Supermassive's big breakout game, Until Dawn, remains one of my very favorite PS4 titles, taking some of the best elements of choice-based, QTE-heavy "story games" and implementing them into a great schlocky horror thriller. Their latest effort, the cheaper and shorter first entry in the planned Dark Pictures Anthology franchise, is trying to hit many of those same notes but is far less successful.
Man of Medan once again features a group of young adult fodder with cliched personalities, as they face off with a band of Captain Philips-esque pirates and a ghost ship which causes powerful hallucinations. It can't help but feel clunkier and far more forgettable than its predecessor. It echoes so many moments from Until Dawn that it gets a little distracting, from the "dark pictures" serving the same basic function as the butterflies from that game, to the ominous narrator interludes, all the way to the "exit interviews" at the very end. I think that the obvious budget cuts for this one didn't help. Animations are less realistic, character lip-syncing can prove distracting, and the game cannot quite capture the feeling of tension it is going for. You'd better be good at QTEs though, as most as my problems came not from my choices but failing to press buttons in the short window you are given.
Man of Medan has taken several interesting approaches to multiplayer. Shared story allows you to play along with a friend, as each of you control a character at all times throughout the story. It leads to a couple of interesting moments as a result of players receiving different information that occur very late in the game, but mostly it just means that you're missing out on a good chunk of story scenes. Playing this way cuts down the playtime by over an hour. The other option is movie night, where players in the same room pick a character and pass the controller around when prompted to. That mode does make more sense to me, and making fun of the weak characters and tacky dialogue and animations makes the experience more bearable at the least.
I do hope that the next chapter releasing this summer comes out a bit better, since on paper the idea of a whole anthology series of these games is really exciting. It's just all about the execution, and that's where Man of Medan fails to stick the landing with its bland story and distracting jank.