Madison VR Review – Control Crippled Creeps

Madison VR Review

Madison VR from Bloodious Games is the gaming direction VR enthusiasts have long championed for but rarely get. Most VR versions of flat games lay in the domain of modders. It is very rare for the studio to develop a virtual version of their flat game. So when Bloodious Games announced they were doing the VR version of Madison, VR gamers rejoiced.

Well, Madison VR is out, so how well did the transition from flat to VR go? Grab your Polaroid camera and let’s find out.

The original game came out July 2022 and the Science of Scare gave it the award as the “Scariest Game Of All Times”. That’s marketing gold. Fortunately for the game, when Madison scares, it really delivers the scares. No mean feat for a flat game, but if VR has proven one thing, when it comes to horror games, playing them in VR takes the scares to the next level.

Madison VR has been released on PC and PSVR 2. For the PSVR 2 version, Bloodious Games wisely tooled the game to run at a native 90 FPS and not at 60 FPS, reprojected to 120 FPS. This gives the game a very clean and sharp presentation. Most importantly, there is no ghosting. That sounds weird for a horror game, but the only ghosts in a VR Horror game should be those of a supernatural, not a technical nature.

Demons and Ghosts! Oh My!

Madison VR has ghosts, or demons, of the supernatural. Their presence is ambiguous though because the game is not just horror but psychological horror. In Madison VR, you play as Lucas from a family with a troubled history of mental illness and murder. You start the game in a darkened room with bloody hands and someone pounding at the door.

Turns out that someone is your father, and he blames you for something terrible. Something that harkens back to the mass murders that your grandmother is accused of. So right from the get go, you are in doubt about the sanity of Luca, the character you play. Does he suffer from the same affliction as his grandmother? This adds tension to everything you do and experience.

Darkness is a big part of Madison. The game takes place in your home and your goal is to escape. This means exploration and going into poorly lit rooms, corridors and crawl ways. In such circumstances, a flashlight, lantern, candle, cell phone, or lighter is available for navigation.

Madison gives a unique solution to light the way, which is the game’s defining gameplay mechanic, the flash and pictures of a Polaroid camera. The flash serves two purposes: it lights dark areas and also triggers events to happen. And it uses both to excellent effect to generate scares. Most of them jump scares. Some believe them to be the cheapest way to generate scares.

Madison VR Jump Scares

There is a definite validity to such a view as most jump scares are for shock value. They are in your face and don’t have any lasting impact on the story. On the flip side, they are a proven method to build tension. The best jump scares are those that happen at the edge of your vision. A fleeting glimpse of something evil, which you are not sure what it is, stays with you.

Madison VR employs a mixture of the two and those quick flash moments are definitely the ones that unsettle the player more. One of my favorite ones is someone, or something, flits across the screen too fast for you to make out. Beyond the impression, it is not human. Very scary.

Another area which Madison excels is in the 3D audio. As always, sound is so important in horror games, especially in interior spaces such as the house you want to escape from. Distant creaks, the rain pattering on windows, the wind howling outside, and a telephone ringing in another room are all conveyed perfectly. They increase in volume and location the closer you get to them, as they would in real life.

The game creates a wonderful eerie atmosphere on the sonic and graphical fronts. So it’s more than a shame, Madison VR stumbles on the control and inventory front. Let’s deal with the controls first. While clumsy and awkward, you can at least adapt to them. Object interaction is unnecessarily clunky. Opening doors and drawers are too finicky, but you learn to deal with them. Going down a ladder is too obtuse. Rather than grab the first rung, as in most other VR games, you have to interact with a position in front of the ladder.

Control Clunkiness

Where Madison VR really stumbles is with the inventory system. When you pick up an object, you must place it in your backpack. Until you place the object in your backpack, you cannot move. This means an immersion breaking mechanic of constantly calling up the inventory screen. Most frustrating, especially when the object in question is to be used in the same room.

There are two other inventory design decisions that annoy. The first is you can only carry ten items. A rather small number. So if you are at the limit, then you must go to one of the safes and store excess inventory there. The other more irritating inventory mechanic is how you store items. They scroll in front of your field of view horizontally, like bullets in a gun cylinder. To select an object, it must be directly in front of you. As often happens, the object you want is either half way around or, even worse, just off screen so you have rotate through all the items to get to the one you need.

These two game mechanics not only break the immersion. They also let some of the dread built up leak out.

On the PSVR 2 platform, Madison VR makes good use of the tech available. Madison VR maximizes the use of the tech on the PSVR 2 platform. The HDR OLED screens deliver an image that seems almost photo-realistic. Plus those blacks! Oh my, those dark and dimly lit areas of the game are inky black.

Heavy Headset Haptics

The game also makes good use of the haptics. Of special note is how Madison VR uses the headset haptics. Sometimes your character is under extreme mental duress. So the game punctuates those moments beautifully by sending strong pulses to your head. It really works to unnerve you.

Many people claim that Madison VR is the scariest horror game ever. Such a claim, scientifically backed or not, still depends on you. As a veteran of many a horror game, it is certainly in the discussion. Smooth controls and an improved inventory system would make Madison VR a definite contender for the title of the scariest horror game ever.

*****PSVR 2 Code provided by publisher*****

The Good

  • Graphically & sonically tuned to scare
  • Interesting story
  • When it’s scary, it’s really scary

The Bad

  • Clunky inventory system
  • Actions for grabbing and opening are picky