Horror adventure game The Medium introduces intriguing split screen world
A new psychological horror game makes use of an interesting split-screen display to tell the story of a woman with the abiilty to see and interact with the spirit world, an eerrie mirror to her own.
Marianne is the medium of the title and is able to interact with spirits. After helping her foster father pass on, she finds herself exploring a deserted Polish resort where some kind of massacre led to the abandonment years before.
The innovation that The Medium introduces is the split-screen view, so that we can see Marianne in her world and her spirit-world analogue in that world. She can force herself into an out-of-body state in which she leaves her real world body behind and can move freely through the spirit world, but she can only do this for a limited time before she can’t get back to her real body.
The swapping back and forth between the two worlds provides an interesting method to solve the environmental puzzles that block your path through the game. Sometimes you need to interact with an object in the spirit world and come back to the real world. Other times you need to go fully into the spirit world to find something you need to clear an obstacle in the real world. And at times, you need to protect yourself from a danger in the spirit world that doesn’t even appear in the real world.
Split-screen poses a problem
The split-screen display, though, posed a problem because you can only really focus on one world at a time. Especially in a survival horror game where the cues you see or miss can make the difference between life and death, having to attend to two worlds at the same time is too difficult.
There’s no combat in The Medium, but there are moments when Marianne needs to escape from a malevolent force at the heart of the danger, and these chase sequences are also challenging because there are not enough cues to help players understand what they need to do to escape. Instead, these sequences require endless trial-and-error which is frustrating if you have to replay too much of the game.
The atmosphere created here is suitably unearthly, the characters are interesting, and the narrative comes together in the end, although it requires players to work to find some of the connections along the way.
The Medium will satisfy fans of psychological horror who don’t need to fight their way through the scares. If you’ve got a subscription to Xbox Game Pass, it’s absolutely worth trying.