If you’re stuck for lockdown date ideas with your partner, settling in for the mystery thriller Dark Pictures: Man of Medan might be just what you’re looking for. You control the fates of a group of 20 somethings as their diving trip takes an unexpected turn. Through dialogue choices, quick time events and examining clues you’ll try to keep your erstwhile charges alive as they attempt to escape the clutches of a malevolent ghost ship.
Though it can be played alone, giving you charge of all five characters, it is perhaps best played via online co-op or a local mode called Movie Night in which you’ll pass the pad back and forth. Even when you’re not in control, the story remains exciting and there’s always the worry that your co-op partner will make a choice that gets one of your characters killed.
I’m not usually a fan of Horror films (I’m too much of a chicken) so for anyone worried Man of Medan might be too scary, it’s more focused on evoking a sense of curiosity and tension than keeping you awake at night. Besides some jump scares and gruesome deaths, it veres more towards Scooby Doo than The Hills Have Eyes. If you’ve ever spent hours meandering through tales of the unexplained on wikipedia, then Man of Medan will give you the same feeling of intrigue, as you slowly piece together the events that left the ship in its desolate state. The story is even based on a real maritime legend that made for an interesting read after finishing the game.
Man of Medan keeps the pace up, finding a good balance between tense confrontations, action and clue gathering. The sections in which you take direct control are kept very simple but remain enjoyable thanks to the steady drip of clues, the possibility of jump scares (taste may vary your enjoyment of these) and the use of voyeuristic camera angles, enhance the sense of unease as you explore. The brisk pace makes getting through it in a single evening very doable and encourages you to do a second playthrough, the “Curator’s Cut” providing an alternate path through the story.
The core characters aren’t particularly remarkable but are voiced and acted in a way that suits the schlocky nature of the story. Alex and Julia are the somewhat bland couple that connects the group, with Alex’s younger brother Brad filling the role of nervous nerd, Julia’s brother Conrad taking the role of fuckboi and the skeptical boat captain Fliss completing the core cast. While not complete blank slates, the game leaves enough room for you to fill out their characters and relationships with the decisions you make. By the end of the game, I was fond of these five idiots and I was gutted when my girlfriend’s choices got one of my characters killed, though it may just have been an unusual spat of completionism on my part, hoping to get all 5 characters out alive.
Man of Medan provides a good variety of endings that take into account a number of factors beyond simply the decisions you’ll make in conversation. Without spoiling too much, they’ve done a good job incorporating your clue hunting and actions in QTEs into the path your story takes.
By the time we’d finished, my girlfriend and I were eager to play through again, first jumping back a handful of chapters to tweak our ending ever so slightly and then the following day starting from scratch to play the Curator’s Cut. All in all we played for about 10 hours and had a wonderful time. It’s a concise dose of fun for the price of a pair of cinema tickets. I’m looking forward to the next story in the Dark Pictures anthology, Little Hope which is set to release on October 30th 2020.
Want more co-op ideas? Check out Nevi’s video on the genius behind Pokemon Let’s Go’s Co-op, or if you want more ideas for how to spend your lockdown nights in, check out his review of Billionaire Banshee.
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