Offline Adventures – The Medium

I’d read about The Medium here and there a while ago, but although it did look somewhat interesting I wasn’t intrigued enough to actually give it a shot. Until I learned that none other than Akira Yamaoka (of Silent Hill fame) had contributed to the game’s soundtrack, that is. At that point I just had to buy the deluxe edition – including a digital artbook and, most importantly, the soundtrack – right away, so off to GOG I went.

I’m glad that I did because the ~12 hours it took me to see the end credits were a pretty good experience. I’d describe The Medium as a rather easy third-person adventure game with light to moderate stealth elements and psychological horror. It’s not an all-time classic, but if you’re a fan of the genre(s) I can recommend it.

I won’t spoil anything about the story as I feel it’s actually the game’s strong point, and I think knowing too much about it beforehand would seriously lessen the experience. Instead I’ll talk more about gameplay, controls, sound and graphics, which are also pretty important for a game like this in my opinion.

I had to crank up the brightness of all screenshots significantly – the whole setting is pretty bleak

First of all – the graphics are simply stunning. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite come across on stills, but this is easily the most realistic looking game I’ve played to date. As usual the characters’ faces don’t quite reach that high standard, but apart from that I felt totally immersed in the environments – well, at least those located in the real world.

The game’s advertised standout feature is its “Dual-Reality-Gameplay”. The main character, Marianne, is the eponymous medium, her ‘special ability’ being to let her consciousness slip into the spirit world. Well, I say let, but most of the time it doesn’t actually happen by choice. Also, she can’t stay separated from her body for too long in that state, so most of the time she’s moving and acting in both worlds at once and in unison. These scenes are shown in split-screen, sometimes divided horizontally, sometimes vertically.

When an obstacle is blocking her passage in either world she can’t pass it, which is when she has to temporarily leave her body behind and hurry to cook up a solution in the spirit world, or alternatively find a way around in the real world. Many of the game’s puzzles revolve around this.

The feature isn’t as revolutionary as advertised, but it is quite neat. Navigating a character through two worlds at once that look kinda the same but also very different feels pretty cool. As this is all rendered in real time it’s also taxing on the hardware though, so a newish gaming rig is recommended.

During the course of the game Marianne is confronted by a nightmarish creature every now and again. It can’t be defeated, because of course it can’t, so the only option is to hide and sneak, as it were. I’m not a fan of such mechanics, but it didn’t bother me too much here as these scenes are short and not terribly hard to beat. They feel pretty intense too, so op success I guess.

As Marianne advances through the game she finds more and more story clues, often in text form (letters, postcards and such), but there are also disturbing sketches like this as well as conversations that happened long ago, still existing as echoes in the spirit world.

If there’s one thing I’d have to criticize it’s that the amount of objects actually being utilized in puzzles is miniscule compared to the stuff that’s “just” there to unveil the story. Consequently there aren’t that many puzzles to solve overall, so as far as adventures go this one is an ‘adventure light’ at best.

At certain points in the story you take control of another character’s spirit form. This tormented soul, obviously also a medium and central to the plot, has to face some really dark places, which are the game’s most impressive set pieces.

But what about the music? That’s what I bought the game for, isn’t it?

Well, it’s quite good. Really good, actually, now that I’m listening to it again as I type this. The crux is, it’s neither as atmospheric nor as disturbing as Silent Hill’s soundtrack, so I guess the fact that I’m not totally over the moon is simply due to too high expectations. What else is new?

As for controls, I used my trusty Xbox 360 pad and had no problems, except that I use it too rarely and always need an hour or two to memorize where A, B, X and Y are located. I assume using mouse and keyboard would work just fine too, but haven’t tested it.

Checkpoint placement is regular and fair. I was annoyed only once during my playthrough when I had to repeat a section a couple of times, and that wasn’t because of the checkpoint itself, but because of the 20 second-long unskippable cutscene right before the tricky part.

And there you have it. Overall I really liked the game, and if I were to make one of those tier-lists that are so popular these days I’d give it a solid B.

Towards the end the atmosphere even lightens up somewhat. Whether that’s a harbinger of a happy ending you’ll have to go and see for yourself.

This is how you remake a classic!

Re-releasing older console games for the current hardware generation is a common practice nowadays. Since the machines aren’t backwards-compatible anymore we should be thankful for the opportunity to buy games we’ve already bought once a second time, right?

Most of these games are labeled ‘remastered’ or some such, probably to justify the usual price tag upwards of 30 bucks. But more often than not what we actually get is the result of the lowest possible effort. Upscaled resolution, maybe a wee bit sharper textures, that’s it.

Thankfully there’s another, much better way to do it.


Holy crap, Capcom, what you pulled off here is nothing short of a miracle: the wet dream of any nostalgia-wallowing oldschool gamer and a great, modern take on survival horror that actually makes the competition look old (pun intended) in one game.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I’d initially intended to wait a while before buying the Resident Evil 2 remake. I’m still pretty engaged in Black Desert at the moment, and in today’s market waiting just a couple of months often means buying an already discounted game.

But after hearing more and more good things about it I realized that this was a golden opportunity to do something gamers often talk about yet rarely do: vote with my wallet.

I mean, I’ve talked about how much I like good horror games in general and one certain game, also made by Capcom*, in particular. Nothing would make me happier than a high quality remake of Silent Hill, and what better way to entice Capcom to do it than to show them that there’s money to be made with that kind of stuff? Also, Resi 2 happens to be my second favourite horror game of all time, so…


I went and bought the standard edition at full price. That I also splurged on the classic soundtrack is a given, for just three bucks in the PSN store. Kudos for letting us buy the DLC stuff individually instead of forcing us to also pay for some costumes and weapon skins just to get the soundtrack.

‘But Mail, what about the game itself, is it worth the full price?’ I hear you ask. Absofuckinglutely!

Click to enlarge…THE DARKNESS

I think the biggest and most appropriate compliment I can give the game is: it looks and feels exactly as I remember it from twenty years ago.

Say what?

Well, you know how we tend to remember only the good aspects of stuff we liked while having completely forgotten about the bad ones? The original Resi 2 had fixed camera angles often denying you a clear view of the action, clunky controls, hilariously bad voice acting and, of course, horrible graphics by today’s standards.

This remake remedies all that and more while keeping everything intact that made the original awesome.

Including some pretty effective jump scares, obviously

Inventory management, safe rooms with shared storage crate and typewriter for saving the game, different herbs and gunpowder types to combine for different effects, and various puzzles, most of them not overly complex, are all still there.

What crazy architect designed this building anyway?

Pretty much everything has been made smoother and more convenient though. When an item is no longer needed, for example a key you’ve unlocked all corresponding doors with, it’s marked with a little symbol so you know you can safely throw it away. The game isn’t only saved when you use a typewriter, it also autosaves at certain checkpoints, especially when a harder fight is imminent. There are many such small details that don’t change the game in a fundamental way but make it less tedious and more enjoyable.

The story hasn’t changed much as far as I remember, minor details maybe; the same applies for the police station’s layout and where and when you meet certain enemies or allies.

Long time no see, you ugly bastard

One change that’s very beneficial to the game’s atmosphere is the fact that most rooms and hallways are pitch-black now. It doesn’t impede the gameplay in any way because Leon pulls out his flashlight and points it in the direction he’s facing completely on his own, he can even use a two-handed weapon like a shotgun at the same time. It doesn’t make the game any harder or less convenient, just spookier and thus better.

The lighting is superb overall, as is the sound design. I wholeheartedly recommend playing with surround sound, you’ll constantly be on the edge of your seat even without any zombies in sight.

What I didn’t expect at all was a high gore factor, but boy, did we get one. I deliberately refrained from using screenshots showing that stuff, but believe you me, there are some brutal scenes in there. Now that I think about it the original wasn’t any less gory, the graphics just weren’t up to the task. The way I see it the violence doesn’t serve an end in itself though, it conveys the dire straits you’re in more than anything.

Of course there are boss fights too.

You should definitely change your diet, mate

I generally don’t like boss fights in games like this, but the ones I encountered until now didn’t aggravate me too much, which is saying something.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m really impressed and delighted by the job Capcom has done here.

Whether you loved the original or just like horror games in general, you owe it to yourself and all likeminded gamers to buy this one right fucking now! You won’t regret it.

*Edit: Doh, I just realized that Silent Hill wasn’t actually made by Capcom but by Konami. A shame. I hope someone at Konami is watching this too though!

GGOAT: Silent Hill

I realized something about myself: I like columns.

No, not these. Well, these too, but this ain’t about them

I’m talking about topic categories. My first one was Stay awhile and listen which is about music I like and other musical subjects, then came Memorable Moments where I recount great gaming adventures I had.

Now here’s another one: Greatest Games Of All Time.

This is where I’d like to talk about games that, for me, rank among the best ever made, and what exactly it is that makes them so great.

Here goes.

Reading about the Resident Evil 2 remake, which even Angry Joe really digs (NSFW) and which I’m definitely going to buy as soon as I’ve got the time to play it, made me reminisce about the various horror games I’ve played over time. The greatest of them all, and indeed one of the best games I’ve played period, is Silent Hill.


It is easily the most scary piece of entertainment I’ve ever consumed. For a game that had to make do with PSone graphics and mostly refrained from utilizing jump scares this is all the more impressive. How did they do it?

One important factor for me is the despair and helplessness the game makes you feel right from the start without actually rendering you totally helpless as a player. I mean, sure, you don’t have any weapons at the beginning, but the first monsters you encounter you can run away from easily, and you find your first weapon, a club or somesuch, relatively soon.

For comparison, The Evil Within, a game that many, myself included, had hoped might bring Silent Hill’s spirit back, pits you against enemies you can neither fight nor escape from all the time. Either you get the sneaking part just right, or you die. To me that was much more aggravating than exciting.

Instead of invincible opponents Silent Hill mostly uses its very unique atmosphere to scare you.

Firstly, the town is pretty huge and you’re wandering around all alone (most of the time anyway). Due to the ubiquitous fog you can’t see very far, so you often have to rely on your hearing to identify threats.

You don’t actually see much, but your imagination runs amok constantly

The sounds most monsters make send chills down your spine, as does the crackling and squeaking radio alerting you of their presence. Even scarier than that is Akira Yamaoka’s ingenious soundtrack though. Much of it is more soundscape than music, and it’s fucking terrifying. Seriously, just listen to this and imagine playing the game alone in a dark room to that.

Whenever you think it can’t get any worse the game cranks up the horror to 11 by shifting over to the Otherworld, some kind of hellish parallel dimension.

Not much left to the imagination here

When that happens the ‘music’ also goes all in. If this doesn’t freak you out I don’t know what would. I firmly believe that the game would only be half as great if it didn’t have that soundtrack.

It’s been about 20 years since I played the game, so I don’t remember many details about the story. I do remember that I didn’t get the ‘good’ ending though (if there even is such a thing) and that I was pretty disturbed and sad. It’s definitely not your standard demons invade our dimension, shit happens story, that’s for sure.

Despite all of this I’m afraid that Silent Hill isn’t a game I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who hasn’t played it yet. Much time has passed since it was made and gamers’ habits and expectations have changed a lot since then. I had to realize this myself when I started to play Silent Hill 2 for the first time about three years ago. Most fans agree that it’s even greater than the first one, but for some reason I’d never gotten around to playing it before. I gave up only a couple of hours in. I just couldn’t get over the sluggish controls, the stubborn camera, the backtracking and, yes, the blocky graphics anymore.

Now that they’re finished with Resi 2 I really hope Konami will do an equally great remake of Silent Hill. I think no other game deserves it as much. And, Konami, why not also do part 2 while you’re at it?

IntPiPoMo – Horror edition

I like it when games are a little scary. Or more than a little. Hence I’ve played quite a lot of horror games during the years, among others most Resident Evil issues, Dead Space, The Evil Within, F.E.A.R., and of course my all time favourite, Silent Hill.

Most of those games ran on various older consoles though, so I don’t have any screenshots.

Fortunately there are many PC games that also have some ‘scary’ in them, and naturally I’ve always been drawn to those too.

As a die-hard MMO player I have to start off with The Secret World of course. In terms of conspiracies, fairytales and horror it’s the mother of all MMOs.


One of the coolest, spookiest places in the game – which is saying something – is the haunted amusement park in The Savage Coast. Here I’m taking a ride on its roller coaster. Of course I expected something to happen, but it gave me the chills nonetheless, and I jumped in my seat when that apparition lunged at me just as I was about to pass her.

The next one is from a quest in Tokyo. Imagine you’re sent into a parking garage to investigate something. It’s dark, it’s gloomy, and something’s clearly not right. You walk down the ramp to the next level when suddenly what little light’s there goes out. It’s pitch black, but not for long. Before you can decide what to do next a blood red light turns on and you’re greeted by this:

I didn’t watch any videos, I swear! I don’t even own a VCS player anymore…

Then there’s the James Bond-esque mini expansion A Dream to Kill, which towards the end has you investigate a nursery. Evidently something’s gone horribly wrong here.

Yeah, I think I’d rather leave now…

One of my favourite games of all time is Vampire Bloodlines. Despite being a buggy mess and looking anything but fresh even when it came out in 2004 it’s so great that I still play through it every couple of years. I guess I have to talk about it in more detail some time. Until then you might enjoy Rakuno’s walkthrough series of the game, if you don’t mind spoilers that is.

Anyway, Bloodlines also has some seriously eerie sequences.

That’s gotta be a haunted house if there ever was one

Actually the quest giver flat out tells you that a ghost is making trouble in that old hotel, and your mission is to put an end to that.

What you don’t know is who the ghost is and why it can’t find rest. During your investigation you find more and more clues about what happened. Apparently a family of four stayed at the hotel for it’s grand opening, and due to jealousy – and maybe also some otherworldly reason – the father’s mental state got worse and worse. He – spoiler – eventually killed his family and set the hotel on fire. I found this image drawn by one of the kids to be the most disturbing clue:


In the end you can put a stop to the father’s haunting, and his wife’s ghost can finally rest in peace. At least there’s that.

Next up is Batman: Arkham Asylum. We have seen so many versions of Batman’s origin story by now that it’s gotten pretty stale. In this game though it’s done quite nifty (and short). During the course of the story Batman gets drugged by Scarecrow a couple of times. Sometimes it makes his worst fears become (perceived) reality, at one time it forces him to relive his parents’ death. Visually this is done exceptionally well, and the most emotional realization of the scene I’ve seen to date.


Path of Exile makes you fight lots of big bads during the course of its storyline. Among the most sinister is Piety of Theopolis, the right hand of the game’s former end boss Dominus.

When you first enter her lair in Act III, The Lunaris Temple, the set pieces make it abundantly clear that she’s really, really evil.

Yep, definitely evil.

I played a bit of Left 4 Dead 2 with a couple of friends after it came out. It wasn’t really all that scary, but it sported pretty much the highest gore factor I’d seen up to that point to compensate.

Rochelle and the guys having yet another bad day at the office

To end the post on a lighter note, here’s a shot of some rather unthreatening ghosts you’re probably familiar with:

Yo ho ho and a bottle of…grog?

IntPiPoMo picture count: 9 (this post); 26 (total)