Man of Medan, the first game in Supermassive’s Dark Pictures horror anthology, is finally upon us. 2015’s Until Dawn set a benchmark for interactive horror, and I’m glad to say the first entry in this new series lives up to that legacy.
If Until Dawn felt like a blockbuster movie, Man of Medan would be more akin to a high-quality season of a Netflix series. Its pacing is quite different, with things getting interesting almost immediately.
Also, it takes around 5-6 hours to complete, which makes replaying the game much more appealing.
As much as I loved Until Dawn, the thought of replaying it is just too intimidating a prospect.
My very first date with my now wife was a marathon session, in which we played through the entire game in a single sitting, which I wouldn’t recommend doing.
That means that all of the hard work Supermassive put into the multiple plot points, additional VO and entirely different narrative beats were lost on me and relegated to a YouTube viewing, which is probably not what the devs had in mind.
With Man of Medan, I can’t wait to dive back in.
Until Dawn turned out to be a hit on Twitch and was perfect for a group playthrough. Supermassive has really leaned into that aspect and has included fairly robust multiplayer options this time around.
You can enjoy the experience with a friend, or even several, with each player controlling a particular character throughout the game. You can work together to survive, or against each other as the mood may strike you.
There is even a Curator’s Cut mode, available after beating the game, which allows you to see how certain scenes can play out differently.
The story follows a group of five 20-somethings embarking on a diving adventure, to explore the wreck of a shot down WWII bomber.
The group in Man of Medan seems more believable than the high-school stereotypes that were Until Dawn’s cast, and I like that not everyone in the group knows each other.
As you might imagine with games of this ilk, things go very poorly, very quickly.
As the group faces dangers both mundane and otherwise, tensions rise and the choices you make early on can have a drastic effect on which characters will make it through the night.
In what is now a tradition, it seems, there is a character known as The Curator, who speaks directly to the player in a fourth-wall-breaking manner.
He even goes so far as to reveal the name of the next game in the Dark Pictures Anthology during the end credits.
In much the same way that The Analyst did in Until Dawn, scenes with The Curator make for a great narrative break, and he will query your progress and comment on the choices you have made.
Everything about a seemingly omniscient voyeur who seems to be studying you as a player works for me in a big way.
I was very glad to learn that he has been confirmed to be a reoccurring character in the entire anthology. He is an eerie figure, but I always looked forward to his interstitial scenes and his cryptic clues.
And the game is pretty freaky, too. That’s why we are all here, right?
There are a bunch of jump scares, which aren’t my favorite thing, but there is a very real sense of foreboding from the very first scene.
It’s in the little things like the knowing looks that characters exchange, that makes you wonder if there is anyone you can trust.
The gore is pretty confronting as well, with the violence being quite shocking in its intensity, and frankly, its infrequency.
The threat of a bloody end is always just below the surface, and vast swaths of the game are spent in quiet anticipation.
Few would disagree that Until Dawn was a great looking game when it released, and it still holds up. Man of Medan is a big step up again from that, and you can really see the difference that a couple of years makes.
The sound design is great too, with every sound set to send shivers up your spine.
The price is a nice touch as well. Supermassive could have easily slapped a $40 price tag on each entry in the Dark Pictures series, but at $30 I feel like I got my money’s worth, and there is enough here to warrant repeat playthroughs.
Supermassive truly has this small cottage genre cornered, and there is something so compelling about a choose-your-own-adventure horror tale.
It makes for such unbelievably tense moments because you know whatever fates befall your small cast of characters, it is you as the player who is to blame.
Knowing that we are going to be getting a slew of these games in different settings over the next couple of years is incredibly exciting, and exactly what I wished for after playing Until Dawn.
Man of Medan is a tight horror adventure that you can experience by yourself or with friends in the course of a single evening.
It’s myriad endings, and the consequences to the choices that you make mean there is plenty of reason to come back for more. The Dark Pictures anthology is off to a fantastic start, and I can’t wait for the next installment.