The Medium review: “Hard to see this mildly spooky adventure as anything other than a misstep”

There is a lot going on The Medium. It’s a busy mix of mechanics and story threads that jostle to fit in, never settling, and rarely trusting the player to enjoy themselves without a watchful hand to guide them. I spent a lot of time tapping the run button for example, because I wanted to move faster, but you can only run when allowed. And if The Medium decides you’re in an atmospheric moment you’d better damn well walk and soak it in. It feels like a story that someone spent so long thinking about, planning, and clearly loving, that they forgot about the bit where another person has to play it and panicked at the last minute that people might play it wrong. 

Fast facts

The Medium

(Image credit: Bloober Team)

Release date: January 28, 2021
Platform(s): PC and Xbox Series X
Developer: Bloober Team
Publisher: Bloober Team

It’s part a love letter to the old days of fixed camera horror games (with Silent Hill’s composer Akira Yamaoka providing some great sparsely atmospheric music in places), and part an attempt to reimagine the idea by showing a split reality on-screen where the real and spirit realm overlap. The idea is that, as a medium called Marianne, you’re able to exist in both planes and manipulate things across them as you try to solve the murder of a little girl. One of the main mechanics, for example, is the idea of drawing power from a Spirit Well, a sort of ghostly energy source in the spectral world, to power a fuse box in the real world and open a door. 

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