Madison VR Preview – A Stumble in the Dark

Madison VR Preview

The suffocating atmosphere that resides in horror games puts you in a constant state of anxiousness as you question every step. While terrifying on the flat screen, this is amplified when transported to the virtual realm. The psychological horror, Madison, was released in 2022 and make its way to the PlayStation VR2 later this year. I was given the opportunity to step into the daunting house to discover the secrets that lie within. Will the transition to virtual reality elevate the experience, or will it fall short of delivering a chill?

You play as a Luca, a young man who has no memory of the horrific events that have recently occurred. As you progress through the sinister corridors of the mansion, you’ll discover snippets of information about the history of the family and the titular character, Madison. The game never takes you out of the action to deliver story elements, instead you learn from notes and audio files dotted around. While the story did lack clear direction in the opening moments, it was intriguing enough for me to want to learn more.

Dastardly Design

The ambiance is intoxicating and this is achieved through its stellar sound design and creepy setpieces. It definitely places you in a state of unease as the environment alters in the blink of an eye. A key tool throughout the short demo was the camera. You will use this to solve puzzles and progress further into the house. It’s a clever way to alter the perception of reality. An area may look a certain way but taking a quick snap might show something sinister.

Puzzles are at the forefront of the gameplay and often include environmental clues to help you progress. There were plenty of times when I encountered an obvious puzzle but could not solve it at that moment in time. This leads to backtracking through the house when you have the correct information to progress down a different path. This can lead to not knowing what to do next, however, due to the small areas, you shouldn’t get stuck for too long.

Virtual reality excels when you are able to interact with the world and Madison VR does include elements of this, however, its implementation is poor. Grabbing and manipulating items is awkward which stifles the experience. If you notice something is on the floor, you’ll have to either physically go to the ground or press crouch to then grab it. Including a quick pick-up option would vastly improve this aspect and allow you to immerse yourself in the world rather than fight to collect or move an item.

Careful When You Move

While the environment is packed with character, offering clues about what occurred, there are issues with the exploration of these locations. There is a constant stutter which is both offputting and potentially nauseating. It’s extremely disappointing as you have to struggle past this to enjoy the well-thought-out puzzles. In addition, other VR elements also need work. At one point, I had to descend into a well by climbing down broken ladders. I missed a rung and just floated mid-air which removed the notion of danger. There are definitely elements that need fixing before launch but there are creative ideas under the issues.

The Madison VR demo is full of intrigue. The story is demented and I’m interested to see if it can live up to its promising premise. I enjoyed the puzzles and the PT-influenced segments which adds a foreboding atmosphere to proceedings. Unfortunately, the VR elements are what really need working on before launch. Interacting with objects is frustrating and the stuttering breaks the immersion. As it stands, the game has potential but Bloodious Games has a lot to do to ensure this a smooth and scary experience when it launches later this month.

*** A preview code was provided by the publisher ***

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