The Medium is a psychological horror/mystery adventure in which you mostly play as Marianne, a woman with psychic abilities. You use these 'gifts' to explore both the real and spirit world simultaneously, and as an alternative way of solving puzzles and continuing the story, which begins as she returns to her hometown of Krakow in Poland for her father's funeral. This makes for a sort of single-player tag-team effort as you play as Marianne and her otherworldly self, either in the real world, the spirit world or in dual reality, investigating events surrounding Niwa, a creepy derelict health spa and holiday resort.
Marianne's movements are tracked via a rather old-school flick-screen format that put me in mind of many old 'point & click' adventures. The atmosphere has hints of maybe Resident Evil, Silent Hill and even the old Soul Reaver games, but the movement and overall pace of the game doesn't match up to any of the aforementioned, as even when running the characters move like octogenarian marathon runners. Although Bloober Team has managed to produce a creepy atmosphere, the jump scares you might expect in a game of this genre are few and far between, and frankly I didn't find it particularly scary—even when it was trying its hardest.
The view scrolls sometimes, but it's mostly intricately modelled static screens that Marianne walks around with the camera either fixed or panning to follow her, with all the usual inherent depth perception issues that the format brings (problems lining up with doors, passageways or stairs for instance.)
With Marianne's 'insight' (mapped to LB) you can examine objects, manipulating them with the right stick to focus on a certain point to unlock echoes (memories) held within them, which goes some way to explaining the confusing back story and allowing you to progress in the game, which I must say has a satisfying ending that explains everything… or does it?
I think it's a good thing that The Medium is on Game Pass, so you can try it without forking out 40+ of your hard-earned on a real 'Marmite' game you could quite possibly play once and find that you really don't enjoy at all. The mostly dark, dingy and depressing settings, and an almost constantly oppressive atmosphere may suit the subject matter, but it doesn't exactly entice you back to the game—unless of course your idea of a good night out is exploring a spooky, deserted and haunted health resort—you weirdo.
Now I've had a good whinge I'm going to strongly commend Bloober Team on several points; The Medium isn't afraid to broach some truly disturbing, adult subjects and Marianne eschews the trope and is not the typical big-boobed vivacious action female hero. She smokes and even comments "you look like shit" as she catches sight of her reflection in a mirror! While we're talking about aesthetics, there's little in the game to convince you that it's a next-gen game that is pushing your Xbox Series X/S in any way, and it's a shame they didn't use the absolutely gorgeous woodland settings a bit more, for they are truly spectacular. You also have to appreciate that The Medium has been produced during the Covid-19 pandemic shit-show for a new generation of console, with all the production setbacks and logistical nightmares that almost certainly produced.
I doubt The Medium will be in anyone's top ten games at the end of the year, but it's a tidy, well-crafted adventure with excellent voice acting and music. Sadly, despite some innovative ideas its antiquated main gameplay mechanic and overall lack of genuinely scary moments lets it down.
Special thanks to Lauren at Premier for the review code.