Holloween is here and it is time to ramp up the scary stuff. My way to do this was by playing Dark pictures: Man of Medan. MoM is a survival horror game released by Supermassive studios. In short it’s about a haunted ship. This game starts slow because you aren’t in the ship right from the beginning.
Here, in MoM, your will to survive is tested as you make various choices. Some are inconsequential, others life-saving, or even life-threatening. You decide what your character will say or do and eventually are put in the shoes of each and every one of your five characters. These characters have a different set of personality traits at the start. But the choices you make can influence their personality too.
Man of Medan is the Game of Thrones: Telltale Series done right. Instead of each choice you make leading to an inescapable disaster you actually have control over how things will end up. And the story can be optimistic, or bleak, depending on how you react to various problems and behave, particularly towards the end. There is an entire (non-complex) relationship tree that tells you how your characters rapport is with the other four characters.
But even though it was interesting how each characters attributes changed as I advanced into the game, I wanted the attributes your characters gain or lose, matter, in terms of changing gameplay. I felt the relationship tree did not make as much of an impact on the actual game as I wanted it to.
But MoM is story driven to the core and tends to stimulate the player to continue, only to find out what’s next. You are listening to conversations, making choices about what to say or do, playing mashing games, tapping the right button at the right time to reduce your heartbeat, interacting with objects, traversing, and looking for these interactive objects all the time. This pretty much sums up everything you do in the game.
Even though the areas through which you navigate are diminutive and exploration not a major problem in terms of finding interactive objects (which are in plain view rather than hidden), the game does not feel restrictive. And you move from place to place within the ship rather than stay at the same place in it. Each new spot has new interact-able objects.
There are also wall-mounted pictures you can interact with, each giving you a premonition. This tells you, or rather warns you, of what might happen in the future. These are caveats and may not come true, but they are usually the scary part of MoM. The missions before the final ones are terrifying too and the characters get divided up constantly.
It’s a concept used many times but a character trekking unaccompanied around a haunted ship feels less safe (and feels more creeped out) than a group of people traversing, because they have each other for support and reliance. MoM also has certain twists and shocks along the way.
If these scares aren’t enough and you are impatient to uncover the mystery there’s the curator (the person seems to be something like a narrator) who might give you clues. This mystifying curator is an interesting addition and it always seems to be that he knows more than he is letting on. You can egg him on for clues about what will happen next, or you can avoid any spoilers by developing a frosty approach with him.
As is common in a lot of horror games there are a lot of items, particularly creaking doors, caskets with emanating “Manchurian Gold” gas and skeletal remains, that a person in that situation in real-life would try his best not to interact with. Particularly when on a murky ship, which is haunted. But this wouldn’t be a horror game otherwise and the characters do so anyway, knowing there are terrors at every turn on the ship, even if it is their own imagination.
This game is not lengthy at all. In fact it is barely four hours in length if played quickly. But this title definitely is replay-able. There aren’t just different choices but there are also diverse endings as well. And even though this game was released on 30 August it has been completed around thrice by some ardent gamers. Also playing the last part over and over again can help you uncover different endings.
And in this terrifying situation and gloomy ship interior your flashlight never dies, so that is some consolation. I enjoyed the story more than anything and I realized it could be more enjoyable if I watched it rather than played it. This is because I have a vendetta against button-mashing. But since you aren’t doing anything other than button mashing and looking for objects, MoM is very interesting simply to watch, while other gamers are playing.
The optimal way to play MoM is to complete it without even one of your characters dying. Though a lot of effort is dedicated to keeping your characters alive, the mean person in me emerged with horns and a pointed tail sometimes, and I tried to purposely get the characters killed. Just out of profound curiosity though, rather than authentic nastiness.
It’s a weird thing to say but this was a lot of fun. In fact I haven’t had so much fun doing something the game doesn’t encourage you to do (but doesn’t overtly prevent you from doing so), since I deleted the enclosure fences in a fully-developed zoo in Zoo Tycoon. And I let animals or (with the expansions) even dinosaurs loose on hapless guests there, whose only purpose was looking to enjoy and their only fault being, visiting a maniacs zoo. I do admit though that it was out of my control sometimes too in MoM.
But I soon felt conflicted after the deed (of getting a character killed) was done. When a character dies and the other characters cry before his body, it causes an opposite emotion, in reverse of what I felt before. I felt personally responsible. I would ask myself why I got this character killed and delivered pain and sorrow to his loved ones. The game pulls you in that way and you even slightly begin to bond with the characters, even though it is barely a four hour game. It’s perplexing, because you would not expect to feel for the characters when you control them for less than 45 minutes each collectively.
Man of Medan is a story driven game where the choices you make matter. Also, the choices you select have an impact on the traits of your character. It can also be replayed in order to witness a different ending. Its weakness is its length and it also starts off very slow. The critical question for you, if you want to buy this, is, will you play the nice guy who saves everyone or let some characters, or even everyone, die. It’s our belated pick for Halloween and is certainly going to give you a good scare.
Review Platform: PS4
- Nice relationship menu for each character.
- Lots of interactive objects that tell you about the ship and its previous occupants.
- Premonitions are collected through wall-mounted pictures.
- Story-driven horror game which inspires you to carry on, if only to experience what’s next.
- Your characters personality can be influenced by the decisions you make with them throughout the game.
- Added replay-ability.
- Relations do not always have a solid impact on gameplay.
- Game starts pretty slow.
- Short game.