When "The Medium" was revealed last year, it looked like one of the more promising offerings for the Xbox Series X. Psychological horror elements, powered by more advanced hardware, made it stand out among a crowded lineup.
The reveal had an "Evil Within" vibe, and the visuals were compelling enough to force me to pause and admire the work. After a short delay, "The Medium" was finally released and it's different from what I was expecting. Instead of a tense and action-oriented affair, the project by Bloober Team was slower-paced and puzzle-centric.
I was expecting a Polish version of "Silent Hill," but "The Medium" is more akin to Supermassive Games' "Dark Pictures Anthology." It's a narrative-driven game with an air of mystery as players find themselves controlling Marianne, who's the medium in question. Dealing with the death of her adopted father, she feels unmoored with the supernatural powers she's been dealing with all her life.
That malaise changes when she receives a mysterious phone call telling her to go to the Niwa Resort for answers about her abilities. Upon arriving, she discovers that it's a dilapidated compound from Poland's Communist past. It's a place overflowing with secrets, and the player has to uncover them using Marianne's powers.
Bloober Team teaches players how that works early on and sets up the building blocks for the campaign's advanced puzzles later on. Marianne has the ability to find hidden objects in a room and feel emotions tied to them. If players pick up a telephone, they can hear 15-year-old conversations tied to the item. More important, she can enter into and interact with the spirit world.
It's gimmicky but presents players with unusual puzzles. Because Marianne is venturing through two places at once, obstacles in the real world could prevent her from exploring rooms and spaces in the spirit realm and vice versa. Players often have to unlock a path in one world to proceed in the other.
This horror game is a mixed bag at best, with a few clever puzzles and an intriguing story that doesn't quite pay off on its promises.
Platform: Xbox Series X|S, PC
Rating: M for 17 & older