Not for the faint-hearted
Madison is not a game for the faint of heart. It’s genuinely scary at times so is well worth a look if you’re a die-hard horror fan, though you might want to think twice about playing it if you’re averse to games with lots of puzzle-solving. This is a game that will give your brain a proper workout, so this might not be the title for you if you’re somebody who gravitates towards ‘easy mode’ in the games you play.
This might also be a game to avoid if you or anybody close to you has ever had mental health problems as the conclusion of this game is both upsetting and triggering. I’m not going to give away any spoilers here but if you are among the number of people that I am referring to, it might be wise to research the game’s end before playing.
With those warnings out of the way, let’s go into a little more detail about this one. Madison is a first-person horror title from developer/publisher Bloodious Games. It puts you in the shoes of Luca, a teenage boy who wakes up in a darkened room somewhere within his grandpa’s home. You’re alone in the room but you can hear your dad banging on the other side of a locked door shouting accusations at you about ruining the family. Just what is it that you’re supposed to have done? We aren’t going to give this away but as there is blood around you, it’s clear that something nasty has happened.
After the game’s ominous opening, you pass through a gap you find in the closet, and make your way deeper into the house. From here, you move from room to room looking for ways to get out of the house while picking up clues that link to dark secrets about Luca’s family history. During your quest, it becomes clear that you’re not alone as there is a malevolent presence in the house that regularly haunts you.
Unfortunately, you’re not armed with a Bible or a crucifix. Your only defence against the evil in the house is a Polaroid camera, although it’s not until late in the game that you need to use it to protect yourself from the demon that seeks to destroy you. For the rest of the game’s run-time, the camera is used to solve riddles, which you do by taking pictures of certain walls and items to discover clues that otherwise remain hidden.
As I suggested at the beginning, some of these riddles are quite tricky to solve. One particular sequence in an attic room had me stumped for quite a while. On the surface, the puzzle seems easy. You have to place several portraits around the room and as each portrait is shaped differently, your first reaction might be to match them with the similarly shaped outlines that mark the walls. Not so! You actually have to solve a mathematical puzzle, which might be easy for you if you’re good with numbers, but if you’re not, you’ll be wishing like I did that you had studied a little harder at school!
There are several other puzzles, including one that requires you to visit the same place at different periods in time, that might also be head-scratching if you’re unsure how to progress. Thankfully, they aren’t abstract in nature so you will get through them if you use a bit of logic. But as some of these puzzles require certain items to solve them, you may have to backtrack through the house several times if you haven’t already placed them in your inventory.
Moving through the house can be a tense experience as rooms and hallways change over time and strange beings appear without warning to give you a jump scare. Creaking doors, loud bangs, and demonic whispers are just some of the scary sounds that you hear as you move from room to room and there will be times when you will be scared to look behind you just in case a malevolent evil has entered your breathing space. Playing with a headset on will definitely improve your experience though you might want to buckle yourself onto your sofa as the game’s ambient noises may make you jump out of it on a fairly regular basis.
The game’s visuals add to the creepy vibe, with flickering candles giving light to shadowed rooms and detailed environments that contain photos of sinister-looking relatives and ritualistic objects that exude a sense of menace. You aren’t only confined to your grandpa’s house so there is more to explore than his old-fashioned abode. The time-jumping puzzle I mentioned earlier takes place in an eerie old church and there is a moment in the game when you step through a basement door and find yourself transported to a crime scene.
Madison is certainly a game that provides plenty of chills so it largely succeeds as an example of the horror genre. There are a few things that let it down, however. The inventory system is particularly frustrating as you can only carry a small number of things at a time. The same could be said about the Resident Evil games of course but as you move at a much slower pace in Madison, backtracking through the house to retrieve an item from the game’s safe can be very frustrating.
Another frustration is the location of certain items which are occasionally hard to spot. As these are often needed to open a door or to solve a riddle, you may find yourself on the verge of giving up if you come up short after exploring the house’s nooks and crannies.
You shouldn’t let these slight issues put you off the game though. The good far outweighs the bad as the game’s developers have worked hard to create what should be a very scary experience for most people. If you have ever wanted to know what it would be like to live in a haunted house, this game will more than satisfy you. All the necessary ingredients are here, from slamming doors to entities that jump out of the shadows, so you should have a fun time with this one, provided your nerves can take it.
Unfortunately, the game is very short so it won’t take you long to complete it. Well, that’s assuming you don’t spend an age backtracking to find lost items or wondering how to complete one of the game’s fiendish puzzles! I finished the game within around 7 hours and as far as I know, I saw everything there was to see during the run-time.
Regardless of the length, this is still a game worth playing, unless you’re one of the people I mentioned at the beginning that might find this triggering. The game’s ending is quite traumatic so if you’re in a frail mental state before playing this title, I advise you to approach it with caution. For everybody else, the conclusion will definitely disturb you, making for an intense horror experience.
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Verdict - 7/10