The Medium is a horror game and, as such, includes some pretty frightening beings and moments. While expected from the genre, that doesn’t mean you can prepare for all of it. Games in the horror category tend to rely on some of the same tactics: the jump scares you don’t anticipate or the sound of something or someone lurking nearby. The Medium, however, attempts to break some new ground by freaking you out in two different realities at the same time. Judging by the reviews, it often works.
Some elements in The Medium consist of the scares you might expect and nothing more. Others, however, are the "I want to turn this game off and sleep with all the lights on" kind of creepy. Below, you’ll get a look at some of the most disturbing parts of Bloober Team’s latest entry into the world of horror.
The Medium wastes no time getting into dark matter, as Marianne comes to terms with the passing of her adoptive father, Jack. Unfortunately, Marianne can’t mourn in the way one might like. She helped Jack run a funeral home, and as such, is tasked with preparing his body for the funeral. That includes locating his tie and neck clip to ensure both accompany him on his final journey.
After Marianne does her work, the lights in the funeral home go out. As she heads up a flight of stairs to investigate, a dark silhouette can be seen standing ominously at the top before disappearing. Some noise in Jack’s office lures Marianne into her late father’s workspace, and inside, there are the sounds of someone fumbling around, though no other being is present. It’s then that Marianne’s realities split, and she sees both the real world and the spirit world. And Jack.
Jack is the first spirit players encounter in the game, and his appearance sets the tone for the rest of the story. Using her abilities as a medium, Marianne sends Jack into the afterlife. But he is far from the last spirit she’ll see.
When Marianne arrives at the Niwa worker’s resort, she finds what seems to be an abandoned ode to Poland’s communist past. The main building is dilapidated, and there doesn’t appear to be a soul in sight. Then a toy ball slowly rolls down a busted staircase in the resort’s lobby, and Marianne experiences another one of her splits. Through her vision on the spirit world side, she comes face to face with Sadness, the spirit of a young girl who lived at Niwa.
The appearance of Sadness is not for the squeamish. She is missing an entire arm. Whole sections of her torso are gaping. As players learn later, Sadness went through a terribly traumatic experience, and that could help explain why she looks the way she does: parts of her were taken. Even creepier still, Sadness seems to appear and vanish in an instant, though she leaves a sort of "spirit trail" for Marianne to follow in some cases. Despite Sadness being a helpful friend to Marianne, no one would blame you for being a little freaked out by her.
It would be the understatement of the century to say The Medium has a few gross things in it. This is a mature-rated game, and the developers at Bloober Team take full advantage of that rating to pack The Medium to the gills with disturbing stuff. You may have accounted for that already — if so, kudos to you for trying to plan ahead. Nothing can prepare you, though, for the first time you discover a skin door.
"A skin door?" you might ask. "Is that a door made of skin?" Yes — it is exactly what it sounds like. Actually, it might even be worse than what it sounds like.
Throughout The Medium, Marianne is blocked off from certain areas by enormous, stretched-out patches of skin. Seeing them is bad enough, but getting through them might make you sick to your stomach. In order to proceed, Marianne must cut a line down the center of these skin doors; an act she performs very slowly with a small blade. The look of the skin as it sags, and the sound of it being sliced, may have you second-guessing your decision to play this game.
Niwa in the spirit world
In the real world, the Niwa worker’s resort is what you might expect out of an abandoned structure. The ceilings and floors are crumbling. Some of the stairways have collapsed. The elements have taken their toll on the interior, and there’s all sorts of debris strewn about. If you’ve ever explored an old forgotten building, Niwa may not surprise you at first, just as it doesn’t particularly surprise Marianne in the game.
That will likely change, though, when Marianne sees the spirit world side of things. Once Marianne’s spirit vision activates, Niwa transforms dramatically, and the dimly lit corridors of before become something much different.
At that point, you get to see Niwa for what it really is: a pit of despair. Countless lives were taken there. Bones and skin serve as the hallway décor. Some souls are still trapped in between the land of the living and the land of the dead, unable to move on from the tragedy they experienced. Marianne can help ferry some of these spirits to the other side, but she — and you — will have a hard time forgetting what Niwa looks like in that other world.
Richard the Childeater
Spirits in The Medium are stuck in their "spirit world" purgatory for a reason. Sometimes they’re unable to move on without some reassurance, like Marianne’s adoptive father, Jack. Other times, it is because they need to atone for the wrongs they’ve committed. Richard the Childeater fits into this category, and when you see him for the first time, you might assume he did something unspeakable and unforgivable to look the way he does. You would be right.
At a certain point in the game, it’s revealed that Sadness — the little spirit girl Marianne first meets at Niwa — is actually named Lily, and is the daughter of a man named Thomas. Richard, Thomas’s best friend, abused Lily when she was little. After his death, Richard became trapped in the spirit world as a hideous monstrosity with flowing tendrils. He became as ugly as the thing inside him he blamed for his actions. You get to meet Richard before sending him on his way, and it’s safe to say you will be thoroughly spooked by that event.
The strangely murdered deer
When you get out of Niwa in the game, you might feel compelled to breathe a sigh of relief. Every moment inside that dark, dank building is tense — being outdoors might have you believing the scary parts are over. The Medium is a horror game, however, and a forest is not exactly a place you want to be when there are spirits about. As Marianne discovers while walking through the woods, the wildlife had to learn that lesson the hard way.
In several spots on the forest path, Marianne happens upon dead deer that don’t look quite right. These animals weren’t the victims of hunters or other normal kind of predators — rather, their life was simply drained out of them, as though someone or something needed their energy to survive. If you’ve ever found a dead animal in your life, you know that kind of thing isn’t fun without having supernatural beings involved. Seeing these deer only serves to let you know that things in The Medium are about to get a whole lot more terrifying.
Henry’s spirit beast
During the later stages of The Medium, players see some visions of Thomas that include a man named Henry. Henry was a government spy sent to interrogate Thomas about his medium powers, but lost his life after Thomas managed to turn the tables and kill him. Later on, Marianne goes to Thomas’s home in the woods, which she discovers was also her own. Yes, Thomas is Marianne’s father and Lily is her sister. Lurking outside, however, is the spirit of Henry, whose life was lost nearby in the family garage.
Henry must have done some truly dreadful things in his life — he must’ve had some real demons. His appearance in the spirit world is that of a hulking beast with a human skeleton head, four legs, and two scrawny arms. Henry’s spirit confronts Marianne in one of The Medium‘s most terrifying scenes. Marianne manages to expel Henry from the spirit world, but the encounter is one that’ll likely stick with you.
There is no talking about The Medium without talking about The Maw. It is the first antagonistic spirit creature Marianne discovers at Niwa, and it just can’t leave her alone as she journeys through the game. At various stages, The Maw appears in both the spirit world and the real world, stalking Marianne, telling her how much it would love to wear her skin. Marianne defeats The Maw temporarily on more than one occasion, but it always comes back, showering her in the world’s most repulsive compliments.
The Maw’s appearance is positively terrifying. That is true whether it is the skin-consuming monster of the spirit world, or the invisible specter in the real world. The voice of The Maw, however, will really make your hair stand on end. You’ll find it hard to believe the same voice behind Joel in The Last of Us – Troy Baker – is breathing life into what is arguably the creepiest thing in The Medium. But it’s true.