Having played a few gems on the Xbox Live Indie Games service recently, I thought I’d delve a little deeper and have a go at some of the Japanese games on the service. I found the page for the Japanese Marketplace online and decided to pick out a few of the titles that have been highly rated in the east. One such game is MADRISM, currently sitting on a rating of four-and-a-half stars, or just two-and-a-half from European gamers.
Why the difference? Well, perhaps because it’s initially hard to figure out exactly what to do. Madrism gives you a brief visual tutorial should you leave the title screen on for thirty seconds or so, but that’s all you get. Press A to start and suddenly you’re in an architect’s fever dream; square and rectangular rooms, doors, toilets and kitchen units all fall from the sky onto a piece of graph paper, and it’s your job to rearrange them. Naturally, you’d soon run out of space if they were to remain on the page, so you need to figure out how to make room.
After a few failed attempts, I began to grasp the central idea. You need to place doors appropriately in order to make a route from the kitchen to the toilet. Placing them in the same room sees that square and its contents disappear, though the game plays a disappointed sigh when that happens, so it’s obvious you’re meant to keep them separate, for hygiene reasons, I presume. Link a toilet in one room to a kitchen in the next with a single door and both will vanish, increasing your score. So to boost your tally more significantly, you need to place a kitchen unit at one end of your hastily-constructed residence with the toilet at the other, and link all rooms up.
It accelerates to a ferocious pace quite quickly, meaning games rarely last very long, particularly as overlapping two rooms leads to an instant game over. I’m still no closer to figuring out quite how the scoring works, with a large number of yen followed by a total area in square metres, and a third, smaller number of yen. What was seemingly my most succesful turn yielded my highest scores in all three, and while the first two ticked over rapidly as the rooms disintegrated, the third figure seemed to shrink a little in the latter stages.
Unforgiving, unfathomable and very odd indeed, MADRISM is hard game to recommend, but it certainly kept my interest for a couple of hours, and it was only 80 MSP. It feels like a proof of concept for what could be an extremely interesting puzzler, but with just one ultra-hard game mode – there’s not even the luxury of a pause button to catch your breath – it’s very limited in its current form.