Unravel the gruesome primary mystery of Madison, which has a complex series of riddles to solve and enough of jolting jump scares to startle you with, is a little like trying to escape an escape room while also attempting to keep your bowels from being evacuated. With constantly intriguing results, Madison adds the creative use of a Polaroid camera for puzzle-solving and exploration on top of Hideo Kojima’s excellent 2014 Silent Hill teaser demo.
P.T. Although Madison’s haunted home may not be as skillfully designed as the winding, psychological horror halls of Kojima’s much-admired notion, it is unquestionably terrifying enough to be located someplace in the same area.
Madison Game Play
In Madison, you take on the role of Luca, a young man who awakens bloodied and troubled in his house with his family. Luca’s only hope of escaping is to solve a series of progressively difficult puzzles and carry out the painful steps of a demonic ritual in a physically unstable farmstead that regularly throws him off balance.
Since I could never be certain if the basement I was going to would suddenly transform into the horrible hallucination of a murder scene, or would only be a cellar that was spooky for no reason, I found it continually fascinating to investigate. Well, the usual spooky basement explanations.
With just a Polaroid camera at his disposal, Luca’s situation absolutely favours escape over combat. The only thing Luca has to contend with is the developing awareness that there are more than a few unsettling facts hidden deep inside the roots of his family tree, despite the occasional appearance of otherworldly baddies.
I was willing to put up with Jacob Judge’s occasionally petulant portrayal of Luca’s panic attacks because they at least felt more in tune with each horrifying discovery than the curiously indifferent portrayals of some other horror game leads (looking at you, Resident Evil Village’s Ethan Winters). Even though the increasingly predictable events of Madison’s dying hours didn’t have as many unexpected turns as the twisting hallways of its location, I was drawn into Luca’s trip all the way to its grim finish.
Madison’s riddles may appear simple at first, such as finding triangular-shaped keys to suit triangular-shaped locks, but they soon develop into increasingly difficult problems that need extensive lateral thinking. One especially systematic technique is needed to navigate a maze of art displays in the shadowy recesses of a spooky cathedral, where you must utilise the mystical abilities of the camera to blink back and forth between three different time periods.
It seldom uses the same kind of challenge again, and most of the time each brainteaser it throws at you succeeds in causing some head scratching but never hair pulling. It was always satisfying to shake a recently taken picture and watch a hidden message slowly emerge, usually covered in blood. The Polaroid camera can sometimes be used to disclose puzzle clues in the environment that are normally concealed to the human eye.
But the camera also captures plenty of terrifying “Argh!” moments, so it doesn’t only offer rewarding “A-ha!” moments. I regularly found myself in completely dark spaces, with the camera’s flash being my only method to momentarily illuminate my surrounds in order to move forward. I hesitated every time my finger brushed the shutter release of the camera, keeping my anxiety levels up as I wondered if a quick snap would reveal a bland dead end or a dead-eyed demon.
Since there are no other human characters for Luca to connect with, a lot of Madison’s story is given via audio recordings found on cassette tapes. The Polaroid camera isn’t the only piece of antiquated technology at his disposal. Since Madison’s surroundings are so bizarre.
I was unable to determine whether Luca’s peculiar method of listening to cassette tapes holding them in his hand while the spindles spun was a deliberate artistic choice or merely the result of a graphical error that made the tape player invisible. Nevertheless, I delighted in the unsettling details that were drip-fed through each recording.
My pulse rate had enough abrupt rises as a result of [Madison] that my smartwatch wondered whether I had just begun working out. One thing I can say with certainty is that Madison’s ambient audio design is superb, especially when heard via headphones. I kept glancing behind me as I made timid steps inside this ominous home because of the tense symphony of distorted TV news reports flickering on and off, demonic whispering, and rusted door hinge squeaks.
Although the music itself is sparse, its abrupt orchestral stabs are employed to stunningly effective effect to enhance each jump scare. In Madison, there are a lot of jump scares, and they get a lot more frequent near the conclusion, but they’re always done in such inventive fresh ways that I never got used to them.
My pulse rate experienced enough rapid spikes as a result of it to cause my wristwatch to worry whether I had suddenly begun working out. It drew inspiration from everything from Layers of Fear to the ominous fairytale visuals of The Babadook.
Hallway to Hell
While Madison routinely kept me in deliberately uncomfortable environmental loops, it also periodically had me go back the way I came, in order to transport stuff back and forth as a result of the excessively onerous inventory management. Since his camera, notepad, and collection of images can never be thrown away, Luca may only carry a maximum of eight objects at once. All other goods must be kept in a fixed storage container à la Resident Evil.
In survival horror games, having to choose between carrying additional medkits and gun ammo might help to maintain suspense and danger, but in this game, it just seemed like an arbitrary element that made completing several tasks more difficult than it needed to be. Since Luca’s running pace is quite slow, having to slowly go backwards from one end of the house to the other because you chose to carry the crowbar when you truly required the bolt cutters merely adds unnecessary padding to the overall impression of progress.
Similar to how many things in your environment seem to move about when you turn your back on them, to frequently alarming effect, Madison also presents important new elements in this way, making them frequently susceptible to being missed. As a result, I frequently found myself completely stumped for extended periods of time.
I tried and tried again all the items in my inventory on a puzzle and wandered around taking pictures of everything in sight in an attempt to find some hidden clues, but it eventually turned out that all I needed was a tiny object that was sitting on a door sill somewhere that was absent the first dozen or so times I walked past it.
That’s simply bothersome, not creepy. Throughout my six-hour stay at Madison’s mansion, I was mostly completely absorbed, but I can’t help but think that removing the inventory management and activity-halting pixel-hunts may have cut the game’s duration by an hour or two and increased the intensity.
What would you do if your hands were covered in blood and you were confined in a pitch-black room? Play as Luca and undergo the brutal torment of MADiSON, a demon who has made him perform a bloody ritual that was began decades before. Will you be able to complete this evil ritual?
First-person psychological horror title MADiSON has frightening gameplay and a gripping, unnerving story. In MADiSON, every character has a terrible backstory that melds with the main plot. Keep an eye on your every move to avoid drawing unwanted attention. It won’t be just you. To endure this torment or to go deeper, use the instant camera.
You painstakingly develop the pictures you capture while overcoming your dread of finding out the truth. To survive the entities, explore everything, collect components, and interact with them. The game’s random event activation and ever-changing challenges guarantee a heightened degree of unpredictability, replayability, and dread.
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- July 14, 2022