Mediterranea Inferno Review – Sexy Italian Depression

    Title: Mediterranea Inferno
    Developer: Eyeguys, Lorenzo Redaelli
    Release Date: August 24, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Santa Ragione
    Genre: Visual Novel, Horror

A note at the top of the review – Mediterranea Inferno contains a detailed content warning that does a good job of making sure the player knows what they’re getting into, but I want to very heavily emphasize the warning regarding those with light sensitivity issues. If you have light sensitivity, epilepsy, or both, I do not recommend engaging with this game, including watching video footage of it. You have been warned.

2020 is going to be remembered forever as a major turning point in the lives of everyone on the planet, but its long-term effects will most obviously be felt by those who were in high school, college, or just over that age at the time myself included. When we’re young, we’re promised that this period of our lives is going to be the best and most memorable, the absolute prime, and then two years or more of it was abruptly stolen away by lockdowns and event restrictions.

This is the primary background for Mediterranea Inferno, a visual novel set in Italy about three friends who were an inseparable team of it-crowd clubgoers prior to March 2020, when the Italian government expanded nationwide lockdowns and mandatory business closures in order to protect the public from the spread of the disease. Italy was one of the first hotbeds of the COVID-19 outbreak, and by April their lockdown had become a mandatory quarantine on a level we didn’t see in the United States.

Two years later, one of the three, Andrea, sends a message out to reunite the group for a beach vacation. Another of them, Claudio, suggests his grandfather’s villa as their getaway, and it’s only after Claudio accepts that the third of the group, Mida, also agrees to the plan.

Screenshot 2023 08 22 180332

Claudio is the primary viewpoint character for the prologue of the game, during which he arrives in the small seaside town near the villa, and is enticed by a strange voice into a “Mirage” by eating a strange fruit. Said fruit is the first of many religious symbols that permeate the game, and even more will be found shortly thereafter.

The “Mirage” is a maybe-real, maybe-hallucinatory experience that takes Claudio from the bus stop to the villa, while being presented with his memories of the town and his family. We don’t learn much yet, but the sequence ends with the shock of him standing over the body of his grandfather, his fists bloody, and then the scene cuts to black.

This is already an extremely surreal and disquieting beginning to a game that is going to be an unavoidably intense experience, but it definitely gets the point across. Things here are not what they seem, and the fact that we move right from this grisly scene to Andrea and Mido’s arrival – with Claudio behaving completely normally – makes the player question what actually happened, or if it was even real.

Screenshot 2023 08 23 220401

The mysterious voice introduces itself to the boys as Madama, an androgynous and mystical being who offers the three boys another Mirage they can partake in together (providing each of them a clear establishment of what’s going on in their lives, and what they want out of their vacation), followed by a chance for one of them to get to Heaven by peeling and consuming four of the Mirage Fruits by midnight on Ferragosto, the celebration of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Claudio, who already had one in the prologue, has a headstart with two, and Mida and Andrea each now have one.

The player then directs the next two days for the boys, who will suggest where they each want to spend afternoons and evenings. Right off the bat, you will quickly realize that making these decisions is going to force you to favor some characters and directly forsake others, with the boys even reacting if they realize that their path to four fruits has closed. You will have to pick a side each time they argue over their plans, and people are going to be disappointed – sometimes brutally so.

The crushing ways that the characters react to the player’s choices only drew me in more. Remember, there’s no actual fourth point-of-view character – you’re choosing which side wins, and you’ll quickly notice animosity and feelings of betrayal brewing between the three boys.

Screenshot 2023 08 21 222653

As you progress, you begin to realize just how important this getaway is to each of the characters. Claudio is trying to step into his own and take the place of his potentially deceased grandfather in the family hierarchy over his father, Mida is looking for closure on something that happened two years prior, and Andrea is desperately seeking human connection after being locked inside his apartment for so long.

Mediterranea Inferno drives the point home, many times, of the way that COVID-19 has affected not only these three friends but the world around them, as well. The game twists every single element of itself into a terrifyingly enchanting edge, and it pulled me in deep enough to complete my entire first run in a single sitting. The colors aren’t only vivid, they’re violent, the eroticism isn’t just unceasing, it’s uncomfortable, and the religious imagery is so saturated, it’s hellish.

The three boys swing wildly between being sympathetic and being loathsome. The player gets a deep, dark look into each of them, particularly if they take the time to finish every possible route. This is an extremely risky way to write your entire cast, and yet here it paints each of them as multi-dimensional, complex, and utterly real. You are forcing them to screw each other over, and eventually, that’s going to bring the emotional tensity to a serious boil.

Screenshot 2023 08 21 223713

And I haven’t even mentioned the score yet – every minimalist track is perfectly placed to further evoke whatever feeling the game is attempting to go for. The discotheque is loud and grating, but not to Andrea. The beach is relaxing, unless you’re Mida. And once you get into the hallucinations, the gloves really come off with the sound design, which only grows more tense as you near the climax.

The only real negative note I have is that I frequently encountered problems with the game recognizing which flags I’d tripped. For example, at the end of my second run, Claudio had two fruits, but Madama claimed he had four – but still didn’t let me proceed through his ascension hallucination. This happened even on a reload. I also had to reload my most recent save a few times due to progression bugs, but the game auto-saves frequently enough to make this just a minor annoyance.

Mediterranea Inferno is a brief experience that you can likely see all of in around five hours, but those five hours were some of the most gripping I’ve had all year. I had to go to work between finishing my first run and going back in to see the rest, and it was truly all I could think about. This game isn’t merely a haunting tale of betrayal. It may even betray the player themself with its final twists and turns. It’s queer, it’s brutal, and it’s not for the faint of heart – but if you can handle it, it’s one of the most poignant stories I’ve ever experienced in the medium.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.