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It all starts with a dead girl.

The Medium is a supernatural horror puzzle adventure game developed and published by Bloober Team, with its musical score co-composed by Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame. It was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows and the Xbox Series X|S on January 28, 2021.

The story follows Marianne, a woman with the ability to perceive and interact with the Spirit World and the ghosts that live there. When a phone call from a stranger promises her the truth of the origins of her powers, she finds herself at the Niwa, an empty decrepit hotel outside of Krakow, Poland. However, Marianne quickly realizes that something is wrong and must unravel the mystery behind its abandonment — if the nightmarish monsters infesting the place don't kill her first.

This game provides examples of:

  • The '90s: The game takes place in late 1999; the newspaper on Marianne's father's table lists November 5th, 1999 as its publication date. It also mentions Bill Clinton during his presidential campaign.
  • Abusive Parents: "Abusive Paternal Figures" might as well be the subtitle of the game. Richard has an abusive stepfather, Richard himself abused the daughter of Thomas, who was like a son to him, even Henry has an abusive father in his past, and both he and F. are absentee fathers. Pretty much the only good dad in the whole game is Jack, and the game opens after he's already dead.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Right after the tense encounter with the Maw at the ruined fort, Marianne meets Sadness on a Trauma Swing and the two have a moment of melancholic conversation about their pasts.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The ending consists of a cut to black, followed by the sound of a gunshot, leaving it unclear whether Marianne shot Lily to kill the Maw, or herself to deny the Maw its next viable host.
  • Arc Words: The Maw keeps repeating "it all ends in me"; Lily later says the same when trying to talk Marianne into shooting her.
    • The other arc words are "It all starts with a dead girl". Initially, it refers to a reoccurring dream of Marianne's that was believed to be connected with her missing past until it's later revealed by Lily that it's a vision of the future — a future that Lily wants.
  • Arc Symbol: Butterflies, which symbolize transformation and may reflect Marianne's constant shifting between the Material and Spirit World.
  • Astral Projection: While Marianne's Spirit World form is usually synced with her material self, she can also send it out on her own for limited period of time. Likewise, the Spirit Thomas and Sadness can operate independently of Thomas' and Lily's bodies.
  • Aura Vision: Marianne can use Insight, which highlights nearby notable objects and lets her see the Maw when it prowls the material world.
  • Baddie Flattery: Henry is impressed with the carnage Thomas left behind when breaking out of Soviet custody as a teen.
    I know how to make a man hurt, but I gotta say, I was impressed.
  • Barrier Warrior: Marianne can create bubbles of spiritual energy around herself to protect herself from the moths.
  • The Blank: Ghosts whose souls have been torn out have holes instead of faces.
  • Body Horror:
    • The Spirit World has it in spades, from giant hands undulating in the background to human figures half-sunken into the walls, to roadblocks made out of human skin.
    • Many of the ghosts stuck in the Spirit World have holes where their faces should be.
    • Sadness's right arm is almost entirely missing, as though it's been torn off.
  • Book Ends: The game's opening line is also its last.
  • Call-Back: Long after you've forgotten it was there, the occult symbol in Thomas's hidden office is explained when you find a drawing in the secret bunker. Turns out Thomas was trying to summon Spirit!Thomas through ritual. But the ritual failed, and he instead summoned the Maw.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Happens a lot in a game focused on the cycle of abuse creating abusers. Richard ends up stabbing his step-father when he tries to rape his mother. Henry investigates and destroys his abusive father for what may be made up crimes when he becomes an adult.
  • Canine Companion: When making her way through the woods, Marianne meets a dog, which leads her through the forest to Francis' corpse.
  • Cats Are Magic: Downplayed; Marianne can travel through the mirrors with a pair of matching cat statuettes, white one for entering the Spirit World and black one for exiting.
  • Cigarette of Anxiety: When Spirit!Thomas asks her to tell him How We Got Here, Marianne takes a cigarette lying on the table and lights it up.
  • Cool Bike: Marianne rocks up to Niwa in a Cold War-era motorcycle.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Henry threatens Thomas with this, but instead of torturing him directly, he sets his house on fire, with threats of leaving his daughters to die in there if Thomas doesn't cooperate. It might've gone further if he hadn't made the mistake of touching Thomas with his bare skin, letting Thomas use his powers on him.
  • Color Motif: The inner worlds Spirit!Thomas explores have dominant colors: green for Richard's and red for Henry's.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Marianne is aware that the Spirit World is objectively a horrifying place, but having seen it since she was a little girl, she's more or less indifferent to the various horrors. This ends up biting her in the back, as she initially approaches the Maw thinking it's just another lost spirit in need of assistance, only for it to turn out to be a Super-Persistent Predator intent on getting under her skin.
  • Creepy Child:
    • Sadness, a ghost of a young girl that Marianne meets in the resort, has a habit of teleporting around, talks in riddles and wants to play with Marianne. She is actually friendly, though.
    • Marianne herself was one as a young girl. A old letter from her school headmistress says that she would often approach kids who recently lost someone dear to them and tell them the last messages of their loved ones.
  • Creepy Dollhouse: There is one of these in the Red House, which features in a puzzle.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The dead deer in Niwa forest appear to have rotten from inside out.
  • Cutscene Boss: All of them; the player never directly defeats any of the monsters.
  • Dark World: The Spirit World is a reflection of the material world, albeit with a Body Horror bend.
  • Dead Animal Warning: Walking towards Niwa's main bulding, Marianne finds a dead deer on the path, killed by some unknown creature. She encounters more when she returns to the forest later.
  • Death by Childbirth: Marianne's mother died giving birth to her.
  • Death by Origin Story: The game starts with Marianne's foster father, Jack, already dead, and her preparing his body for the funeral.
  • Defiant Captive: When Henry captures Thomas, the latter is snarky and sarcastic towards him with no apparent sign of fear. He changes his tune after Henry threatens his daughters, though.
  • Downer Beginning: The first twenty-or-so minutes of the game are spent with Marianne preparing her foster father's corpse for his funeral and then trying to get his soul to move into the afterlife. Throughout this, she sounds like she's constantly on the brink of tears.
  • Downer Ending: Regardless of how you see the Ambiguous Ending, it's not fun. Everyone in Niwa is dead, with the exception of the Rekowicz family, and of them, Thomas is stuck in the Spirit World and one of the sisters has to die. If Marianne shoots Lily, she can leave, but both Sadness and Lily are dead, and Marianne has to live out the rest of her life knowing that she murdered her sister. If Marianne kills herself, Lily is still stuck in Niwa with the Maw, who will kill anyone who enters. And with Thomas gone, there's no-one to get food and other necessities for her - she either dies when food in Niwa runs out or leaves and lets the Maw rampage and kill again. The only possible silver lining is that Thomas is discovered to be alive by the player, and is seen walking away from Niwa during the post-credits scene, though the scene is too vague to make it a Hope Spot.
  • Dual-World Gameplay: The gameplay centers around Marianne having to traverse both the Material World and the Spirit World, in two primary ways:
    • Sometimes, she's present in both worlds at once, and the player controls both Mariannes in split screen mode. An obstacle in one world is an obstacle in both worlds, and Marianne can't progress until she removes it (though she can have an Out of Body Experience to move forward in the Spirit World temporarily, if the barrier exists only in the Material World).
    • Sometimes, Marianne can use mirrors to wholly traverse between Spirit World and Material World, where she explicitly does not exist in the world that is not seen (as she could not pass physical barriers in one world while in the other like in the splitscreen mode).
    • She notably does not have control over when she exists in both worlds. Sometimes, as she puts it, the spirits, or the location itself, has "a story to tell" and she has no choice but to experience it.
  • Dub Name Change: The game is set in Poland and the characters are Polish, but their first names are anglicised in translation; for example, Marianna became Marianne, Ryszard became Richard, Tomasz became Thomas, etc.
  • Eldritch Location: From arms reaching out from the ceiling, to skin blocking the hallways, the Spirit World is... unpleasant.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The game begins in the afternoon, takes place thorughout the night, and ends in the early morning
  • Fixed Camera: The game uses static camera angles, as opposed to an over-the-shoulder cam.
  • Flashback: Several scenes are set in the time before Niwa shut down, showing Thomas' memories of what happened.
  • Flashback Cut: The echoes that Marianne finds around Niwa usually contain a short scene or a fragment of dialogue from the past.
  • Flower Motifs: Rose and Lily are two girls that Richard is obsessed with, as a child and as an old man respectively.
  • Fluorescent Footprints: Before meeting Sadness, Marianne follows her footprints, glowing white when using Insight.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: When Marianne approaches Niwa's main gate, a flock of birds takes flight above, startling her.
  • Foreshadowing: Sadness has a butterfly on her dress, foreshadowing her connection with Marianne; and indeed, she turns out to be her sister Lily.
    • The Maw's right-side wings seem to be weaker than his left, the same side as Sadness' missing arm and Lily's burns and bandages
  • Framing Device: The whole story is framed as Marianne telling an unseen person about the events in Niwa; she sometimes narrates over gameplay.
  • Fresh Clue: In the bunker, Marianne finds a piece of mold-covered bread fresh enough to clue her in that someone's been living there until not too long ago.
  • Genuine Human Hide: Some corridors in the Spirit World are blocked by stretched-out leather which Marianne realizes is human skin. She has to cut them with the razor blade to proceed.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Some ghosts seem to have trouble remembering things:
    • Jack doesn't seem to realize he's dead, and Marianne has to talk around it, telling him to "get some rest" to get him to pass on.
    • Sadness doesn't remember any details of her former life, only a pervasive sadness, which is why she goes by that name. The more Marianne helps her to remember, the less she wants to.
  • Ghostapo: While absent by the time of the game, what with World War Two being half a century in the past, it turns out that as a kid, Thomas was held by Nazis, who looked for a way to harness his powers as a weapon. Later, the Red Army got ahold of him and did the same until he fled.
  • Hand Blast: Marianne and "Spirit Thomas" can fire blasts of spiritual energy, if they collect them from elsewhere.
  • Hell Hotel: Niwa itself is a government resortnote  whose inhabitants vanished in a mysterious event known in Urban Legends as the "Niwa Massacre", and which has since fallen into a decrepit ruin; not to mention the ghost and monsters that still haunt it. Even when the place was still properly running, there was shady stuff happening behind the scenes.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • When the Maw isn't talking, it screeches like an animal in pain, even when it's unseen; expect to hear that a lot when it's around.
    • In Henry's inner world, squealing of pigs and sounds of a knife are part of the ambiance.
    • The Hound announces its presence with loud howls.
  • House Fire: Henry set the Red House on fire to get Thomas to talk; the other man's two young daughters were inside at the time. Both survived, though. In the present time, the house's Spirit World version is still burning.
  • House of Broken Mirrors: Almost all mirrors in Niwa are broken, though not completely shattered.
  • How We Got Here: The game opens In Medias Res with Marianne telling Thomas' spirit self how she came to find him, a scene which the player reaches near the end of the game.
  • I Know Your True Name: To send a ghost onward and out of the Spirit World, Marianne needs to know their name. Several of the game's puzzles are based on searching for clues to figure it out. In one case, it's not their legal name, but the name they prefer.
  • Invisible Monsters: The Maw is invisible in the material world, though Marianne can see its outline when using Insight.
  • Interface Spoiler: When Marianne is trying to find a way into the main building, Sadness - at this point, not yet introduced - giggles, and the subtitles have it labeled with her name. The options allow you to turn off names in subtitles for exactly this reason.
  • I See Dead People: The whole premise of the story is that Marianne can see the Spirit World and the ghosts therein.
  • Jitter Cam: Not usually, but whenever the world splits in two or merges back, the camera shakes and jitters heavily.
  • Knockout Ambush:
    • In one of the flashbacks, Henry creeps up on Thomas and knocks him out with several strikes of a wooden board to the head as the latter is too busy going through his suitcase to look behind himself.
    • Thomas later repays him in kind with a wrench.
  • Late to the Tragedy: Marianne arrives years after the tragic events at Niwa have concluded. They're elaborated on in Thomas' flashbacks.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: When Thomas picks up Richard's journal and holds it, music slowly rising, his Spirit self gets irritated.
    You building tension or what?
  • Les Collaborateurs: Richard's stepfather is one, giving Nazis a tip that neighbor is hiding Jews. Mothers informs a AK (Armia Krajowa-Home Army-Resistance). He is executed by them for treason.
  • Light 'em Up: Marianne can use the light left behind by good emotions to power mechanisms in the Spirit World, and protect herself from the moths. Spirit!Thomas can do the same, but his light is powered by anger and rage.
  • Light Is Good: Spirits who die with good emotions leave behind energy that appears as light. The Maw is repulsed by it, and Marianne can use this energy against it.
  • Light Is Not Good: In the slaughterhouse section, Spirit!Thomas has to avoid beams of light, as they're physically harmful.
  • Lineage Comes from the Father: Both Marianne and Lily inherited their abilities as mediums from Thomas.
  • Lonely Piano Piece: When Marianne goes to face her sister at the lake and end everything, all her allies gone, a melancholic piano piece begins to play. It's also the one time the soundtrack busts out vocals.
  • The Lost Woods: Niwa is surrounded by deep forest buried in perpetual shadow, which Marianne has to cross to reach the resort, and then again, at night, to reach the Red House.
  • Madness Mantra: When Spirit!Thomas examines Henry's knife, he hears a boy's voice repeating instructions on how to cut meat. It goes over and over, and continues even after Thomas puts the knife away.
    Steady hand. Even motions. Against the grain. Always against. Never with. Always against. Never with. Steady hand. Even motions. Against the grain. Always against. Never with. Always against. Never with. Steady hand...
  • The Man in the Mirror Talks Back: Thomas' Spirit World counterpart is a separate person, who talks to him through mirrors and windows. It's inferred by Thomas that Marianne's Spirit World counterpart didn't split from her and become a separate, sentient identity because she was too young when it occurred.
  • Magic Mirror: The broken mirrors in Niwa allow Marianne to traverse between worlds.
  • Magitek: Downplayed; Marianne blasting spiritual energy into objects in the Spirit World charges up their real-world equivalents as if they got hooked up to a battery. As she puts it, at the end of the day power is power.
  • The Maze: Richard's flashbacks features a hedge maze.
  • Mistaken for Prank Call: When Thomas calls Marianne at the start of the game insisting that he knows what she is, she dismisses him as a prank caller until he recounts one of her own dreams to her.
  • Moth Menace: One of the obstacles in the Spirit World are swarms of moths that will attack Marianne unless she shields herself.
  • Mundane Solution: When captured by Henry, Thomas initially tries to Mind Rape him, but Henry proves Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth. He then manages to free himself when Henry's back is turned and socks him over the head with a wrench.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Richard says it almost word for word in one of the memories in the Spirit World. Considering this is in the same room where two other memories showing his creepy obsession with Lily are located, the implication is quite clear.
    • Tomasz says the same when he discovers Richard's notebook full of drawings of Lily, and realizes that he not only invited a potential child predator into his house but also let him take his daughter away for hours on end to serve as his painting model.
  • Mystical White Hair:
    • Marianne's Spirit World self has snow-white hair, featured prominently in promotional materials.
    • Downplayed with Lily, who's a more powerful medium and whose hair is notably paler than Marianne's in the material world.
  • Nice Day, Deadly Night:
    • It's still early afternoon when Marianne mourns her foster father, begins to explore the resort and meets the friendly ghost Sadness. The sun starts to set when she meets the Maw, and from then on out, she faces all the monsters in the dark.
    • All of Thomas' flashbacks take place at night.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: In one of the flashbacks, when Richard returns to his room Thomas confronts him about Richard's actions towards Lily. Upon realizing that yes, Richard did harm the girl, Thomas absolutely lays into him, and then Thomas' Spirit self effectively lobotomizes Richard.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The opening title sequence is composed of old film reel clips of daily life in Poland, with a focus on children and birds, overlaid with an ominous and atmospheric sound track. Given this takes place after we learn of Marianne's supernatural abilities, the complete lack of reference to anything overtly occult actually makes the sequence more unsettling.
  • Not Quite Dead: Despite the presence of Sadness, Lily is still quite alive.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Some of Niwa's ghosts and monsters do this sometimes.
  • Period Piece: The game is set in 1999, with flashbacks to The '80s and World War Two.
  • Player Nudge: If you fail the Puzzle Boss encounter with The Maw at the end of the Bunker area enough times, then the game will start to show a button prompt for Out of Body Experience.
  • P.O.V. Cam: While the game is in third-person, there are cutscenes where we see through the eyes of Richard and Henry.
  • Porn Names: When Marianne finds the bolt cutters, she thinks that Bolt Cutters sounds like a name from a spy film, "or the kind of film where you don't use your real name. Ew. Spy film it is."
  • Possession Burnout: All of Maw's victims eventually "wear out", necessitating that it sheds them. That's why it chases Marianne - it believes she, as a medium, will be a more powerful host.
  • The Precarious Ledge: Marianne has to navigate more than a few.
  • Psychic Powers: Apart from their ability to see the Spirit World, mediums have quite a few, including Astral Projection, Psychometry, becoming a Barrier Warrior and Hand Blasts, though most work only in the Spirit World.
  • Psychometry: Some objects in Niwa have traces of spiritual energy on them, letting Marianne perceive fragments of events tied to them.
  • Purgatory and Limbo: The Spirit World seems to function as this, as indicated in the first half-hour of gameplay shows. The souls of the dead reside there until Marianne gets them to move on.
  • Puzzle Boss: Escaping the Bunker area requires getting past The Maw, by activating an environmental hazard. If you know the right method, this takes a few seconds. If you don't, then The Maw will kill you about as quickly.
  • Recurring Dreams: The game starts with Marianne recounting her recurring dream about a girl running through the woods, only to be shot by a stranger. Thomas later brings up the same dream to get her to come to Niwa.
  • Rule of Three: The hedge maze in Richard's inner world is visited three times, and becomes more decrepit each time.
  • Salt Solution: It's apparently at least somewhat effective at repelling spirits, as the walls of the living quarters in the bunker are lined with it.
  • Secret Diary: Richard keeps one. Thomas finds it and is horrified to see it contains pictures upon pictures of his preteen daughter.
    Thomas: It's her... it's her! Page after page... It's like he's obsessed!
  • Secret Police: In the flashbacks, Thomas' Mind Rape of Richard caught the attention of the Security Service, socialist Poland's secret police and counterintelligence agency, who sent their own agent to investigate.
  • See the Invisible: Outside the main building, the Maw can be tracked by splashing water when it steps into puddles.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The achievement for reconstructing your first Memory Shard, I Know the Pieces Fit, is a lyric from the tool song "Schism" off the 2001 album Lateralus.
    • After getting the bolt cutters, Marianne jokes that it sounds like a secret agent name - Cutter. Bolt Cutter.
    • The appearance of the Spirit World is based on the works of Zdzisław Beksiński.
    • There are several references to Bloober's previous game, >OBSERVER_, mostly as graffiti in Marianne's building.
    • Likewise, the dog in the woods might be a reference to their other game, Blair Witch.
    • The guest book has "Vote for Pedro" and "I was here - Tony Halik" (the Polish version of the Kilroy Was Here meme) in it.
    • When Marianne traverses through the mirror for the first time, a cutscene plays of her looking back at her reflection. The shot is framed in almost exactly the same way as the opening sequence of Silent Hill 2, where James is looking into the bathroom mirror.
    • The final scene with Marianne and Lily on the pier, where Lily asks Marianne to kill her is very similar to Mayu asking her younger sister Mio to kill her in the ending of Fatal Frame II. The butterfly motif is even present in both games.
    • A newspaper in the office at the beginning of the game has an article about an archaeological dig discovering the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.
    • Thomas uses the phrase "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there." a handful of times over the course of the game.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Marianne delivers one of these to the Childeater when it tries to convince her that Lily let him harm her willingly and that he did care for her.
    Marianne: Shut up! Stop acting like you ever cared about her. (...) Your soul has rotten away. There's barely anything left. By now, it's just your sins. I almost feel sorry for you. You're nothing!
  • Sickening Slaughterhouse: Henry's inner world eventually morphs into this, as his father was a butcher.
  • Spirit World: Named just that, it serves as a stopping point for dead souls that can't move on for some reason.
  • Spiritual Successor: From visual style and monster design to music, the game is a love letter to Silent Hill 2.
  • The Stinger: After the credits roll, the player can see Thomas - not his spirit self, the man himself - is still stuck in the Spirit World.
  • String Theory: Thomas has a board like this in his bunker, collecting information about spiritual beings and Marianne.
  • Super-Persistent Predator: After meeting with Marianne the first time, the Maw keeps menacing her throughout the whole hotel.
  • Take It to the Bridge: The final confrontation between Marianne and the Maw takes place on a lake pier.
  • Tap on the Head: In one flashback, Thomas gets knocked out by several strikes to the head with a heavy wooden board. After he wakes up, he's able to engage in Passive Aggressive Combat with his captor with no apparent problems.
  • The Reveal: Thomas had two daughters: Lily and Marianne.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Marianne and Lily, respectively; one drives a bike, curses and wears trousers, while another has a whole collection of skirts and dresses, speaks in a subdued voice and stays put in Niwa.
  • Trauma Swing: When Marianne meets Sadness in the woods, the ghost girl is on a swing with a too-calm demeanor.
  • Trying Not to Cry: After helping Jack's spirit move on, Marianne barely holds back tears throughout the phone call with Thomas.
  • Urban Legend: Marianne is familiar with Niwa before she goes there, as she's heard local urban legends about how there was supposedly a massacre there that forced the resort to shut down. She quickly discovers it's more true that she expected.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: When Marianne tries to ask Thomas why he wants her in Niwa over the phone, he rants about a light that still shines but will soon fade away, without further explanation.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: There is an Achievement for feeding the cat in Jack's apartment, and you can feed the dog you meet in the woods.
  • Wham Shot: After sending away the Childeater, Marianne finds a photo showing herself as a little girl, taken in Niwa.
  • Wham Line: At the end of Henry's flashback, the following exchange occurs, confirming an earlier implication:
    Girl's voice: Daddy?
    Thomas: Lily? Marianne?
  • White Mask of Doom: All the ghosts have masks over their faces. Those are actually their souls; a ghost that is separated from their mask becomes catatonic and unable to move on.
  • Your Mom: Thomas fires one of those off when Henry is interrogating him, and gets a punch to the face for his trouble.
    Henry: They do important scientific research. To find out what it is that makes you... special. And what is that exactly?
    Thomas: Ask your mom.

It all ends in me...


Video Example(s):


The Medium

The Medium is a supernatural horror puzzle adventure game developed and published by Bloober Team, with its musical score co-composed by Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame. It was released worldwide for Microsoft Windows and the Xbox Series X/S on January 28, 2021.

The story follows Marianne, a woman with the ability to perceive and interact with the Spirit World and the ghosts that live there. When a phone call from a stranger promises her the truth of the origins of her powers, she finds herself at the Niwa, an empty decrepit hotel outside of Krakow, Poland. However, Marianne quickly realizes that something is wrong and must unravel the mystery behind its abandonment - if the nightmarish monsters infesting the place don't kill her first.

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