Play enough horror games and you’ll eventually see it all. The jump scares will be obvious, the storylines will be predictable, and you’ll start to think you’ll never be scared again. Then MADiSON comes along and will offer up a gameplay experience and story that is horrific, disturbing, and scary on a level that rivals some of the greats.
In MADiSON, players take on the role of Luca. With blood on your hands, no memory of what has happened, and your father banging on your door, you quickly flee from the main house and into an adjoining granny flat. After a while, the story begins to peel back its hideous layers and you learn that an evil entity is stalking the halls, looking for a way to revive itself.
This is just the top layer of the story, a story that reaches deep into the bowels of disgusting things and taps into a background lore that rivals the best true crime podcast. There’s a murderer who dismembered her family, a creepy nursery rhyme book, and other unsettling elements. So while you’re slinking around the dark halls, getting scared by your own shadow or long, dark hallways, you’re also thinking about the disturbing mythology of the world.
And that’s what makes MADiSON so great. Some horror games fail to weave mythos into their monsters and world. It feels like there is a layer of realism to MADiSON as the writer has built up this world.
Because the narrative groundwork is so well done, the gameplay that is constructed upon it echoes the horror. Much like Fatal Frame, the player has a camera that is used to create effect. This Polaroid is used to take photos of elements and objects, an important part of solving the game’s puzzles. It has another useful horror device: the camera flash. Much like in the movie Candyman, you will want to illuminate dark corners in order to see what you need to collect or just navigate a hallway. But do you really want to see what the flash reveals?
MADiSON also has jump scares, but they’re never poorly implemented or feel cheap. The jump scares are earned. And much like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the ambient noise of MADiSON helps build up an impending sense of doom and dread.
Out of all the horror games released this year, MADiSON struck a chord with us. It left its mark, wriggled its horrific story into our brain, and sat there festering as we thought about it all year round. If you want to know more, I wrote several more glowing words about the terrifying experience in my MADiSON review. But know this: it was so good that it secured the Shacknews Best Horror Game of 2022 award.
Check out our Year of the Games: 2022 article to see all of the other Shacknews Awards that have been announced so far.
Sam Chandler posted a new article, Shacknews Best Horror Game of 2022 - MADiSON