Developer Bloober Team is bringing his second game to the relatively new Xbox Series X with The Medium. The previous title – a polished version of the Observer – couldn’t quite convince us, so we had our hopes on this psychological horror game. A genre that the Xbox Series with Observer, Call of the Sea and now this The Medium is gradually starting to have a patent on. Yet there are many elements that make The Medium a different experience. One of them comes from an unexpected source: the game feels a lot more ‘classic’ than we expected.
Between the two
This is largely because the development of The Medium started about 10 years ago. Only the concept of the game reportedly did not work on the previous generation of hardware. What that high-tech concept is then? The Medium comes up with a fairly unique idea: at set times the screen splits in two and you have to control your character in two different worlds at the same time.
In this way, situations are created in which one version of main character Marianne is stuck in a puzzle, and her alter ego has to find a solution in the other world. Marianne’s dark shadow possesses certain spiritual powers that allow her to manipulate her version of reality. Marianne B will often have to use her spiritual energy, for example, to provide an electrical object with ‘power’, as a result of which the machine in Marianne A’s reality suddenly sputters.
This tandem action makes for some of the better moments in this game, but strangely enough, there are fewer such scenes in the approximately 10-hour game than we hoped. It is technically quite impressive and not at all overwhelming to play in two worlds at the same time. The levels themselves are relatively small but contain enough graphic detail to keep both fields of view interesting.
Thanks to these split-screen interactions, The Medium exudes an atmosphere that cannot be called every day. The other reality in which Marianne’s alter ego resides seems like a cross between medieval hell and HG Giger’s Aliens. Where the “real” Marianne has to explore creepy environments such as a deserted forest and an even more deserted East Block holiday resort, if possible, it is not so bad compared to the environments brightened by corpses and body parts through which her alter ego moves at the same time. .
All this becomes even more terrifying as soon as (mini-spoiler) things from the spiritual world begin to make their way into Marianne’s daily reality. Fortunately, she has some experience with the world of ghosts and the dead, as she has a gift as a medium. But it doesn’t take that long before the game releases quite dark subjects and images on your retina.
Clicking of the Dead
Yet we do not want to create false expectations. The Medium isn’t a horror game full of blood-curdling combat and gore. Although the source of inspiration is ancient classic Silent Hill – Bloober Team even had part of the excellent soundtrack composed by Silent Hill veteran Akira Yamaoka, this is a largely pacifist game where you mainly try to avoid or avoid danger. The rest of the gameplay is filled by collecting diaries, letters, postcards, and ‘memories’ of characters from the past, as in the better walking simulator.
Very occasionally there are light point-and-click elements such as combining items in your inventory, but these are almost negligible. The Medium constantly navigates between subcutaneous thrills while exploring the levels and moments of sudden action. No jump scares, but moments when everything suddenly accelerates. The combination strongly reminds us of games like Silent Hill and Project Zero, for which the people of the Bloober Team clearly have a lot of respect for.
Maybe that’s why The Medium feels old-fashioned in terms of gameplay: a lot of the ideas come straight from the last century, albeit with better graphics and voices. The Medium doesn’t really feel like a next-gen game. And also graphically we expect a little more from this Xbox Series X game. Where the Observer Remake looked really good, The Medium feels rather ordinary. The Medium gets a score that you would expect with such a title: average.