MADiSON (PS5) review: Demonic possession and mass murder

by MaddOx
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I love a good horror game, not necessarily because I want to be scared, but because I enjoy the tension they create, not knowing what is lurking around the next corner. Plus they’re often filled with puzzles that can sometimes really test you and cause you to think out of the box, and BLOODIOUS Games’ psychological horror game MADiSON ticks those boxes.

Plot

Recently released on PlayStation 5, MADiSON revolves around a young boy named Luca, who, trapped in his room with his father banging down the door is looking for a way to escape the house. You quickly make your way through the cavities of the walls in this temporary prison and make your way into your grandfather’s old home which neighbours your own. Soon enough, trying to escape becomes a secondary objective as you start to unravel the mysteries of what is actually going on. A tale of demonic possession and mass murder.

The way that the story is told throughout MADiSON is a combination of you exploring to discover information, reading letters and newspaper cuttings that you find lying around or locked away, along with cassette tapes you find that help tell the tale of what is going on. It pieces it all together well and encourages you to explore every inch of your surroundings, sometimes putting in details that have no relevance whatsoever to throw you off the scent. Like early on you’ll find a combination lock on a small cupboard, the lock itself has numerous combinations etched into its metal body, and God knows how long I wasted trying them all to no avail.

But the story does become somewhat confusing, as we go from trying to escape and learning we may be possessed by a demon, to then willingly carrying out the actions that were started by the previously possessed Madison, despite refusing to believe we are possessed. We won’t spoil what that may be for you though, but it’s not the thoughts a normal teenage boy should be having. It’s just a case of whether our intentions change because we are possessed and we don’t realise, or whether he heeds the advice of the words of a priest on one of the early cassettes you find that tell you to give the demon what it wants to make it go away.

MADiSON gameplay showing Luca holding a camera at a well in the basement

Gameplay

A large part of the gameplay involves the use of a camera that you received as a present, a camera that you later discover belonged to a girl called Madison. Though this is no normal camera. This Polaroid can unveil things not seen by the human eye and can cause your environment to change around you. Think of it like the Polaroid in Project Zero, except it’s not so much a weapon that kills demons, but helps to reveal the secrets they hide.

MADiSON doesn’t overly rely on the camera’s use, but it does come into play at key points of the game to help you progress, in fact, if you’re stuck and unsure where to go, taking photos can sometimes help guide you, It also comes in handy to take photos of useful information to recall later for solving puzzles, as well as taking photos of collectables for those trophy hunters out there, so be sure to keep your eyes out for those. A special feature on the PS5 too is that it uses the haptic feedback on the triggers of the controller when getting your camera out, just to enhance the level of immersion in the game.

For the remaining parts of MADiSON, you spend a lot of time collecting things to use to solve puzzles, this involves a lot of back and forth around the house which can become quite tedious. Some parts aren’t all that obvious either and may take a helping hand from Google (not afraid to admit I got stumped) like in a particular part where you put old slides into a projector, which will eventually begin cycling through them automatically. As I wasn’t that close to the images, I didn’t realise there was an item showing up in the middle that you need to snap with the camera in order to solve a puzzle in your grandparent’s old room.

What I did like though is that BLOODIOUS Games weren’t afraid to challenge the player with their puzzles, and throw in curve balls (those damn combinations codes again). It wasn’t a case of going “oh a puzzle, bish, bash, bosh, and done”, you did have to work to complete them and they involved some effort or time to solve.

The core issue I had with the gameplay, was with saving the game. Twice I had quit the game to take a break, and on both occasions, it set me back further than where I left the game. When you reach key points, you’ll notice a little polaroid picture appear in the bottom right of the screen, this is the game autosaving, and if you haven’t seen one for a while, progress until the next before you quit to save you losing progress. It’s a shame because you’d think you would simply be able to quit and save, but alas, not.

MADiSON ritual room

Graphics and Sound

The one thing that really stood out for me in MADiSON was the attention to detail the developers have put into this game. I have banged on about it twice now, but those combinations etched on that damn combination lock were such a clever move to make. Not just that though, you find all sorts of information drawn on walls which may or may not be relevant to your investigations, and you only realise that they are once you need them. Hence why taking photos of information can come in incredibly handy at later points in the game.

Even when you see a dark corner of a room, a quick flash of your camera can unveil details that could’ve been forgotten about. But no, every inch of MADiSON has been crafted to the highest standard. And when you combine it with the game’s audio of the creaks and clangs you get with an old house, it really sets the atmosphere. The game always feels incredibly tense, as you question if that sound was you, the house or….something else. Sure, there were a few moments that the game tries to offer up a jump scare, but they’re few and far between.

What really creates the atmosphere in this game is how well it has been constructed both audio-wise and visually. It’s possibly the most stunning game I’ve played all year.

MADiSON gameplay exploring the abandoned Church

Overall thoughts of MADiSON

I’m not quite sure if MADiSON is the best horror game I’ve ever played, but it comes close to that top spot and is definitely the best horror game I’ve played this year. It seems to get everything right in almost every way, it sets the environment perfectly, doesn’t rely too heavily on jump scares and well, it looks and feels like a title you’d expect there to be more hype around.

The only downside really is that the story did become a little confusing as you play through it, and because of how many curve balls you find to take you off the trail, you spend a lot of time wandering around aimlessly. It’s important to pay attention to those little details though because they can be overlooked, and like with the projector image puzzle, if I hadn’t asked for help, I don’t know how long I’d have been lost. Oh and let’s not mention that saving issue too.

Still, I’d happily play MADiSON over and over again, because it was that enjoyable. I found it both challenging and rewarding, and the way the story is told does really draw you in until you get confused anyway, but maybe that was the plan all along. If you’re a horror game buff like me, MADiSON is well and truly worth a playthrough. You won’t regret it! Unless you get possessed by the same demon and slaughter innocents, then maybe you will. But what are the odds of that happening? Right!?!?


MADiSON is developed by BLOODIOUS Games and co-published by BLOODIOUS Games and Perpetual Europe. It is available to buy and play now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, and PC. Feel free to check out more of our game reviews by clicking HERE.

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