“Get ready for blood, gore and insanity”, the Steam store page exclaims. It’s no exaggeration — in Mad Father, expect all three in abundance. Originally released as freeware in 2012 by developers Sen, the Steam version of the cult horror adventure game has a number of new features, including redrawn art and new content.

Mad Father menu screen

Story

You play as young Aya. It’s tough being Aya; her mother (Monika) has passed away and her father (Alfred) spends most of his time in the basement lab, working on his research. What kind of research? Nothing good, judging by the sounds coming from the lab.

A cry comes from the basement and Aya rushes out to help her father. Unfortunately for poor Aya, it seems that all hell has broken loose in the house. The halls are littered with frightening creatures. Soon, we learn that they’re the corpses of Alfred’s test subjects, come back to wreak their revenge upon him.

It’s up to you, Aya, to save your father. But is he worth saving?

Through sepia-tinted flashbacks (used frequently in Mad Father), you also discover that Alfred was having an affair with his assistant. Monika finds out and is understandably devastated. For context, here’s a picture of mom.

Mad Father picture of mother
An interesting choice of picture for a child’s room…

 

It’s certainly a compelling set up — a mad scientist, an innocent child, a house full of vengeful undead. It’s a game that pulls you in very effectively, and keeps you there, fascinated, throughout.

Graphics

Although the pixel-art backgrounds have a classic RPG Maker feel to them (it is an RPG Maker game, after all), they’re surprisingly effective at setting a dark and terrifying tone. The anime style character art is also high quality and suitably disturbing in places.

Eyeless zombie in Mad Father

The overall look is downright creepy, with bodies in bloody bathtubs, zombies that move like something out of The Ring, leering figures behind you in the dark… I could go on. Suffice to say, the techniques used to build the atmosphere may not be particularly original, but they’re very well executed. I was on edge throughout Mad Father, never knowing what was going to happen next. That’s quite an achievement for a 2D pixel art game.

Audio

You’re greeted with a wistful and contemplative piano tune upon loading the game. It’s quite beautiful as is much of the soundtrack. That said, there are quite a few points where the game is completely silent. Whether this was intentional or a bug, I’m not sure.

Some of the music and sound effects sounded quite familiar to me; I had a nagging feeling I’d heard some of them before. I spotted later that a free music library is among is the sound credits, so I may be right. Nothing wrong with that of course, and both the music and the ambient sounds worked well anyway.

There’s a very small amount of voice acting — a handful of short sentences and tiny moans/exclamations. Although the latter worked well, the former I found to be stilted and odd. “I gonna get you Aya” was a prime example. However, as mentioned, the vast majority of the game isn’t voiced, so this wasn’t too much of an issue.

Gameplay

Mad Father is a quite unusual RPG Maker game. There’s no combat, for a start. You navigate your surroundings, solving puzzles by using items and cracking codes, and avoiding the (very aggressive) undead. Make a wrong move and they’ll lay their hands on you and sap away at your health. Getting away from them can be done using a number of methods (depending on the encounter) — sometimes, for example, you need to press a sequence of keys, fast. In other cases, you just run. It’s worth noting that it’s quite easy to be killed in this game; there are a variety of ways to die. It can get a little frustrating at times. The crows peppered throughout act as save points. The best advice I can give is to use them frequently.

Although there’s no fighting, you do get a chainsaw to carve up the various barrels and crates littered around house. It’s hard to pick fault with a game that gives you a chainsaw.

Mad father creature
Use your puzzle-solving skills to get past this lovely looking fellow.

Some of the creatures you can help by solving a puzzle, for which you’re usually rewarded with a gem. There are also a few to be found by just exploring. You’ll want to collect all 21 in order to see an additional scene after the credits.

Since it was made using RPG Maker, there’s no mouse support. That said, it’s pretty simple to control — once you’ve figured out that it’s F10 to make it full screen, that is. Also, don’t try to Alt-tab out of the game, as it is likely to crash (it did every time I tried it, anyway).

All in all, the puzzles were logical and satisfying, although with a higher threat of imminent death than I normally like in my adventure games.

Verdict

If you enjoyed Corpse Party, you’ll love Mad Father. Even if you’re not usually a fan of RPG Maker games, this is one you should make an exception for. It’s delightfully terrifying, with the kind of story that will stay with you long after the game is finished. Just don’t play it late at night in the dark if you’re aiming to get some sleep afterwards…

Questions about the game? Ask away in the comments below.