Review of The Medium
The Medium was the first big Xbox Series exclusive. But there are no classic parameters of high-budget projects here: the graphics are quite ordinary, and the gameplay is not surprising. The Bloober Team (Observer, Layers of Fear) was responsible for the development, so some players could expect a noticeable horror component from the game. However, she is not here and in the whole game I have met only one screamer and several elements trying to scare. Among them, you can answer a completely “live” environment: the sound design of the levels is spelled out in accordance with the environment uncomfortable for the main character.
On the other hand, The Medium perfectly builds up the atmosphere – the work with sound and music is done at the highest level. By the way, Akira Yamaoka, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn and Troy Baker were responsible for the music.
The story itself does inevitably refer to Silent Hill: the action takes place between two worlds, and the static camera allows for cinematic perspectives. But this is where the significant parallels with the “Silent Hills” end. Those who were waiting for the reincarnation of Silent Hill did it wrong. The producer of the game, Jacek Zemba, said that they did not want to copy the episode directly, but only put the SH vibe into their project. Another interesting thing: in the Bloober Team project, I did not manage to notice a direct emphasis on scenes with violence, which is surprising. In most games of this genre, there are shots that can be shocking – there is not much, or not at all.
The graphics are quite common, but nice. You shouldn’t expect any supernaturally beautiful shots. Bloober Team literally say: pay attention to the content. Much of the gameplay takes place between the two worlds and the screen is literally split in two – there is no point in creating great graphics when the viewer is not focused on either world. The task of the developers was to show that “there is nothing simple, black or white.” This split screen perfectly underlines all the internal messages of the game and perfectly illustrates that the parallel and real worlds interact with each other. This makes the cutscenes look very unusual and explains why the swing can move by itself if there is no wind. This solution surprised me and I thought it would break the dive. This did not happen and the player, on the contrary, can more strongly identify himself with the character.
Most of the gameplay involves solving puzzles that are performed at the highest level. The player basically needs to act in two worlds at once – there are even two separate inventories – and if the entrance in the real world is blocked, then it will not work in both worlds. Although the medium, as we know from culture, is able to influence the other world – therefore everything becomes possible.
Another part of the gameplay consists of endless walks across locations, and there are an incredibly many of them towards the end of the game. At some moments, the whole game is to just hold down the forward button and enjoy the soundtrack of the world – it’s not for nothing that the developers recommend playing with headphones and a gamepad. It seemed to me that by the end of the game there were fewer puzzles – or they seemed simple, but organically fit into the plot, which is why you stop noticing them.
The Medium is based on an interesting story, albeit sometimes with banal dialogues and characters’ decisions. But this does not look bad, but is perceived as a kind of mimicry for classic horrors. Although, I repeat, the game itself is absolutely not scary and rather plays on the expectation of this fear and psychology. There is a feeling of surrender of what is happening, although for the main character, the swinging of an empty swing is not unusual – mediums see more.
As a result, we have an excellent adventure game with elements of psychological horror. The plot is remembered and retains interest. The puzzles are well-contextualized and don’t cause any stratification with the plot. In bad games, it happens that the puzzle is built in just for the sake of the puzzle – The Medium is clearly not the case. The Bloober Team managed to recreate the Silent Hill vibe, but without a parody of the legendary series.
This is an independent and quality project. It so happened that I myself played many horror films, but The Medium is particularly remembered for its high-quality elaboration of the story, excellent soundtrack and many cultural references that work correctly in the context of the game – we will talk about them in more detail in a separate material. Among the shortcomings, one can single out a certain protraction towards the end and the absence of a “challenge” to emotions: there is no fear, and the chill outside the collar is not felt. This leaves room for a pleasant feeling of discomfort and interest that drove me through the story of Marianne.