more effective jump scares as the demon stalks you and manipulates the environment.
One more fiend you’ll need to contend with — that’s more of the unexpected kind — is the frame rate, which constantly hitches. It’s relatively smooth most of the time, but evidently at random, the screen will freeze to a crawl for a second. Sometimes quickly occurring one after another, it’s an obvious technical flaw.
Maybe you’ll find something to like if you’ve never played a horror game like this before, but for anyone well-versed in the genre, the ground MADiSON covers is very well-worn.