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 mutilation. In MADiSON, players solve various puzzles to uncover clues about a mysterious serial killer, a demon possessing a children’s book, and Luca’s dead family. Along the way, they watch Luca get tormented mentally and physically by malicious entities who either want to inhabit the living realm using his body or kill Luca.
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Veteran players familiar with common horror tropes may initially view MADiSON as an Outlast or P.T. clone. While the game does seem to take inspiration from those games, it also distinguishes itself with its Polaroid camera mechanic. MADiSON requires players to snap photos of various objects to progress through the puzzles, and the camera can also be used to light up dark areas and fend off demons.
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MADiSON uses this mechanic well to create subtle horror. In one segment, Luca walks down a hallway to his grandparents’ living room after surviving a terrifying encounter. A statue previously located at the end of this hallway is suddenly shrouded in darkness and red lighting, and it looks… off. By snapping a picture and waving it about to clear it, players see that the image is bloodied and burnt – the telltale sign of the game’s main antagonist. Without even displaying an image on the photo, MADiSON fills the player with dread simply by implying danger is ahead.
Bloodious Games creates a tension that is palpable from beginning to end, primarily due to the phenomenal sound design. Creaking wood, slamming doors, and unnerving voices keep the player on edge. Picture frames clatter to the ground unexpectedly and shadows move suddenly in Luca’s peripheral vision. Even though some cues get repetitive, they never fail to unsettle the player. There’s…