Review – The Medium

The Medium, developed by Bloober Team, is a psychological horror game which successfully draws in the player and then takes them for a ride that they will not soon forget.  This is an experience that is unlike any other before it as the player guides Marianne through both the material world and the spiritual world at the same time.  The Xbox Series X is put to the test with having to render two worlds at once to allow the player to have the ability to swap between the worlds without losing content or performance levels.  The story, mechanics and enemies have a depth to them that is akin to the best titles of the Silent Hill and Resident Evil franchises.  Both scary and stunning, The Medium is an achievement worth exploring.

The story begins with a death in Marianne’s family and as she prepares them physically for burial, she releases them in the spirit world.  Marianne’s childhood gift is the ability to see and interact with the spirit world, but this ability also comes with consequences.  Anything that physically affects Marianne in the spirit world, also affects her in the real world.  Therefore, if she dies in the spirit world then she dies in real life as well.

TheMedium Worlds Lobby logo caption

The intricate story sees Marianne’s search for the Niwa Hotel and what really happened there after a mysterious phone call from a strange man that claims to know her.  The story is wonderfully written and acted out and the team at Bloober have taken this excellent story and added perfectly placed twists and suspenseful moments that the player will not expect.  A few of these moments have that “game changing” feel to them and one particular moment left this reviewer gobsmacked.  The Medium is a must play for the story alone.

TheMedium Pool logo

As far as setting a specific tone, The Medium does very well on this front as well.  The atmosphere is set quite spectacularly by the lighting and weather effects.  Rain is dark and gloomy while sunshine leaves the player with a modicum of hope that this story will eventually turn out well for Marianne.  On top of the graphically set atmosphere are the sounds of the game. This reviewer played solely with headphones and the sound was superbly done with the music, sound effects and voice acting all enhancing the experience.  The deep lamentable voice of the antagonist from the spirit world makes the player feel every bit of the grief, anguish and anger that has brought them to this point of becoming a monster.  While Marianne’s presents a calm and collected tone and any variance in her mood enhances the experience and the impact and emotion is truly felt.

TheMedium Sadness logo

Witnessing the result of two perfectly detailed rendered world’s simultaneously is a wonder to see for the first time.  The fact that there is very little loss of fidelity in the graphics in split screen mode shows the power of the Xbox Series X.  The frame rates are steady throughout and the ray tracing features of the console are on full display.  The cutscenes vary between split screen and full screen and while the full screen cutscenes are impressive in detail and fidelity, the split screen dual world cutscenes have just as much punch and impact to them.

TheMedium SpiritNiwa logo

The controls are easy to learn and use and the first section of the game serves as a nice tutorial of what the player can expect later on.  As a new game mechanic is unlocked, the player is provided with a tutorial that guides the player through its use and addition to the control scheme.  The mechanics that the player will experience are:

  • Exploration – Utilise all of the available skills to find new clues and progress to the next section of the level or puzzle step.
  • Secrets – The Insight Button (LB) will allow for Marianne to see things that cannot be seen by the normal human eye. These secrets include additional clues and footsteps, markings on trees or walls, finding story clues on items that are picked up and more.
  • Spirit Dive – The Dive button (Hold B to dive out and then Hold B to return to Marianne’s body) will allow for access to spots in the spirit world where Marianne is unable to go in the material world by disconnecting her spirit from her body for a time. Be careful to avoid Spirit Diving for too long or her spirit will fade away completely and Marianne will die.
  • Collect – The Collect button (A) will allow you to pick up and interact with objects in both worlds for your inventory, memo’s and postcard collections. These objects offer a variety of uses that are practical as well as informational.
  • Shield – The Spirit Shield button (RB) allows Marianne to traverse moth infested sections of the spirit world which can’t be done without it. Further into the game this also provides a parry effect that can kill certain enemies.
  • Spirit Blast – The Spirit Blast button (RT) allows Marianne to either charge an object with electricity or to blast away a barricade or enemy that is blocking the way in the spirit world.

A specific mechanic found about halfway through The Medium will change the way this game is played and is presented in such a way that it floored this reviewer. This will remain a secret of this reviewer and left for the player to discover for themselves.

TheMedium EnergySpot logo

The investigative aspects of the story see puzzles form a big part of The Medium and the main part of the progression of the story which must be solved by utilising both the material and spirit world at the same time.  By pushing the focus on the spirit world (A button) or the material world (X button) the player is able to collect clues from each world and solve the most complex puzzles. The spirit world is a truly horrific experience, and the player must be ready for almost anything including puzzles that must be solved while running away from danger.

TheMedium BurntHouse logo

All of the above mechanics come together nicely to take on the enemies and challenges across both worlds of The Medium and the main enemy of each phase of the game can only be defeated by knowing what happened to make them what they are.  Until that point, Marianne must sneak past them using all means possible by crouching (L3) and holding her breath (R3) when confronted with this main diabolical enemy.  Other challenges such as moths and skin barricades can be conquered by utilising one of the many options on offer.

TheMedium Worlds Funeral Path logo caption

The Medium is rated R18+ for good reason and should by no means be played with any children within earshot or eyesight.  This is a single player experience that can be paused at any point should any parenting duties arise.  However, the player is unable to make custom saves so the Quick Resume feature for Xbox Series X comes in handy for when the player needs to take an extended break.  Beware though, if the Xbox loses power then you will be reset back to the last autosave point in the story.

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Rob for One More Game

10 – Masterpiece – This game is a must play for anyone who plays games. A day one purchase is worth every cent.

Please click the link here for a full rundown of our rating scale.

A review code was kindly provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review for the Xbox Series X.  Our thoughts are ours and ours alone.

This game is available via the Xbox Game Pass and Game Pass Ultimate subscription.

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