Madison VR

Madison VR

This editor's biggest pet peeve when it comes to horror is being in rooms that are far too dark, solving lots of puzzles and jumping up and down in fright several times...

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The confession I have to make here right away is pretty simple; I'm a real wimp when it comes to horror. But at the same time, it's a complicated relationship, because I can play some games with these elements without major problems, but when it comes to film, it takes a lot for me to watch a horror film on my own. With company, it's okay. Alone, it kind of doesn't happen at all. So, because VR adds that extra immersion and dimension, I knew beforehand that Madison would be hard to sit through. But since I'm the one on the editorial team whose job it is to review the few PSVR2 titles that appear, there's not much else to do.

It's been almost two years since Madison was released. This is a pure VR version of the same experience. It starts, and continues, just as it did then; you wake up with bloody hands and don't really know who you are, what to do or what is happening. There's a knock on a door, horrible things are shouted, and then the strange escape from a house of the scarier kind begins, to say the least.

Madison VR

The game focuses mainly on puzzles and atmosphere. Regarding the first, the big game mechanic is a polaroid camera that you find early on. It is used extensively and is also, in its moments, something that makes you progress at all. Its introduction goes hand in hand with how most of the puzzles you have to solve work, where a quick flash can reveal more than you hope and where the photo has to be developed by shaking it, which of course becomes a little extra fun in VR. Overall, all these movements and interactions you make with your hands are something that shows why this format is so great when it is just interactive.

Madison VR
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However, two major problems exist; firstly, the game is extremely sensitive about where you are standing and some frustration arises when precision is needed for simple things. I understand wanting to mimic reality rather than objects being teleported to your hands but sometimes it really does feel like you're actually holding something but it's not being picked up. Or it's that a door won't open despite you holding and turning the handle. The other problem is that when you are about to open something, physics is all over the place. A simple drawer can go in and out and you have to stop and gently pull it with one hand to pick up something that is inside. Picking things up and opening doors is thus not as smooth as it should be to avoid getting annoyed at times. Since the game is full of such interactions, it becomes a real disadvantage in the long run.

Picking up simple things in order to move on also becomes a rather tedious moment. There are keys or other things to be picked up, put in a limited space around what you can carry with you, then you have to go to some place and put it in the right place. You could definitely have skipped some steps here, although I also understand that there should be a thrill in searching the environment. The game also messes things up a bit with things that are not to be solved until later, so you kind of see a lot of stuff but have to return when the game decides it's time to solve them. I think that design is pretty bad and here it occurs several times. If I find a code lock or something similar and figure out how to solve it, I want to be able to do it right away and not when the game decides it's time.

Madison VR

So, about that very thing I have so much trouble with. Fear. Yes, this is really scary at times. Sure, you get a little hardened as the game goes on, but it still scares very effectively in several ways. Sound, atmosphere, sudden things out of the corner of your eye... There's no shortage of things to make you jump. If you like this kind of thing, well then it's absolutely nothing to talk about because then Madison fits a little extra for the type who gets a kick out of it. Everything feels closer, more tangible and above all scarier in VR. When the game's very first movement in the corner of my eye appeared, I was ready to switch it off, cringe and admit that my heart can't handle this.

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As far as the VR bit is concerned, there is a lot to be said for it, apart from the flaky control mentioned earlier. The visuals give an incredibly good impression where the light sources in particular should be praised. This is exactly the kind of thing I always scrutinise carefully regarding the visuals and when it comes to VR, I almost think it's extra important. There are some parts that are a bit too dark, and even though Sony's VR headset has sharp lenses and high resolution, there is still a bit of that typical greyishness on objects further away. It's not particularly bad here, though, and when it comes to visuals, this is absolutely top-notch overall. The environments are varied despite the fact that you are largely wandering through a house and its rooms, the details are many and I understood pretty much throughout my playing time why they wanted to bring this game to VR as it really fits well for the format. In addition, there is a soundtrack that enhances the atmosphere terribly effectively and many times is at least as scary as the things you see. There are a lot of creaking and mysterious sounds that create a sometimes fantastic atmosphere.

Madison VR

Sometimes there's a discussion about some kind of objectivity around games and being able to see what qualities it has even if you don't appreciate it yourself. I won't go so far as to say that I think Madison is not for me. Because despite its slightly too strong level of horror, the concept of puzzles and exploring a creepy house are things I appreciate. I've done it, and had a lot of fun, in several other VR games such as Blindspot, The Room and 7th Guest and even the fairly recently played Happy Funland had elements of being a little scary. In this game there is a type of horror with lots of jump scares and pure scare effects that are beyond what I personally find entertaining.

The game relies a lot on that type of thing and I appreciate it more when it's just a slightly creepy atmosphere rather than having to sit on edge while playing. It is therefore difficult for me to feel that it is fun but I can still understand the charm, I just do not find it fun to experience personally. But if I am to ignore the fact that I am a rank coward, there are also certain types of presentation I do not really like. There are some elements that I myself just think take me away from the experience, with shaky scenes, some fumbling regarding the visuals and other things that I just don't really like. It's a bit like the game sometimes doesn't really dare to rely on a more effective horror, but will throw scares a little too much in your face to create a reaction.

Madison VR

I never played the original but it felt pretty nice to still get to try this in VR. It's a format I personally want to work well and provide fantastically immersive experiences. There are several moments when I explored and solved puzzles that I really, really like the atmosphere that Madison provides. It often creeps up close, under the skin and as mentioned, had me on the edge of my seat. There are some frustrating mechanics and the game follows the same path through many rooms, but when you get to explore and solve puzzles in the way I enjoy, it's entertaining. To feel that some sort of comparison between the original and this VR version would be fair, I watched parts of a playthrough of the original after playing it in VR. This way I could compare certain sequences and it's fascinating to see how well they managed to transform it and how well many sequences actually work in virtual reality.

It's definitely a game for those who appreciate this type of horror more than I do, and in the end I'm left wondering about the final judgement. I think the VR format is utilised very well, the visuals and atmosphere are brilliant and the horror is effectively done. But at the same time, it is dragged down by gameplay frustrating things and some design around puzzles that do not work in a satisfactory way.

06 Gamereactor UK
6 / 10
Visually stunning, great sound design, extra creepy in VR
Integrating with objects works poorly, sometimes confusing and poor puzzle design
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Conny Andersson

This editor's biggest pet peeve when it comes to horror is being in rooms that are far too dark, solving lots of puzzles and jumping up and down in fright several times...

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