A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Medium is a supernatural adventure/survival horror game available for download on Xbox Series X/S and Windows-based PCs. Players follow Marianne as she explores the abandoned site of a mysterious massacre, using her special abilities as a medium to deal with the spirits and other forces trapped within while also unlocking the secrets of her own past. The game's primary focus is on exploring the environment, uncovering clues, and solving puzzles to advance the story. Although there's not a lot of combat, there are plenty of disturbing and violent images shown throughout the story. Key moments occasionally refer to violence of a sexual nature and include scenes and references to violence against children. The game's dialogue makes frequent use of strong profanity, and Marianne is often shown smoking a cigarette and drinking alcohol.
What's it about?
THE MEDIUM is a supernatural mystery filled with secrets and tragedies that span both the world of the living and the spirit world that lies just beyond the veil. Marianne was an orphan, the survivor of a terrible accident that also granted her the unique ability to exist and interact in the real world and the spirit world simultaneously. Marianne has always tried to use her abilities -- both a gift and a curse -- to help lost souls find their peace and move on, which is what Marianne has been unable to find for herself. Since childhood, she has been haunted by visions of a young girl's murder, and left to wonder what it means and how it might tie into her own past. After receiving a phone call from a stranger pleading for help and offering the answers she has long sought, Marianne travels to Niwa, an abandoned hotel resort and the site of a massacre that cost the lives of countless people. Using her skills to traverse the spiritual plane, Marianne is determined to find the truth of what happened at Niwa and what role it may have played in her life. But she soon discovers that there are other forces able to cross between two worlds ... and they are determined to keep their secrets, even beyond the grave.
Is it any good?
A lot of games try to stand apart from the rest, thanks to some quirky gimmick that, while different, doesn't really add much to the experience. At first glance, The Medium's dual-world gameplay seems like that, but it quickly becomes clear that watching events unfold simultaneously in both the material and the spirit worlds is so much more than some cheap trick. It's an impressive feat of both storytelling and gameplay. During cinematics, there's something uniquely eerie about watching Marianne interacting with the spirit Sadness in her world while also seeing the same interactions in the "real" world. From a gameplay perspective, it pushes the player to pay extra attention to the environments, examining and manipulating objects in one world so that the player can advance further in the other. It all comes together seamlessly to gives players a tangible connection to Marianne and the curse she's been forced to live with her entire life. Marianne says it best when she describes the experience as existing in two worlds, but never truly living in either.
The Medium is one of the rare games that puts its focus squarely on its story. It doesn't require lightning-fast reflexes, and the puzzle elements can usually be solved without taxing your brain too much. Failing a task is almost impossible, and at worst requires a restart from a checkpoint that's only a few minutes old. Instead, every aspect of the game -- from the foreboding atmosphere of the Niwa resort to Marianne's tension-breaking monologues to the scraps of paper and other clues littering the rooms and hallways -- exist to flesh out the story and draw the player deeper into the mystery. It's this mystery that makes The Medium a must-play. Despite the obvious supernatural elements, The Medium doesn't constantly rely on cheap jump scares or other shock value. Instead, it digs deep into primal emotions, as Marianne's investigation begins to uncover even more instances of the suffering that the people in Niwa, especially the children, were forced to endure. The game conjures its fear on a psychological level, masterfully combining starkly disturbing imagery with players' own subconscious as they piece together the truth of what really took place at the Niwa massacre. The Medium is a tale of psychological horror at its best, told in a manner that could only be accomplished in this format.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about horror as entertainment. What are some ways that fear is used as entertainment? Why is it sometimes fun to be scared? How young is "too young" to properly process horror as entertainment (scary movies, games, etc.)?
Do you prefer games that are more weighted toward constant action than plot development, or do you prefer more of an interactive story? How can story-driven games use the interactive nature of games to get the player more engaged in the story?
- Platforms: Windows, Xbox Series X/S
- Price: $49.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Bloober Team SA
- Release date: January 28, 2021
- Genre: Survival Horror
- Topics: Adventures, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Use of Tobacco, Violence
- Last updated: February 18, 2021
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.