The Medium Draws Inspiration from Silent Hill And Builds on the Story
The new horror star for 2021 is The Medium, the game that is considered a successor to the Silent Hill series. Although it is unrelated to the story because of the plot examination it certainly draws a lot of inspiration from the popular series. Bloober Team, which is behind horror games like Blair Witch, Layers of Fear and Observer, is a member of the legendary composer of the Silent Hill series and has ignited enthusiasm among horror fans.
A story late at night
It took me a while to figure it out, but the plot of the game takes place in 1990s Poland. A young girl named Marian grew up with her adoptive father Jack, when Lotte went through a fog except for the physical and mental scars that accompany her. Marian has a special power, she lives simultaneously in the spirit world and the real world, which is a tribute to the Otherworld that has starred in every Silent Hill game since 1999.
One day, Marianne receives a phone call from a mysterious man who tells her he knows who she is and what she can do, and offers to meet him at the Niwa resort. When an interviewer arrives at the site she discovers that he has been abandoned for years and haunted by ghosts, something she is probably used to as she says: “Relax, it’s just a haunted hotel.” Of course the hotel is not only haunted by kind spirits but something much darker that is expected to surprise you completely. Or maybe not.
The Medium haunted hotel
It’s hard for me to say that The Medium’s plot is special or inspiring. As a horror movie buff I did not find in the plot twists that I did not watch, nor was I surprised by the discoveries in the game. But the greatness of The Medium is in the presentation of the plot. The lead actress is excellent and witty, the lyrics are great and the sound is amazing. The abandoned hotel is based on a real hotel in Poland, and the impressive achievement for me is that there are almost no Jump scares. The plot builds the horror and terror in an excellent way and leaves you scared even without using these nefarious methods.
But the plot could have been much more special and interesting, and maybe even exciting. Somewhere, Bloober Team went for a pretty simple formula and did not try to challenge us. In every other game it’s fine, but in a game like this, whose gameplay is completely marginal, I would like to see a plot that will sweep me to discover the sequel. Especially when it comes to a game that lasts about eight hours.
I counted at least some six references to Silent Hill in this game, but the best reference is The World of Ghosts, or Otherworld as the quiet hill visitors know it. In the world of The Medium, the world of spirits is a world similar to ours but slightly different. So that we can experience the world in its two forms our screen splits in two when one side shows the real world and the other side shows the world of spirits. Marian needs to navigate both worlds in parallel, which is the main mechanics of the game. All the puzzles and challenges take place in both worlds at the same time, and part of the part is figuring out which world needs to be focused on to make things work.
Two worlds simultaneously
The idea itself is very beautiful. The ability to challenge the player with puzzles that require tracking the two worlds leads to interesting puzzles, and the times when moving to the spirit world fully feel very special.
Most of the game meets the unflattering category of Walking Simulator. Such games are excellent as a tool to convey both plot and not just story. But The Medium takes it maybe a little too far. At some point in the game, the main character filters in despair “This is getting tedious” and I could not help but identify with it. Most of the game you walk in a straight line and react to objects in front of you with a mark on them that explains what needs to be done. The few times I have not been able to solve the puzzle relatively easily.
The Medium dayroom
It is possible that if the mechanics were a little more challenging, the game itself would have been longer if only due to the difficulty in solving the puzzles. A good plot can be made in two hours of film, but in order for a game to provide the same level of immersion they had to invest more in mechanics and gameplay. Unfortunately this is a huge miss that takes a really original idea and does not realize its potential.
Between fixation and madness
If there’s anything that screams “The Nineties” more than a split screen, it’s a fixed camera. Those of you who have played classic horror games of yesteryear will probably remember the fixed camera that jumps from room to room as the character moves. I applaud the Bloober Team for using a permanent camera as a means of creating an atmosphere – it works, but not well enough to justify the limitations such a camera creates.
It’s a mess of character control. Each time it moves to another room, the angle changes and with it the direction in which you have to hold the joystick to keep moving forward. Say, I took the stick to the right, but now suddenly have to aim it up to continue in the same direction. The game compensates for this by the fact that the character just keeps going forward as long as you don’t move the stick. It’s nice and everything, but it creates confusion in eye contact and really complicates control to an uncomfortable level.
The Medium mirrors
I would say about everything fine if the weird angles of the camera had been used coolly. If we were to suddenly see a shadow creeping up behind Marian just as we were leaving the room or we would encounter angles that make us feel like someone is watching us. But the use of the camera is so simplistic and does not justify the compromises in mechanics.
But after we complained, let’s admit this game is beautiful. The abandoned hotel is one of the scariest places I have traveled, the differences between the two worlds are impressive, and the transition between them is simply superb. Visually, there is something special here, and not just because of the resolution or the lighting. The design choices here are out of the ordinary. The design of the spirit world is fascinating and makes you look for the little things you did not pay attention to. The lack of a UI puts all the indicators into the game and makes things dynamic and realistic (as far as a horror game can be said to be realistic).
The choice of Bloober Team in the nineties as the period in which The Medium takes place is expressed in many references to objects and design from the nineties and it is excellent. The sound is just creepy and the music adds to the atmosphere in a fantastic way. As a result, it just bothers me even more when the base of the game just fails to captivate.