After the tragic removal of PT and the subsequent cancellation of Silent Hills, people have been clamoring now more than ever for a game to scratch that same itch. Since Konami has been dragging their heels, we’ve now got some hard competition with The Medium. An all around well composed game with some interesting new systems, The Medium takes all the most spine-tingling parts of the Silent Hill series and gives everything a fresh coat of paint (and blood) for an absolutely harrowing descent into the spirit realm.
I need to preface this by saying: I am not great with horror games. The smallest things can make me jump, and seeing the locked camera angles presented in The Medium had me pausing to breathe in every room. While not ever-present, there is an overwhelming sense of dread in some areas. After the prologue, you’re left to explore Niwa Worker Resort, and frankly this game has squashed my non-existent urban exploration dreams. Even the journey to Niwa is spooky, never understanding what’s going on due to both the player and Marianne, the main character, being completely clueless. The only hunches you have to go on are a phone call, and your psychic ability to see into the spirit realm.
The Medium is a game presented in two fronts. You have the original world, and the spirit world. At times you act in both simultaneously to solve puzzles, as most things in the spirit world have a counterpart in the real world, and interacting with the object in the spirit world can activate it in the real world. Things like fuse boxes, broken elevators, and locked doors are just par for the course. As you progress through the game, you also unlock abilities like astral projection and spirit shields, but believe me, the shield is not a countermeasure. Proceeding further into the game has you involved more in one world at a time, looking to solve puzzles all while being guided by the clues given in the spirit realm. Though the spirit realm is an independent experience, you’re still able to use abilities akin to a “witcher sense” in the real world. This is used to find intractable items, collectibles, and lore details. Many of these are integral for understanding the gruesome story of Niwa, but many are perfectly skippable. After all, it’s rough enough being in a small room with a fixed camera angle, much less moving around to search for collectibles.
The Medium’s presentation is incredibly inspired by Silent Hill, if it wasn’t entirely obvious. What separates it, however, is the spirit realm. This single handedly takes the game to a new dimension of scary, with body horror being the smallest thing to worry about. This isn’t to say the environments are bad, they’re actually incredibly well crafted. The real world is eerie and feels genuinely dangerous, there’s a constant lingering feeling of “I shouldn’t be here” regardless of where you go. The posters and some visible logs show a complete disconnect from the current environment, some of the collectible postcards show an incredibly vibrant and beautiful place free from harm. This could not be further from the case since I honestly need to reiterate it: Niwa is horrifying. This isn’t even touching on the spirit world, where the walls and doors are made of flesh, characters have sinewy bodies, and there are screaming corpses embedded on the walls and floors. Yeah, it’s not necessarily a fun environment. That being said, the environments feel meticulously crafted to seem as scary as possible. Never did I enter a hallway and feel safe, or round a corner with a skip in my step ready to learn about the backstory of this place. The Medium’s strict lock on the camera angles is one of the largest keys to the claustrophobic feeling it presents, ensuring the player doesn’t feel safe even when nothing is happening.
While I have only dabbled in horror games, The Medium is a real special case. Although I was scared out of my mind playing the game, I actually felt driven to learn more about the story, and enjoyed the puzzles that actually explained what was happening. Things like dynamic room changing and projecting through realms to find certain items helped dial the pace back a notch after getting scared by my own shadow. There’s enough player agency and story to engross even someone not necessarily invested in horror games, and that’s a good thing. There are some small gripes, most being the controls on PC. I highly recommend playing this game with a controller, as it made the experience much more tolerable. This is definitely one of the defining horror story games to come out recently, and I can easily recommend it to fans of the genre.
Score: 8 out of 10
Reviewed on Windows PC (Steam)