The Medium
Gameplay 7
Graphics 8
Sound 8

The Medium sees players help a young woman with psychic abilities explore two realities in search of answers. The game is set in an abandoned communist resort that is home to many secrets as well as a few restless spirits. While The Medium won’t win any awards for its puzzles or chase sequences, the story is interesting and the visuals beautiful. The game does have its fair share of issues but offers a compelling experience for fans of the genre.

Gameplay: Nothing groundbreaking, but the dual-reality shenanigan is a nice feature.

Graphics: The environments look incredible as do the creature designs.

Sound: The soundtrack is beautiful, but the voice acting is a little uneven

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The Medium

Developer: Bloober Team | Publisher: Bloober Team SA | Release Date: 2021 | Genre: Action / 3rd Person | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

In the opening act of The Medium players are introduced to Marianne, a young woman gifted with psychic powers. It’s a rather sad introduction as Marianne’s adoptive father has just passed away and she has to get everything in order. In the process the extend of her abilities becomes clear as she uses her psychic powers to find objects hidden from sight and even confronts the restless spirit of her adoptive father to lead him to rest. However, things take an even stranger turn when Marianne receives a phone call from a man who claims to not only know about her powers, but also the recurring dream that has haunted her since childhood. The caller informs her that if she wants answers she’ll have to meet him at the Niwa Worker’s Resort. Marianne immediately sets out for the abandoned communist resort, a place that has been shuttered after being the scene of a massacre.

Blooper Team has established themselves with the horror genre, so it’s no surprise that The Medium continues in this mold. However, unlike their previous efforts that were all in the first person, The Medium opts for a third-person view of the action. This viewpoint, along with the fixed camera angles also highlights the beautiful visuals in the game. Marianne is not just able to view the dilapidated surroundings of the physical resort, but at certain points, her perspective also shifts to the spiritual world. This shift is made even more unique because both views are shown onscreen with a split.

The Medium is not the first game to offer split camera views of the action, but it is a pretty neat feature nonetheless. The real-world in the game looks spooky enough, but since the spirit world was influenced by Zdzisław Beksiński’s paintings everything takes on a macabre twist. Not only are there fungi growing everywhere in the spirit world, but everything is infused with bones, skin, and other gory details. Marianne encounters very few living people during her adventure, but the designs of the entities inhabiting the spirit world are all great. Without delving into spoilers, some of the best-looking areas in the game are the ones where players take control of a different character than Marianne. It’s only a few instances where the animations look a little stiff that detract from the overall visuals.

Although The Medium is billed as a “next-gen” experience due to its appearance on the latest Xbox consoles, the gameplay can only be described as old school. For the most part, it is a very linear experience as players help Marianne to explore her surroundings and read the notes she finds to uncover more of the backstory.

Some dual-reality puzzles also crop up where Marianne must perform actions in one reality to influence something in the other. None of the puzzles are really taxing, though, and many of them involve simply finding objects and moving them to the correct locations. A few of these also felt like unnecessary padding which is never a good thing. Some of the most interesting puzzles in the game require Marianne to have an out-of-body experience. This can only be done during the split-screen sections and with the tap of a button, Marianne can leave her physical body while going off exploring with her spirit half. Although this is very useful for accessing areas that are off-limits to her physical self Marianne can’t dally for too long in spirit form or she will die.

The Medium is a fairly laid-back experience, but there are sections where the stakes are raised dramatically. Without delving into spoilers, there is a certain foe in the game called The Maw who basically wants to wear Marianne like a costume. When The Maw shows up Marianne either has to run for her life or sneak around while avoiding it, depending on the situation. These sections are separate from the usual exploration and puzzle-solving, though, so you’ll know exactly what is expected from you when they crop up. Getting caught by The Maw results in death, but the game does have a checkpoint system. Unfortunately, there’s no way to save manually and the checkpoints can be a little annoying. Getting reset back to the start of a short chase section is not too bad, but having to redo puzzles that you’ve already solved is not fun. We also ran into a couple of issues, such as crashes, black screens, and puzzles not resetting properly after having to continue from a checkpoint. The latter in particular was bad enough that we had to load a previous save and redo a section of the game to get back to where we were. This was made even more annoying because it was the fault of the game not registering a button press that caused Marianne to die and get sent back to a checkpoint in the first place.

Speaking of controls, The Medium can be played with a keyboard and mouse, but works best with a controller. In addition to buttons for sneaking, holding her breath, and running, Marianne can also perform a spirit blast, or put up a spirit shield to protect her from some of the harmful things in the spirit world. Both of these abilities require spirit energy, though, and have to be recharged at special spots if they run dry. Her special “insight” view requires players to hold down a button and she also has a dedicated button for triggering an out-of-body experience. Lastly, there’s an interact button that is different for the material and spirit worlds. Objects that Marianne can interact with are marked when she approaches close enough to them and a button prompt appears when next to them.

Blooper Team appears to have pulled out all the stops when it comes to the soundtrack as it features music by Arkadiusz Reikowski and Akira Yamaoka. Silent Hill fans will immediately recognize the work of Yamaoka while Reikowski also has titles like Layers of Fear, Observer, and Blair Witch on his resume. The sound effects are really good, although the voice acting can be a little hit or miss at times. Even though the game is set in Poland during the ’90s the developers have opted for an all-American cast to voice the characters. This isn’t too bad, but some of the performances fall a little short in terms of the emotions required for such a story-driven game. We were also surprised to learn that Troy Baker voices The Maw as it is without a doubt one of his most unusual performances to date.

Overall, there was a lot that we loved about The Medium, but also plenty of things that didn’t live up to expectations. The setting and characters are great, but the story feels a bit muddled at points, which lessens the impact of some revelations. It is also a pity that the game lacks the tension of other horror titles as this is something that Blooper Team has accomplished much better with previous titles in their catalog. The chase sequences with The Maw are short and linear while the stealth sections are very easy. The constant ramblings by The Maw also sap a lot of the tension out of these scenes. Finally, The Medium is quite a short game and the ending might be a little unsatisfying for some players. Nevertheless, it is clear that a lot of effort went into this game and it is one of the most ambitious releases yet by Blooper Team. There are some really good moments in this game that makes it worthwhile sticking through the parts that could have been better. It is not a title that will be remembered along with some of the other horror classics, such as Silent Hill, but it is still miles ahead of some of the competition that relies on cheap jump scares and non-existent stories.

System Requirements

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 10 (64bit version only)
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ i5-6600 / AMD Ryzen™ 5 2500X
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: @1080p NVIDIA GEFORCE® GTX 1650 Super or GTX 1060 / Radeon™ R9 390X
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Storage: 55 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible, headphones recommended
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows 10 (64bit version only)
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ i5-9600 / AMD Ryzen™ 7 3700X
  • Memory: 16 GB RAM
  • Graphics: @1080p NVIDIA GeForce® GTX 1660 Super / Radeon™ RX 5600XT | @4K NVIDIA GeForce® RTX 2080 or RTX 3060 Ti / Radeon™ RX 6800
  • DirectX: Version 12
  • Storage: 55 GB available space
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible, headphones recommended

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