I’ve never been a huge fan of interactive adventure games… until I stumbled upon Until Dawn. This PlayStation exclusive paid homage to cheesy B grade horror movies, and was a great entry point for me into this genre. At the same time, I finally found the kind of game that I could play with my wife. Score!
Until Dawn sold pretty well for an exclusive horror game, and so developer Supermassive Games has expanded on that concept with The Dark Pictures, and Man of Medan is the first game to be released from this anthology. Like Until Dawn, it’s a spooky, choice-driven adventure game that can be replayed multiple times.
Man of Medan’s premise is similar to that of Until Dawn, only instead of being stranded on a deserted mountain, all the playable characters are stuck aboard a ghost ship floating about in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There are two ways you can experience Man of Medan – one is to play it by yourself as a single-player story experience, but a more enjoyable way is to actually play it socially. You can choose to do this via Shared Story mode or a Movie Night mode.
In Movie Night Mode, two or more players gather around the console and choose their characters. As and when their chosen character takes center stage, the controller is passed back and forth to those players. If you don’t have anyone to play with locally, Shared Story mode allows you to take the game online where you’re paired with a random player who embarks on the journey with you.
If you‘ve played Until Dawn – or any of Telltale’s or David Cage’s games – you’ll be right at home with Man of Medan. The game is a mixture of exploration, timed QTEs (quick time events), and split-second decision-making. Everything in this game hinges on choice, be it the way you interact with other characters, or make life or death decisions. Almost every action will have some sort of repercussion, with especially poor decisions leading to the untimely death of a character. While this may seem rather hectic at the time, this is also a huge incentive to go back and try and do things differently the second time around.
Man of Medan also places a heavy emphasis on exploration. This allows players to dive deeper into the game lore and can also potentially reward players with tools that could drastically change the outcome of some decisions. In my playthrough, for example, I came picked up a harmless wrench that I thought would actually help me out in a pickle, but it ended up causing the death of another character.
Almost every action will have some sort of repercussion, with especially poor decisions leading to the untimely death of a character
Being part of an anthology means Man of Medan isn’t a very lengthy game, and you’ll probably be done with your first playthrough in about five hours. Add in another hour or two if you’re the kind who enjoys exploring every nook and cranny. Sure, I was a bit disappointed with the length – especially considering the game ends very abruptly – but I was even more bummed out with the game’s performance. On the PS4 Pro, the frame rate often dipped to single digits, and every time the game transitioned from cut-scene to gameplay, frame rate would take a massive hit. This isn’t a deal breaker though and it’s that I’m hoping will be fixed in the day one patch.
As much fun as I had with Man of Medan, it definitely lacks the charm of Until Dawn. Voice acting and motion capture are still very much on point, but the characters themselves weren’t very gripping to begin with. Some of the dialogue felt awkward (and not in a good way), and many of the reactions from characters felt out of place. It can also get extremely predictable, especially with jump scares occurring every ten minutes or so.
But yes, if you enjoy interactive games, this is still one of the better ones out there that doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s also a great way to introduce non-gaming friends and family members to gaming – if they enjoy cheesy horror movies, that is.