Bloober Team is quickly becoming the Blumhouse of gaming. Their constant exploration of great horror in games is something we continually look forward to. Layers of Fear, Observer and Blair Witch have all been engaging and have constantly brought a new and absorbing gaming mechanic with it. In their latest, The Medium Bloober Team once again re-invents the wheel with an entirely new and innovative mechanic. Best of all though, they made this new approach entirely terrifying and definitely worth a look and playthrough.
The Medium introduces us to a psychological horror experience set in the late 1990s in Poland. It comes at us with a fixed third person approach. You play as Marianne a girl that has the gift of being able to see our world as well as the realm that is parallel to ours. She is used to seeing the busy on goings of our little world and can see through the thin veil to communicate with those we have lost… she can especially see those that are angry and didn’t want to die. Much like the boy in the Sixth Sense, Marianne sees dead people.
Following the death of a loved one Marianne is summoned to visit a abandoned hotel resort with a sketchy past. Once you arrive at the hotel you are greeted by the ghost of a young girl who wants nothing more than to play. Can’t blame considering she has been left alone in the abandoned hotel all these years. Marianne appeases the young girl and her wishes and begins to uncover the mysteries and jet black past of of Niwa.
The Medium introduces you to Marriane’s psychic powers of being able to see two worlds by presenting you with a split screen. On one side you have our world and on the other you have the realm of the dead. The game brilliantly renders these two worlds at the same time. This method opens up the games ability to make puzzles a lot more intricate and fun. Where as before in these sorts of games you would need to search the area to find a key by way of one perspective. In The Medium you have to search the two parallel worlds side by side allowing for a richer experience. This allows the game to take cool paths we haven’t previously seen in gaming and allows for some creative puzzles along the way.
While the puzzles applied to the 2 realms make for a good time. They concurrently make for the most terrifying part of the game. It means that you and me may be looking right at something in our world but if we could see the other realm ,like Marianne, we might really be inches away from a winged, terrifying, obsessed demon. Applied to reality, you never know when you might be relaxing eating a sandiwich with a ghost in the same area on the parallel. The Medium does an excellent job of illustrating those moments by way of the split screen. Marianne is seen seemingly talking to herself in the screen on the left and having a full conversation with a lost soul on the right, simultaneously.
The Medium wisely introduces the split screen approach as a way to familiarize yourself with the idea of two worlds being rendered at the same time. Later on when it takes the training wheels off, you are phasing between these parallel worlds full on and with full screen. Marianne does this by touching mirrors she finds in Niwa. By touching the mirror she can decide which side of the looking glass she is on. This method of being on one side or the other once again weaves puzzles, threats and narrative together nicely.
The brilliant composer behind Silent Hill, Akira Yamaoka is creating some of his best work here. The score is organic and plays along side the swift twists and turns of the game. It combines synth with sweeping epic bits and even fits in some of his experimental trademarks. It’s always great when Yamaoka goes to work and man is it ever fantastic here.
One of the best parts of the game is a memorable and nightmarish villain that will defiantly go down in gaming history. The Maw is a winged demon that looks like something out the mind of Guillermo Del Toro. The Maw is your ultimate nemesis throughout the game. While you first discover The Maw in the parallel world, he quickly discovers a way to shift dimensions with you. So, while it is true that at first when you see him and successfully sneak by, you can use a mirror to phase into the safety of our world – later in the game, he will follow you into our world and keep hunting you for you. His ultimate goal, as he keeps whispering and repeating to you is that he wants to “stretch you out and wear you”. While in our world, The Maw becomes a shadow of himself. He is mostly invisible but can still get you. The Medium introduces the ability of being able to hold your breath while attempting to sneak by him. He tracks you by sound and can hear you breathing. How terrifying is that?
Much like Resident Evil 3’s Nemesis or the entity in It Follows, The Maw never gives up and is constantly looking for you.
The Medium gives you a heck of a narrative with a lot of twists along the way. Best of all, they carefully stitch the terrors and puzzles of the game in with a rewarding narrative. You are genuinely playing to turn the page and find out what happens next. Much like a good book it’s a tough one to put down.
The Medium is by far Bloober Teams best. The introduction of the side by side worlds is innovative and a blast to interact with. The game gives us memorable moments as well as creatures designs in a world that looks like a Clive Barker and Guillermo Del Toro nightmare. The Medium is two times as terrifying as anything you have played. This in part thanks to its before mentioned two worlds. The Maw puts a nice nightmarish cherry on top of an already great gaming experience. This is a carefully constructed and harrowing ghost story that needs to be played and experienced to be fully appreciated.
The Medium is out now on Xbox Series X, Series S and Microsoft Windows.
*The game was reviewed on Xbox Series X using a pre-released download code given to us by Bloober Team.