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Mediterranea Inferno’s Console Launch Brings 2023’s Surreal Masterpiece to More Players

Endless summer.

key art from Mediterranea Inferno
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Some kinds of horror are familiar in games. Swarming zombies, monstrous jump scares, the feeling of being pursued by something out to harm you — these are the bread and butter of survival horror. But other kinds of horror are harder to convey: the creeping dread that your life has gone off track, the all-consuming isolation of loneliness, the feeling that reality has shifted in some hostile way. Mediterranea Inferno isn’t a horror game, but the way it tackles these more subtle terrors with surprising humor and style made it one of my favorite visual novels with its 2023 PC release. Now, it’s available on consoles, bringing its idiosyncratic, yet terrifyingly relatable story to even more players.

We’re introduced to Mediterranea Inferno’s protagonists — three Italian men in their early 20s named Andrea, Claudio, and Mida — as they walk into a club in early 2020. From the perspective of other club-goers, they are legends. These ethereal men are stars of the club scene, adored or at least envied by all in the prime of their lives.

It’s impossible to do justice to how good Mediterranea Inferno looks in motion.

Almost immediately, Italy is sent into two years of stringent lockdown, as it and much of the world was at that time in real life. Mediterranea Inferno picks back up in 2022, as the boys meet up again for the first time in years for a summer vacation at Claudio’s grandfather’s house (“it’s free now, sadly,” he remarks). Despite the grim reality surrounding their vacation, the boys resolve to live it up again and bask in the sun for one glorious weekend.

By the time the trio arrives at the house, it’s already clear that Mediterranea Inferno is something special. On the bus ride there, Claudio meets another passenger who doesn’t seem to speak Italian, and pours out his fears and anxieties to the unlistening stranger. The scene glows with a bright pink wash over its art, making a simple scene of two people sitting on a bus captivating. As he glances out the window, Claudio catches sight of a strange jeweled fruit called the Fruit of Mirages, and lapses into a vision.

If the bus was glowing, this vision is burning with pinks and reds, the vivid colors so bright they practically sear into your eyes. Claudio finds himself in a surreal space, a desert with a priest’s confessional stuck in the middle of the road. As you click around the scene, moving from one almost static but subtly shifting image to the next to explore, the situation only gets weirder. Claudio is surrounded by religious icons and disturbing visions, all illustrated in shocking color as he struggles to make sense of them.

Mediterranea Inferno is a dazzling visual novel with incredible emotional depth.

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It’s the first of many Mirages that the boys will encounter during their summer. As they explore their temporary house in southern Italy by day, they collect “summer coins,” which can be traded for further Mirages, but only by one of them each day. During the day, they laze about, talking through the traumas and insecurities that have arisen as they lost two years of their youth while trying as hard as they can to find some escape in pleasure. Even in these more grounded segments, the screen bursts with color, backed by a soundtrack that blends chill electronic beats with a sense of menace and foreboding.

But the Mirages are so bright and strange, they make the rest of the game look tame by comparison. Here, reality falls away entirely, as the boys explore their pasts and their hopes for the future through pure metaphor. The art on display is staggeringly impressive, switching from oversaturated but starkly empty beaches to bedrooms and clubs overflowing with textures and ornamentation.

No other game captures post-lockdown anxiety like Mediterranea Inferno.

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While there’s an undercurrent of malaise and dread to most Mirages, they’re also captivating, beautiful, and funny. The vacationers miss their old lives, going to clubs and picking up men without a care in the world, living as stars of a nightlife scene that they’ve convinced themselves will go on forever. That means that as much as their Mirages are about anxiety, they’re also about sexual fantasies and parties and joy.

What makes Mediterranea Inferno a masterpiece is how it blends all those elements, the good and the bad, into one flowing story that doesn’t feel like it’s fighting itself. Fear, joy, horniness, and nostalgia swirl together just like the shifting scenes of Mirages, capturing the turmoil of its heroes’ interrupted youth. It’s hard to imagine a story less appealing to me on its surface than three rich kids on summer vacation, but beneath that surface, Mediterranea Inferno stretches to emotional depths few games even attempt to reach. It may not be a beach trip you’d want to take yourself, but it’s the kind of story that will live on within you long after the seasons have changed.

Mediterranea Inferno released on PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch on March 5. It launched on PC in 2023.

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