At this point, it should be evident that I am more than happy to explore a more niche side of the already niche centric Japanese game industry, so it seems like it was only a matter of time before I delved into the super specific subgenre of Japanese horror games developed in consumer level RPG creation engines. A genre I planned on exploring with the latest version of Corpse Party, but the game has gone through many permutations and it turns out that the PC version that I purchased is inferior to the recent 3DS release, who’d have thought? So instead I’m reviewing Mad Father.
Mad Father Review
The game centers around Aya, a young girl whose luxurious home is overrun with various monsters that serve as the manifestation of a curse placed on her father. A scientist who certainly fits the moniker the title gives him, and whose true nature is revealed as Aya attempts to rescue him by delving into the recesses of her own home, encountering all sorts of horrors along the way.
This gives way to a fairly short and simple story that thankfully shines in its execution and firm understanding of how to utilize horror elements while maintaining a veneer of mystery along the way as Aya regularly encounters strange new undead creatures along with a mysterious man by the name of Ogre along a journey that she, bravely undergoes. With just enough backstory for the father to make his actions seem justified to an extent, and also make him look like a truly deplorable person who deserves to be gravely punished for his misdeeds.
A lot of this is done through observation and exploration as Aya goes through the almost absurdly large confines of her home and interacts with creatures whose exact origin or story is never directly explained, further leading to the sense of uncertainty or creepiness they evoke. Such as the undead boy who Aya gives eyes to or the conjoined fetus she finds in some back room. It does become a stretch at some points, like when exploring the caverns filled with murderous dolls or encountering the plants with a deadly wail, but the story remains effective up to the very end, of which there are multiple permutations.
Based on decisions made when confronting Aya’s ghostly and busty mother, her fate will be determined, and she will either perish in one of two awful ways or live on in what is considered the True ending by the game, but the worst ending by me personally. An incredibly upsetting conclusion that implies that things are worse than before, and that even more innocent people will be harmed as time goes on. This all serves as a dark twist to what initially appears to be a fairly happy conclusion for the surviving characters, and is made substantially worse if the player goes to the extra effort of finding all 21 hidden gems in the game thanks to an extra scene.
A task that was certainly not easy, and actually required me to use a walkthrough, as did some other parts of the game. While not too obtuse, Mad Father does feature many confusing obstacles that Aya must overcome to progress, and figuring out the solution is not always the most obvious thing, and can lead to a lot of backtracking in order to figure out just what the game wants the player to do. With the first stumbling block I encountered being when Aya needs to set an amalgamation of undead bodies ablaze by using some oil and a lighter, as she supposedly was inspired to do based on a book about a girl with flame powers that the player can stumble across.
The solutions to all of these are pretty simple once it is pointed out, and progression always seems possible given how few options the player ultimately has to solve problems. The exception to this being a series of sections that test the player’s precision, speed, and reflexes, which I would have never really expected in a game like this.
These manifest in a few scripted quick time events where the player must input a series of directions to prevent Aya from perishing, and two instances where Aya must run away from a deadly force and trap it away. With the evasion sequences being given a very small window of error for a game like this, to the point where I would not be surprised if some players legitimately could not get past them. Combined they took me over 30 minutes to overcome, when neither takes about a minute to complete properly. I understand the thematic purpose of these scenes as, despite wielding a baby chainsaw, Aya is still a young girl, but that did not prevent them from being obnoxious.
It’s also worth noting that these scenes were in no way hindered by the character’s movement capabilities, as Aya realizes how bad things have gotten and dashes through danger while also being able to move diagonally with more ease than I would expect from a game like this. Neither of those things are really necessary, but they do make the backtracking and general exploration of the sizable mansion the game takes place in before things shift to the somewhat confusingly laid out and perplexingly elaborate catacombs beneath it.
All of this is presented with detailed sprite work that, while firmly set in maintaining a pixel art style customary for games made in RPG engines, has a fair amount of detail on display and captures a focused look while some assets only occasionally look like they were based on a premade tileset. Namely the catacombs because it’s hard to make brownish caves and brick walls look compelling. Regardless, the game’s general presentation is effective at conveying its story and presenting its setting in an honest yet never overly morbid way. Though if there was aspect of the presentation I did not care for it was the sound effects, which are far louder than they should be, and cannot be turned down. Meaning that Aya’s pitter patter as she walks across the floor and the sound of her scream wound up being far more annoying than they should be.
As a whole, I found Mad Father to be an enjoyable and interesting little horror fueled game that manages to do what it wants to effectively and punctually, while occasionally being a bit confusing with its puzzles or unforgiving with a few set pieces that demand far more precision than games of this sort usually require. Still, it’s mostly captivating narrative and evident understanding and appreciation for horror make up for whatever shortcomings the game may have, and I can easily warrant a recommendation for it.