Madison PS5 Review – To the gaming industry: Keep bringing more horror games, good, bad, and in-between. The sheer amount of horror titles being churned out as of late hasn’t been rivalled since the days of the PS2, and it’s great to see the genre make such a resurgence. As the first project from Bloodicious Games, Madison serves as a reminder that first tries are not to be taken lightly.
Madison PS5 Review – An Excellent Horror Title One Patch Away From Excellence
You, playing as Luca, awaken in a dark room, only the light from a static-snowy TV breaching the darkness. You find your bearings and escape the pleads and threats of your father banging on the only main door by passing through a gap you find in the closet. From there, you must contend with the house and whatever inhabits it as you grow entangled in a demonic possession ritual over three generations old.
The first two things Madison throws at you are its visuals and 3D sound. Aesthetics approach realism with just a hint of stylization for an extra abnormal effect. The house sits in vast disarray, generating abnormality on its own, but the stylization grants a hyperbolic darkness to everything to heighten each and every visual.
Voice acting primarily features Luca’s fearful performance with all other voice work presented extremely well. Luca does a great job of delivering fear, but it occasionally comes off as forced. His performance never falters when it truly matters, but the random oddities definitely make their presence known.
Audio excels on almost all fronts. You know exactly where each creak or grumble comes from in crystal clear clarity, no matter how far away. Like most media, Madison uses rises in music to strengthen the fear effect, especially when it comes to jump scares.
Deceptively Linear Game
You spend the last majority of your time exploring your grandpa’s house in search of a way out, with the occasional brief excursion into a different realm. The general shape of this house is a square with a handful of paths that branch off in different places. Basically every door starts locked, and you slowly unlock them as you progress the story.
You run back and forth constantly in search of the next story prompt that’s disguised as an exploration tool. This is presented by design for narrative reasons. This means that the escape room format of the game is made easier by solutions that constantly move you forward, even though you run around a non-linear house most of the time.
This works well for the sake of progress just because you take the time to look for clues but the clues never truly lay hidden-with one extreme caveat. About halfway through the game, you need to find an item to progress without any hints or prompts like you receive throughout the rest of the game.
To make it worse, it appears like it sits underneath an object you cannot open at the time. Once I found it after hours of frustration, I felt cheated of my time and what the game tries to do. Considering the unique take on the ending, that feeling of being cheated was felt even harder.
Succeeding With Tropes…
If you know my preference, you’re aware that jump scares aggravate the hell out of me. They always feel cheap and create an unearned response. Madison uses a ton of jump scares, but this game delivers them through context instead of using them as a random happening. When a creature appears, you know it’s there but not exactly when it pops up.
The game plays on your expectations but delays the delivery of those expectations. You know they’re coming, but they appear when they want to. Even after several playthroughs, I knew when things would happen but still felt the tension. The jump scares still work at that point, but they do quickly begin to feel expected. Madison is meant as a singular experience for the best results.
What makes the game even better is how it spreads out a simple game mechanic into different types of situations. Sometimes you navigate jumps through time, other times you defend yourself, and other times you manipulate the light to escape. All of this revolves around interacting with things and taking pictures. It’s so simple in retrospect but delivered so thoughtfully that the mechanics never get old.
…But Failing in Coding
Unfortunately, Madison suffers on PS5 (and PS4) from save corruption. Even with the first update, it’s still an issue. I didn’t do extensive testing on it, but it happened halfway through the game and when I beat it. As such, I didn’t get the Trophy for beating the game or for beating it under a certain time.
For the first time through Madison, you will likely take anywhere between five to ten hours to beat it. If you play before the patch, you might not finish the game in your first run. My second and third runs took me less than two hours. I never worried about losing my save for those runs, but I learned the hard way how to fly through the game.
Having seen the entire game in two separate parts, those parts divided by frustration, I feel cheated out of a special experience. Madison generates a fantastic horror scenario and makes work what other developers fail to work well. Once patched, this issue won’t affect anyone else, but it will forever remain a part of my time with the game.
Mostly Succeeding Where Others Fail
Madison takes a lot of tropes from the horror genre and finds ways to repurpose them to wonderful effect. The journey from beginning to end keeps you thinking while mostly keeping you moving forward at a steady pace.
Only one of its two cardinal sins will remain once patches clean it up, but one very hidden item halfway through the game needs as much direction as the other elements of the game receive. It’s a shame the patch hasn’t arrived at the time of writing, as it would have definitely bumped the score up; even so, Madison is still worth a look.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.
Madison is available now on PS5, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox Series X/S.