I’m going to make these posts a bimonthly feature. They’ll go up every other Sunday, to fit with CIB Sunday on Twitter. CIB stands for complete-in-box, and it’s commonly used to describe video games. If a game includes the cartridge, case, instruction booklet, and everything else it originally came with, it is considered to be CIB.
Four friends and their skipper set out on a holiday diving trip with the goal of finding a rumored World War II wreck. A storm soon rolls in as the group attempts to navigate rough, unknown seas, and their trip suddenly takes a sinister turn. Confused and terrified, these friends must make the right choices to survive the nightmare they’re now trapped in. Any and all characters can die, so who will survive in your story?
Man of Medan is the first entry in The Dark Pictures Anthology series, a saga of horrifying, stand-alone tales. It was developed by Supermassive Games, the studio behind the smash-hit Until Dawn. I played Until Dawn when it first came out and absolutely loved the game. So, of course, I was very excited to see what the developers had in store next. But, does Man of Medan live up to the legacy of Supermassive Games’ past hit? I certainly believe so, and there are a few key reasons why.
First, Man of Medan does a fantastic job of making your choices feel as if they actually matter. Much like its predecessor, this game operates on a narrative-driven, decision-making system where your choices almost always have an impact at some point. These decisions could have immediate consequences, or they could come into play later on, during a character interaction or other important events. Furthermore, these choices can easily result in character deaths and other misfortunes. It’s possible to lose all five characters, but you can save them, too. Their fates hinge on the decisions you make for them.
This mechanic adds multiple layers of depth and emotion to the story, along with high stakes and suspense. Each choice you make feels like it could very well be a death sentence for one or more of the characters, which lends to the sensation of building dread that pervades throughout the entire game. Things are terrifying for the player as well, knowing a character could be lost at any moment. Because of this, all your choices feel as if they have weight to them; each decision seems significant. So, it’s up to you to continuously judge the current situation and figure out the best course of action.
Second, the sound design throughout Man of Medan is just excellent. At one point of the game, your characters are forced onto a seemingly haunted ship from the war, and from then on, things become downright scary. Random, unsettling noises constantly sound through the ship; the metallic clanging of old, rusted pipes, ominous wailing, loud, sudden thuds, and the shuffling of rats are sounds you’ll hear often. Those same sounds will make you question and wonder about everything. Was it really just rats? What was that noise just now?
The sound design adds to the mounting sense of dread and uneasiness that you will undoubtedly feel playing this game. Whether sounds come from the ship itself or from something more sinister, you’ll most likely be spooked by them at least a few times. I’m honestly a bit embarrassed by the amount of times I got scared by rats shuffling around, haha. But, that’s just another testament to how engrossing and horrifying this title can be.
Finally, the atmosphere that Man of Medan creates and maintains in its five hour runtime is bound to send shivers down your spine. Much like the game’s sound design is fear-inducing through audio cues, its environments are visually frightening. The ghost ship is filled with narrow, dimly lit hallways and wide spaces where anything could be lurking in the darkness. Moreover, the ship is deadly silent aside from the chatter of characters and random, occasional noises. This atmosphere goes hand-in-hand with the sound design to craft a experience that is truly unique, terrifying, and unforgettable all at once.
Man of Medan doesn’t quite measure up to the quality and craftsmanship of Until Dawn, but it’s completely understandable with a runtime that’s about half the length, leaving much less time for character development and plot devices. Regardless, The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan is still a very worthwhile and horrifying video game. It’s meant to be a different, stand-alone story from its predecessor, and with that in mind, the game manages to shine in a genre full of tropes and generic parts. Overall, Man of Medan is a wonderful way to pass the time, especially if you’re looking for a video game that’s as creepy and unnerving as it is fun to play. So, will you take the plunge into this tale of terror? If so, then who will live, and who will perish at sea?
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