With Layers of Fear, Observer and Blair Witch in their résumés, Bloober Team can now call themselves a horror game expert. With The Medium, the Polish developer demonstrates that expertise well.
In The Medium, the leading role is given to Marianne, the titular moderator. She is apparently leading a normal life in the “Na” realm, but she can also enter the spirit realm. This ghost world is sort of a rotting, rotten reflection of the ordinary world, just like The Upside Down in the Stranger Things series. The interaction between the two dimensions not only plays a major role in the story, but it is also an important part of many puzzles.
Between two worlds
A mysterious phone call leads Marianne to Newa, the dilapidated hotel the communist regime built for the Polish population. Developer Bloober does not hide its Polish roots. Niwa is closed after a mysterious massacre. Marianne feels as soon as she arrives that the site is intimately connected to the spirit world. It is the perfect basis for a true psychological horror story
As you explore a communist vacation resort in search of the man who called you, you make frequent trips to the spirit world. Sometimes you step into the other world completely, but there are also times when you navigate through both worlds at the same time. In those moments, The Medium is at its most exclusive. The game then splits the screen in two, allowing you to explore both worlds simultaneously.
Sometimes you will find things in one world that help you more in another world, or you find a path that is not open or even does not exist in the other world. It’s always bewildering how to proceed.
For example, at a certain point you have to return the time to an hour in the real world in the spirit world, to a moment when a certain door is open. Behind that door, you can then provide a powered power switch, so you can carry on in the real world. The puzzles are original and surprising with this type of insert, but they never get complicated
Struggling with controls
The challenge is more in the wooden controls. By following the Silent Hill example, The Medium has fixed camera angles and you cannot look around freely. This has a certain appeal, but the subtle button prompts that have to appear before you can take action, often appear frustratingly late, or even when you’re in exactly the right place. Sometimes you walk around a room multiple times without it being clear what – and in what dimension – you need to do exactly that, or sit around slightly odd circles until the button prompt appears.
On top of that, The Medium offers a bit of a challenge: There are no weapons and the battles should have no name. You walk the game very fast – in about eight hours – and then, if you look a little away from your nose, you will also find most of the collectibles. So there is no good reason to play the game again.
At first, the game manages to surprise several times with its plot twists that help the story start, but the puzzle pieces all fall into place very early on.
The correct tone
Thankfully, there’s a reason to play the game for the first time! Two-dimensional puzzles and messing around may play the main role in the gameplay, but the real star of The Medium is the atmosphere. mystery; Wonders; the fear. Discomfort: Everything you expect from a psychological horror game is reviewed. And the Bloober team always sets the right tone.
With composer Silent Hill Akira Yamaoka at the helm, it’s no surprise that music always strikes the right chord, but Bloober Team just doesn’t rely on his expertise. In particular, the environments in the real world are sometimes surprisingly detailed and rich, plus the game is equipped with very good sound that regularly makes you feel like you are in this dilapidated hotel.
However, we secretly expected more from The Medium as one of the first games to be developed exclusively for a new generation of devices. Especially when both worlds are in the picture at the same time, the game loses a lot of detail and dropping frames is not uncommon. The seamless switching between the two worlds is impressive.
Despite the atmosphere, The Medium is a bit predictable. At first, the game manages to surprise several times with its plot twists that help the story start, but the puzzle pieces all fall into place very early on. The last hour might seem superfluous, although otherwise the match would be very short. Along with that, the pace is excellent, making The Medium a favorite to play in a row despite its flaws.
The Medium is now available for PC, Xbox Series X and S. For this review, the game was played on Xbox Series X.