Review of The Medium. No, this is not Silent Hill
The resourceful indie horror films from the Polish Bloober Team have been tagged as “walking simulator”. And the truth: with interesting narrative and visual solutions, gameplay mechanics in the F95Zone studio’s games were reduced to walking and opening doors, occasionally diluted with simple puzzles. The answer to these claims is The Medium . Walking simulator, but from a third person. And with two screens.
The Medium advertising campaign gave the impression that we were waiting for the unofficial resurrection of Silent Hill . But don’t be fooled: this is not it at all. Although it can be seen that the Polish developers widely drew inspiration from the series of classic Japanese horror films. So, the Bloober Team is working out the good old psychological symbolism and exploiting the idea of a personal nightmare, which in the heroine’s psychic vision is visualized into something quite tangible and unequivocally disgusting. But at the same time it is not very frightening. Although it is probably worth starting from the beginning.
The main character is called Marianna, and she is a psychic. From the very childhood, the girl got used to the fact that she sees the world differently than ordinary people. All her life she has been tormented by the same nightmare: a certain girl runs away from her pursuer through the forest, and each time he catches up with her at the end. Marianna got used to her peculiarities and even began to use them for good, helping the souls of deceased people to go through the borderline states between life and death – what is called the term “bardo” in the “Shadow Blade 5e“. Everything would be fine, but one day someone who knows about this terrible secret bursts into her life with an offer that cannot be refused: to find out the secret of the origin of her own abilities and their nature. Marianna immediately goes to the specified address, where she is met by the abandoned Niva boarding house from the times of Soviet Poland.
The Medium .
The Bloober Team is clearly trying to play on the nostalgia for the time of horror with fixed camera angles – and at first it really does bring some unconventional emotions. Modern horror films have long migrated to more progressive camera techniques: we either look at the world from the first person, or from the shoulder of the hero from the third. But Polish developers are well aware of the cyclical nature of fashion and suggest recalling the horror stories of the golden era. However, you quickly get used to this approach, and very soon the whole essence of The Medium comes out . This is a truly standard walking simulator from the BlooberTeam . Fixed camera only.
Structurally and gameplay, the game is not a survival horror, but rather a point-and-click adventure. To advance to the next screen, you need to solve the puzzle on the current one. There are many such puzzles, but the solution is the same for everyone: we study every corner of the location, find all the collected objects on it, and then apply them to some other objects to get an object that can be applied to another object, and so – until we reach the end of the chain. A chest is buried under an oak tree, a hare in a chest, a duck in a hare, an egg in a duck, and The Medium next location in an egg . In general, the most classic game design from the nineties.
However, the game designers of the nineties understood one important thing that the Bloober Team in 2021 does not seem to realize yet: the process of exploring locations does not cause a feeling of fear without additional triggers. This could be, for example, an element of survival. Opponents prevent the player from looking for a duck and a hare – and the more incomprehensible their nature, the better. Sooner or later, two cartridges remain in the pistol, and in the next room, Lovecraft’s indescribable nightmare rustles with flesh and rattles with chains. This makes it scary. BlooberTeam , in turn, offers to be afraid of the oppressive environment and rare screamers. Perhaps this will scare someone, but when you realize that nothing threatens you in this game, it becomes not scary, but boring.
The widely publicized division of reality into two screens, one of which shows the “otherworldly” appearance of the location, in fact does not represent any impressive gameplay mechanics. It’s just that the duck in this case will not be in the usual hare, but in the otherworldly. More specifically, the study of the location is split in two: we need to simultaneously look at both screens and look for interactive objects everywhere at once. Something can be activated only in ordinary reality, and something in extrasensory reality.
Here one would think that The Medium is some kind of completely secondary and unprincipled game. This is partly true, but you can find reasons to play it. Primarily attracted by the narrative. The Medium is an almost-non-horror, but still a good detective story with a distinctive atmosphere. The plot is intriguing and makes you build your own theories along the way, and you want to get the main clue and answers to questions so much that it is quite possible to challenge all these ducks and hares. The narrative method itself is also interesting: in the best traditions of the HuniePop 2 Team, players will receive a whole visual complex with a pile of symbolic images. This thing is not for everybody, but it will definitely find its user.