The small Italian team Real Game Machine engages with a survival horror strongly inspired by the great classics, from Outlast to Amnesia
A bit like in the stories that the genre usually tells, to come out “alive” from the development of a survival horror it is an enterprise of no small importance. The type of video games in question is in fact among the most popular ever by the industry, a receptacle of macabre imaginations and high voltage languages which today, at the dawn of the new twenties, shows less and less creative oscillations, reaching a handful of standards from which the new levers of programmers seem to struggle to detach themselves even in a small part.
One of the most consolidated trends is that of subjective horror-adventure, which – curious to say – over the course of this month will be enriched by two unpublished productions, both belonging to the independent circuit. By the end of May we will find out what it is made of Those Who Remain, of which you can already find a preview on our pages, while today we are talking about Madness: Dear Father, the first work of the Neapolitan team Real Game Machine, available from April 30 on Steam with a lot of support for HTC Vive (to play in Virtual Reality, however, you need to buy a dedicated DLC, which we will not discuss here).
The university of horrors
Marcus Pitt’s life is about to change forever. After receiving an alarming email to say the least from the Frederick Fidelity University, the structure where both his parents serve, the boy leaves the house to head immediately towards the university. Arriving in the middle of the night near the building, the young man enters inside stealthily, not without the difficulties due to the fact that the main entrance is practically blocked and more generally, all around, there is an unpleasant feeling that it has happened something terrible. It will not take him too long to understand that he has slipped into a bad business, an authentic hell on earth from which to escape will be anything but simple.
Madness: Dear Father is the classic game in which the protagonist, an ordinary man, finds himself unwillingly to cross the threshold of a declaredly unhealthy, dangerous and hostile environment, inhabited by a handful of repulsive and brutally violent creatures. The references to titles like Amnesia and Outlast are evident not only by virtue of a substantial closeness to atmospheres, gloomy and corrupt as that horrifying tradition would like to impose, but also in terms of the construction of the gameplay, potpourri of many well-known mechanics to the general public.
To move from one wing of the university to another, it is necessary to explore the rooms and corridors that make up each section, while solving some small – and poorly interactive – environmental puzzle: press buttons, activate power generators, recompose the combination of some locks. In parallel, there will be a few moments when the player will have one of the aforementioned monsters on his heels: all enemies with superhuman strength and very sensitive to the movements of our hero, moved for the sole purpose of capturing the good Marcus and finally feasting on his flesh.
With these premises it is correct to expect from Follia: Dear Father an experience with deliberately slow rhythms, which asks those who play to pay attention to the details that surround them – and, of course, to endure a fair amount of backtracking – as well as, at the same time, to always act with a certain caution to get the better of the opponent, to be avoided instead of facing head on. Just think that the only weapon in possession of the player, a common crowbar, can serve at most to parry the assaults of the abominable persecutors, but never to get rid of them definitively.
No way out
It must be said that Madness: Dear Father, pad (or mouse / keyboard) in hand, transmits at least a certain, palpable devotion to gender in which the authors – only two people, it is good to specify it – have chosen to go into it. Unfortunately, however, the title also presents various problems, not only limited to the evident budget poverty underlying the project, reflected in a technical sector that is too crude even for an indie product. The game system above all is immediately angular, and more specifically, everything related to it stealth, fundamental pillar of the playful offer. The adventure takes charge of a shot whose darkness is often one step away from being integral: a darkness that the player can partially split by using, at his discretion, either an old “zippo” or a common electric battery, aware of the fact that the light inevitably attracts the rival.
The lighter illuminates the area surrounding the character for a potentially infinite duration, but in a very feeble way, and more it goes out as soon as Marcus starts running; on the other hand, the torch illuminates even in the distance, despite consuming a disproportionate amount of batteries, to be constantly searched among the folds of the setting and always to be recharged by hand, with a frankly improbable frequency.
The idea of pushing the user to manage the two tools strategically is certainly good, but the cumbersome of the management itself – made such by the request to constantly open and close the inventory – prevents the dynamics from being satisfactory. Also because the monstrous sentinels, in addition to having a remarkably wide range of action, immediately prove to be very trained to identify ours even when – theoretically- it should be safe, well hidden in the shadows: an element that makes the challenge highly unbalanced in numerous situations.
The other major flaw in Madness: Dear Father is about how the game experience decides to build tension. A way that, in no uncertain terms, is never interesting, as it is entirely based on the (ab) use of the jump scare. Decaying faces that pop up suddenly in the foreground and deafening and sudden shouts are the only means used to induce the proverbial “jump on the chair”, devices so repeated that they get bored very quickly.
It’s a problem that pairs with a really inconsistent plot, free of twists and, more generally, of a sufficiently solid screenplay (the narrative in fact does not undergo evolution, resulting all of a sudden, after about four hours of hide and seek, in a hasty end). In the absence of great resources, it would certainly have helped to focus on a more complex writing; perhaps careful to propose several parts in dialogue, considering that the production, unexpectedly, boasts a dubbing in Italian of a more than appreciable level – unfortunately little exploited, for all the above reasons.
Madness Dear Father
PC Analyzed VersionSorry not to be able to talk about Madness: Dear Father in more flattering terms. Unfortunately, Real Game Machine’s survival horror suffers from many problems that, added to a poor overall originality, give life to a product very distant from the quality of its most remembered congeners. In short, some easy scare and a fair amount of blood and offal on the screen are not enough to recommend a title that has little to offer even the most hardcore fans of a formula that perhaps, at this point, deserves some kind of revision.