MADiSON (PlayStation VR2) Review: Camera Obscura

Our review of MADiSON, developed by Bloodious Games. Available now for PlayStation VR2, PCVR, PS5, PS4, Xbox X/S, Switch, and Windows.

MADiSON (PlayStation VR2) Review: Camera Obscura


A fairly scary VR jump scare machine.


It’s spooky enough, but some wonky mechanics hamper the experience.


Any member of the Hinasaki family.

MADiSON (PlayStation VR2) Review: Camera Obscura


“Argh!” “Help!” “Oh god!”

These are just some of the things I shouted while playing MADiSON VR.

But enough about the controls.

MADiSON (PlayStation VR2) Review: Camera Obscura


MADiSON, the latest in a long and respectable line of haunted house games – Visage being the clear standout – has made the transition to virtual reality, bringing all its (occasionally schlocky) thrills to glorious immersive VR. While undoubtedly scary – the hairs standing on the back of my neck attest to that – its clumsy VR implementation leaves much to be desired.

MADiSON‘s problems start with its physics-based control scheme, which never quite behaves the way you want it to, turning the simple task of, say, opening a door, into an exercise in frustration. It’s a problem which persists throughout – finicky puzzles where you can’t tell whether you’ve made a mistake or the game is being unresponsive; objects which don’t move when you try to push/pull them – and which dulls some of the tension: whenever you’re focusing on getting the game to behave, it’s hard to get too scared.

Bloodious Games has also failed to really think through the transition from two-dimensional screen to VR space. It’s patently obvious this game was built for TVs and computer screens: invisible walls abound, and objects which you think you can interact with wind up being non-interactive décor. Most frustrating is how many puzzles require attention to visual details which, on the PSVR2 screen, are blurry or low-resolution. (At one point, I had to remove my headset just so I could get a better, high-res look at some cryptic symbols on my TV screen.)

Even the game’s use of darkness/black space is poorly implemented: because your eyes are so close to the PSVR2 screen, any time the scene goes “black” (like when the lights go out for a jump scare), you wind up staring at a disorienting wall of gray light.


I say this all at the outset only in order to qualify my main conclusion: when it works, MADiSON is still one of the scariest video games in recent memory.

Much like Visage or P.T. before it, MADiSON sets players roaming through a superficially generic suburban home, one in which some horrible things have already happened, and where the looming threat of more horrible things lurks around every corner.

MADiSON is wonderfully atmospheric, with every flickering candle, bizarre portrait, and ticking clock a reminder that this house doesn’t necessarily want you there. MADiSON knows what makes horror work, and does an admirable job of balancing spooky environments where nothing happens, but you’re freaked out, against seemingly benign environments where something terrifying startles you. Jump scares abound, but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the game continued to, well, surprise me.

I actively loathe MADiSON‘s storyline. Disturbing to the point of unpleasantness, MADiSON deploys one grotesque trope after another, thinking – wrongly – that nastiness is the best way to elicit fear. In its worst moments, as when player-protagonist Luca uncovers past dark events which occurred in the house, MADiSON is nausea-inducing for all the wrong reasons. Its best moments, meanwhile, are those which don’t resort to cheap tricks, instead relying on tension and atmosphere to unsettle you.

Speaking of: I have yet to discuss this game’s main, delightful mechanic: an exorcising Polaroid camera which can be used to ward off – and, in the right circumstances, invite – the various ghosts and goblins haunting the house. The flash of the camera bulb is great for illuminating your surroundings, while the camera is an essential tool for triggering certain spooky events and solving puzzles. Admittedly, this is the same mechanic deployed by the Canadian-made Visage from a few years ago, but it’s a great mechanic and I can’t really fault MADiSON for sticking with a tried-and-true formula. (And anyway, they’re both borrowing from Fatal Frame.)

MADiSON (PlayStation VR2) Review: Camera Obscura


It’s too bad then that none of MADiSON’s other mechanics are all that compelling. An arbitrary inventory limit forces you to run back and forth to the game’s one storage area, artificially inflating the length of the game. Puzzles are interesting, but rarely more complex than tracking down the right doohickey to attach to the right widget. The groan-worthy task of collecting audiotapes to reveal the story – an idea that already ran its course in the original System Shock – rears its ugly head again here. The voice acting is abysmal.

That said, MADiSON is still vastly superior to the array of cheapo horror games which have proliferated across VR platforms. Once you wrap your head around its occasionally dizzying controls and world, MADiSON can be genuinely immersive, in a way that most VR titles only aspire to.

At its absolute best, it’s so terrifying you’ll regret even booting it up in the first place. I can think of no greater testament to a horror experience.

Final score: 8/10 Overlook Hotels.

Visit the official website for MADiSON here.