The Medium intimidates in the suspense tone and expands spiritualist theme

Approaches to spiritism and contact with the afterlife are common in entertainment media, in books, in temples, in routine. Creative minds are always able to create new ways to connect the enthusiasts of this subject and build a climate of tension that usually only gives peace when the answers to all those mysteries begin to appear.

The Medium it follows routes that intersect around this and are based on a good subplot, involving post-World War II Poland, by placing the player in the shoes of Marianne, a medium who is haunted by the sight of a murdered girl.

In an omen, the mystery opens the way for the protagonist to embark on a sinister journey – and she is not alone. Duality is one of the main focuses of The Medium, and in this analysis I find out why these mechanics work so efficiently in gameplay and in building the atmosphere without appealing to cheap sentimentality.

Check out the full video analysis below:

The surrealist storm

To build the disturbing world of The Medium, the Polish studio Bloober Team used all the experience accumulated in their previous games (Blair Witch, Observer and Layers of Fear, just to name a few) and spared no ambitions to deliver the great culmination of his talent.

A visibly high budget product, the new title outlines art in every corner, from the minutiae of indoor environments to strategically angled photographs in outdoor locations, with surreal touches in the setting of scenarios and the positioning of objects – surrealism, by the way, is a strand openly used by the team in their games.

Congratulations to award-winning composers Arkadiusz Reikowski and, as you may already know, the legendary Akira Yamaoka, artist behind the intimidating sound of silent Hill, which here gives its touch to create an environment that is based on psychological tension and the construction of the atmosphere in favor of authentic fear, not free scares.

Source: Bruno Micali / Voxel

Comprehensive terror

Keep this in mind: The Medium it can be categorized within the “new terror”, an experience that promotes reflections and brings other discussions to the table, without the lazy “jump scares”, that is, the supports that make you jump out of your chair. The game prefers to print an oppressive mood, the same seen in films like The witch or Hereditary, to deliver to the player the inexplicable pleasure of fear.

That’s how Marianne’s saga develops in search of answers. The character has movement made in the old fashion, in line with the titles of Quantic Dream, especially Beyond: Two Souls, and also in the Telltale, Supermassive and Dontnod games, responsible for Until Dawn, The Dark Pictures and Tell me why, in quick memories.

It’s that kind of plastered way of getting around, back in 2010 or 2011, but that, in The Medium, gains a new layer of gameplay: duality. Basically, Marianne can move between two realities: ours, which would be the material world, and the supernatural, which would be the world of spirits.

Duality: challenge to our brain

Sometimes the mechanics confuse our brains – in a good way, of course -, making the player pay attention to the two parts of the screen and being obliged to focus on only one part to progress. The game determines in which moments this division takes place, usually to intersperse the investigative rhythm and the density of the narrative.

Within this dynamic there are some nuances, such as extracorporeal projection, through which Marianne concentrates her psychic energy to control her spiritual form alone for a limited time. In addition to being a medium, the protagonist proves to be a great detective – in fact, ultimately, she follows her instinct.

The plot is sustained at an interesting pace, interspersing, at good intervals, the delivery of the narrative and the mechanics of gameplay

The solving of puzzles does not underestimate the intelligence of the experts in “point and click”, nor does it abuse the novices on duty. The puzzles are very satisfying, pleasant to solve, they don’t make you spend a lot of time going back and forth in search of a resolution.

These are puzzles that require a moderate dose of reasoning – not a Sherlock Holmes. For me, this is an extremely positive point, as I hate to waste a lot of time on it. I tend to have little tolerance for going around in circles looking for obvious items.

-Source: Bruno Micali / Voxel

Plot: twists and (few) clichés

The plot is sustained at an interesting pace. Although it uses clichés about the spiritual theme to present Marianne’s story, the Bloober Team wrote the dialogues succinctly, in order to leave the player prompted to know what comes next, without much ado or unnecessary content.

Supported by a beautiful photograph, as I already mentioned, the level design obeys the linear structure, but nevertheless it still delivers ample spaces, inviting to the exploration and collection of items. Contemplating the inhospitable countenance of these places also helps to maintain the sense of curiosity up there.

The perspective, activated by pressing LB, works like the well-known detective mode and allows Marianne to see traces of clues to be investigated.

-Source: Bruno Micali / Voxel

The legendary bogeyman …

In addition to the tormented visions, Marianne faces, in her dark journey, the Boogeyman, who would be a surrealist version of the infamous boogeyman, a creature present in ancient tales of various genres. Here, it is a distorted way of exhibiting a kind of incarnation of fear. Translating into kids: an evil spirit.

In these stretches, the player must sneak into objects and hold his breath in order to advance – the pace of the game gains an accelerated welcome when these encounters end in mind-blowing and spectacular pursuits. The scenes mount and dismount with the same insight as Control.

Moths are not the only “bugs” (purposely written in quotes) that I faced in The Medium: in one or another section I was simply stuck in the corner of the scene, surrounded by invisible walls and walking in a false way, as if on a mat, surrendering to loading the last save, repeating a section and thus progressing.

On the right, On the right, “Papão”, evil spirit of The Medium.Source: Bruno Micali / Voxel

There are also occasional drops in the frame rate per second, at least in my Xbox Series X experience, but not at all glaring.

About the time of the campaign, many can compare the duration of The Medium with a Resident Evil play, but it happens that, in the Capcom franchise, zeroing several times is part of the mythology: there are different endings, weapons that are unlocked, enemies and even unprecedented modes that are only released after a certain amount of zeroes. The Medium delivers a single packaged, punctual, linear and straight experience, without backtracking (always straight, with a rare back and forth in isolated sections) to the detriment of this type of replay factor.

Verdict

The Medium it does not hide its great inspirations and embraces fear for the hidden in an intriguing way. The work of Lovecraft, author of the famous The Call of Cthulhu, the eternalized Alan Wake and even Control are some of the shades that we can see in this delivery of the Bloober Team, in addition to the other titles mentioned throughout the analysis.

But the “house” spice, conceived by the mechanics of duality and by a wide-ranging adult discussion about spirituality, is the main star of the game. In its 6 to 8 hours of duration – which go by too fast – the suspense intimidates the player without reinventing wheels or making unnecessary frills, through known formulas mixed with new ingredients. He surrenders to some clichés of the genre, but at the same time, he tries to get out of that bubble.

The Medium safeguards its originality by minimalism, not by excess.

Strengths:

  • Well-built and atmospheric thriller with no free scares to deliver fear
  • Yamaoka’s touch on the soundtrack enriches the mood of the game
  • The mechanics of duality provide an interesting layer to gameplay
  • Narrative interspersed with satisfactory puzzles
  • Surrealistic look and full of details

Negative points:

  • Occasional bugs that “trap” the character at a point in the scene
  • Possible drops in the frame rate per second
  • The journey could be a little longer

Analysis phrase:

The Medium intimidates the player by intelligent fear, not based on free scares. It uses familiar formulas, but it has a beautiful spice from the house.

Note: 80

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