Mad Father isn’t that great, so feel free to read the review without playing the game.
While I was looking up all the Ib endings on youtube, I saw a similar ending complilation for something called Mad Father, and decided to give that a look as well. It is pretty terrible.
Mad Father opens with a long cutscene in which it’s established that the kid’s father is doing horrible things to people in his evil basement lab and the girl just ignores it because she loves Daddy. She then goes to bed, wakes up because of commotion, and sees creepy zombies, a voice calls to her to escape this way, she follows it only to discover it’s a disfigured boy and run back toward the zombies again. You have no input here whatsoever. The game is cutscene upon cutscene. Often when it can’t find a reason to take control of the character, you’ll get increasingly redundant flashbacks instead. Long flashbacks with stuff like the characters sitting quietly for a bit, or her running in circles a while before the conversation even starts. It’s also fond of the thing where, instead of just putting a regular invisible wall there, if you walk her toward something she doesn’t want she’ll go forward then back up again with dialogue explaining all this, because that takes longer and has a chunk of time where the game yanks control out of your hands.
The game also wants you to find exactly the set of items it decides – early on you have to defeat a monster by setting it on fire, which you do by by finding oil, a lighter, and lighter fluid to fill the lighter. And you already have a lamp at this point, as well as being in a dungeon area where there’s a torch on the wall as you come in. At another point you have to give something to a character by backtracking nearly to the start, finding a bucket, filling the bucket with water, then pouring that on a fireplace that just happens to be right over the cell the character’s in. Your clue that this is the solution is that when you initially go into fireplace room, the character references hearing someone, but of course seconds later a zombie jumps out from behind a painting and attempts to eat your face and there’s been surprise ghost zombies appearing out of thin air the whole game, so I naturally assumed that was what she meant.
And the puzzle item sections are comparatively reasonable. Later sections of the game prefer puzzles where you have to do a bunch of things perfectly to block a fast moving enemy. Do it wrong and you die. This doesn’t really make for particularly good horror, it’s just frustrating as you have to slowly work out which action it wants you to take. And for the early game, you’re basically unkillable – enemies attack you, but you heal as soon as you leave the area and also you’re faster than them, so even the couple zombie areas are pretty harmless.
There’s also the really weird decision midway through to give the character a chainsaw, despite the fact it’s a puzzle game and the chainsaw won’t save you from the instakill enemies that start showing up after that. The chainsaw’s used to remove barrels previously blocking your way and cut a few ropes, and it really feels it’d have made more sense to just hand out a few extra keys for the doors and give a more reasonable cutting tool like a knife or just scissors for the rest.
The game is quite gory, a bit too much – the graphics can’t really keep up and it ends up in a sort of reverse uncanny valley where there’s not the bare minimum of detail that’d creep me out with implication, but it doesn’t have the capability for the graphic blood and guts either.
I really think you can do interesting things by having a character whose personality means they won’t behave quite how the player wants, but this game did it terribly, constantly taking my control away in cutscenes and waffling on the issue of Aya’s actual evilness. It seemed to be under the impression that it could present her as kind and also accepting of her dad’s little torturemurder habit. There’s various parts where you have to help the victims of your father’s horrible (and, this is the best part, completely pointless) experiments, but this has no impact on her motivation, which stays to save her dad the whole time, and at other times she brutally murders those same victims. And there’s never any real sign of what this means – which does she want to do and which is she doing unwillingly? And the girl herself has a beloved pet rabbit who her dad “heals” of any
injury, and we discover midway through he does this by killing it and
getting a fresh one for her, and we don’t get her opinion on that
either. She starts off being scared of dead things and determined to save her dad, and she just keeps doing that.
And we know she does have opinions other than just that daddy is the bestest most wonderfulest, because he’s also been cheating on her mother with his assistant (and not even doing a good job of hiding it, so the mom knows and is hurt by it) and she’s bothered by that.
It’s never explained why all of them are so obsessed with him – the assistant doesn’t even seem to be evil herself, and in fact he decides to have her help him instead of murdering her like the rest because while she’s locked in her cell she manages to patch up the victim of another experiment so well the guy doesn’t die, which isn’t the sort of behavior you’d think would make someone happily murder a lot of people. There might be some implication her mom is might also have been evil, because the girl does have some messed up fairy tales in her room, but her mom never seems to do anything bad herself or even show interest in the guy’s experiments.
Then finally there’s the multiple endings, which are really more like one long rolling ending. You make it into the afterlife where you find your mom, who’s the one who caused all the dead to rise. Apparently she’s a jealous ghost and wants your dad. Aya’s immediate response is that can’t she be dead too so they can be together, which, okay, that’s pretty reasonable for the kid. But then you get turned down and you have the choice of trying to save your dad or letting your mom take him and Aya’s clear she loves both of them, so it seems like letting the mom have him is the only reasonable thing to do. Especially considering the dad has done stuff Aya didn’t like while she seems to have no problem at all with her mom.
If you do this, the assistant decides to carry on the doctor’s work by turning you into a doll, which I thought came out of nowhere but actually turns out to make sense when you see the other endings. If you go back and stop your mother, you make it back to the real world only for ghost-mom to confess that she actually wasn’t a jealous ghost. Turns out, your dad meant to kill you and keep you as a perfect doll forever, and dammit ghost mom that would really have helped to know. It’s a pretty good twist because at the start we have him talking to the assistant about how she shouldn’t hurt you because you’re his precious- and it cuts away before he says doll. And your mom heard, and said she wouldn’t let him do this, so he stabbed her and that’s the real reason she died. So he explains it’ll be fun to be a doll, and you have to start running.
If he catches you, you’re turned into a doll that he keeps in the place of honor in his creepy room full of dolls and he chats with your dead body about what you want to wear every day.
Then the third ending you get if you find out the assistant’s backstory. He attacks her partway through, and you can choose to help bandage her rather than leaving her to bleed out and if you do, she’ll come and help you later, so your dad dies instead. The angry ghosts burn down your mansion…and you go and start a clinic in a remote area where it turns out you carry on the family murder then doll tradition, although I’m not really sure what to make of the ending since it seems you’re killing people painlessly while the whole game has been hammering in that your dad just tortured people horribly for the fun of it.
What’s most frustrating about this is that it has a lot of elements that could have added up to something better. If Aya wasn’t shown listening to people screaming when she goes down to visit her dad and otherwise totally and utterly aware of the stuff he’s doing right from the start, the third end reveal that oh yeah, I guess she’s evil would have had more kick. It’s the sort of thing that should have been built up with her showing no sign of caring about all the clues the player collects that it’s her dad’s fault the monsters are everywhere and also they’re not monsters so much as people tortured into insanity who’ve come back from the dead. There’s actually this one little gameplay quirk that would have fit this nicely – there’s a number of things you can walk over and they just have their own stepped on animation, letting you callously trample any of the squishy dead that aren’t currently trying to murder you. The weird creepy fairy tale and the fact there’s a sinister mysterious guy showing up that she seems to have no issue with would also have then been clues instead of just kind of there. Also, ghost mom’s lying was stupid. They could have just had the dad saying she was doing that before she manifested all the way and let you have the choice then, before she had a chance to tell you the truth.