It’s rare in life that we’re exposed to things so bad, that they make our heads spin in wonder as to how they were ever made. Manos: The Hands of Fate jumps to mind in the movie department and Vanilla Ice in the realm of music. Video games may have something up to par with those atrocities in the form of A Madman’s Guide to Happiness. The game is a single-player horror/mystery game that puts you in the role of a detective that’s the first to respond to the scene of a suicide. You then begin to examine the man’s computer files which promise you the key to happiness.
The concept itself could have been interesting, but it’s the execution where this game fails. To even call it a game would be pushing it. It amounts to a series of screens offering math puzzles and silly prose ramblings that any emo high school kid could have come up with. The font this schlock picked, which we’re forced to read, is presented in an is eye-raping style. There’s just no other way to describe it. This “game” will give you a headache.
The attempts to scare are practically nonexistent. The one or two times that something did happen, I ended up laughing; not the result one wants for their horror game. Not only that, but it should have been so easy to scare someone. If you don’t have much at your disposal, you can always go for the jump scare; it’s cheap, but effective.
I beat A Madman’s Guide to Happiness in ten minutes. I wasn’t expecting much for a title that costs 80 Microsoft Points, but I didn’t expect to fly through it quite that quickly. Not only that, but the “twist” is apparent from the beginning, giving me nothing to look forward to upon completion. This is the first game I’ve played where I can honestly say there are no redeeming factors.
The game’s creator, Jaded Horizon, currently has another game on the Xbox Indie Games marketplace. While I haven’t had a chance to play it myself, I’ve heard it’s similarly brief and straightforward. While I’ll never discourage indie developers from doing what they do, I feel that maybe a bit more time and care should be taken before releasing games like these in the future. With clutter like this in the Indie marketplace, it’ll hide the few gems that are there and discourage prospective buyers from giving a small company a fair shake due to being burned in the past.
As for me? I’m going to go bleach my brain and hope this game doesn’t give me some form of post-traumatic stress disorder.