Reviewed on Xbox Series X – Also available on Xbox One and Xbox Series S
Fear can be a tricky thing to nail down. From a storytelling perspective, it’s more complicated than basic jump scares and grotesque slight of hand. In order to really scare people you’ve got to get inside their heads, and that’s exactly what independent Polish game developer Bloober Team has tried to do in their latest Xbox exclusive, The Medium. The basic selling point is a new gaming mechanic in which the player is occasionally required to control their character in two different spiritual “realms” at the same time. It’s a cool idea, novel in the sense that dedicated gaming consoles have never been powerful enough to render this kind of thing before, but it’s also a little bit gimicky, and that’s hard to ignore.
Whether it’s the stunning and seriously disturbed environments found in the land of the dead, the screaming, groping, crying, ever-present monster who shamelessly plagues you wherever you go, or the expertly revealed mystery of the murder of one lively little dead girl, the game is seriously invested in freaking you out. Does it do its job? For the most part, but there’s not a whole lot of basic modern scare tactics in use here that we haven’t seen before. The game’s narrative is anything but perfectly realized, and certain technical shortcomings hurt the overall experience, but The Medium is more than the sum of its parts. This could’ve been a huge disaster. It’s not though, even if it is the brand new system’s first and only true exclusive. Watch our video review for a good look at the game in action:
Our hero, the eponymous medium of this ghost story, is a young woman named Marianne. We never really get the sense she’s super experienced at this gig, because contextually speaking, she seems to be using many of her incredible abilities for the first time. First time having an out of body experience, first time getting stalked by a giant, faceless, pan-dimensional demon with a serious skin fetish. I mean it, there’s this frightening and freakish dude who follows you around for the entire second half of the game. No attacking, shooting, bludgeoning, or stabbing for you. The only way to win is to keep running and hiding. Can’t we get a moment’s peace?!
More or less The Medium’s shortcomings boil down to this: the camera is locked off in old-school Resident Evil fashion, making navigation cumbersome and awkward. Additionally, puzzles and quests are never as smart as you want them to be. The much-touted split-screen mechanic of simultaneously dwelling in both the world of the living and the land of the dead is unique and visually striking, but it seems to be limited to the use of passing arbitrarily administrated spiritual barriers, blasting demon bat thingies with an electric shield bubble, and slicing through large sheets of skin with a bone straight-razor.
And yes, a terse and limited story about shame, fear, death, and rage is continuously hampered by narration that tells more than it shows. Truly, the dialogue and voice acting try to keep pace with bigger games of the genre, but they never quite get there. It’s kind of a shame, because there’s lots of scary concepts and dark emotional undertones percolating just below the surface. Moments of sheer terror be damned, Resident Evil and other genre master series are capable of nailing gameplay AND story, so what’s the deal here?
The one thing that truly elevates the overall experience is the atmosphere, which is rich, dense, and undeniably disturbing. It’s hard to imagine The Medium pushes the powerful new Xbox hardware to its limits, but the launch release is plagued by framerate issues and other graphical kinks, so push the Xbox it must. Even so, dense forests and a haunted Polish resort hotel are handled with style in both the material and ghost realms. You’ll have a good time playing this game, especially if you’re a horror nut, but doubts will continue to linger as to whether or not you’ll remember it once you put it down.
Jeff’s Game Reviews gives The Medium a final score of SEVEN out of TEN.
Jeff Bowles is a science fiction and horror writer from the mountains of Colorado. The best of his outrageous and imaginative work can be found in God’s Body: Book One – The Fall, Godling and Other Paint Stories, Fear and Loathing in Las Cruces, and Brave New Multiverse. He has published work in magazines and anthologies like PodCastle, Tales from the Canyons of the Damned, the Threepenny Review, and Dark Moon Digest. Jeff earned his Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at Western State Colorado University. He currently lives in the high-altitude Pikes Peak region, where he dreams strange dreams and spends far too much time under the stars. Jeff’s new novel, Love/Madness/Demon, is available on Amazon now!
Check out Jeff Bowles Central on YouTube – Movies – Video Games – Music – So Much More!
Sometimes evil dwells in the land itself, and it can burrow deep, laying dormant for a long time. But it always awakens eventually.
Moving to a new home is never easy, especially when you have to deal with a not so nice step-father, and the house is old and spooky. The town is quick to fill her in on the mysterious stories about her house, and when she finds a cemetary in her new back yard and her little brother Mark starts behaving oddly, Tatiana begins to get scared. The increasing cruelness of her step-father, leads her to uncover another kind of secret. Now all she has to do is figure out what to do with what she knows.
The bonus story, “Olney”, which is included with Clay House, is equally well-written with a similar theme, providing extra reader value for your book buck.
With two brave young heroines and two spine chilling ghosts, resulting in two well-crafted stories filled with twists and turns to keep readers guessing, I give Clay House five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
We’re all tired of staying at home during this recent crisis. It seems like everyone has been affected in different ways, but no one has gone unscathed. Our world has changed in recent times. We, as authors and lovers of the written word had many of our in-person writing events – conferences, conventions, and book fairs – cancelled due to the appearance of COVID 19. To to emulate all those events we look forward to each year and are missing out on now, and to chase away some of the boredom of social distancing and isolation, WordCrafter presents the 2020 Stay in Place Virtual Writing Conference on Tuesday, April 28 from 8 am to 8 pm.
This is a unique event, the first of its kind, and one you won’t want to miss. Free presentations and author takeovers will be occurring on the Facebook event page, and interactive workshops and panel discussions will be offered for a minimal fee on the Zoom platform. Interactive panel discussions and workshop session can be accessed individually for $5, or an all access pass to all interactive sessions can be purchased for $50. Tickets can be purchased on the Facebook event page. Watch for your Facebook event invite from me or one of the many wonderful authors involved with this conference. Send me a message through my WordCrafter page or through the event page if you have further questions, or if you would like a half an hour author takeover spot to promote your own work.
This has been a huge undertaking to organize and set up an event such as this one, but I haven’t done it alone. Without my 22 talented presenters, this event couldn’t happen. We have a great line-up, with international bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Kevin J. Anderson presenting the keynote on the interactive platform.
And that’s just the beginning. Take a look at the talent that has lined up for presentations, workshops and panel discussions.
Award winning and national bestselling speculative fiction author Mario Acevedo will be offering a presentation – “The Power of Motivation: What Your Characters Do and Why”
USA Today bestselling multi-genre author Dan Alatorre will be a member of the interactive book marketing panel discussion.
Multi-genre author Chris Barili will be presenting “Writing in the Face of Adversity” and giving an interactive workshop on “Writing Across Genres”.
Award winning fantasy author L.D. Colter will be offering a presentation on “Short Fiction”.
World builder and speculative fiction author Kieth R.A. DeCandido will be offering an interactive workshop on “The Business of Writing” and he is the moderator for the media tie-in interactive panel discussion.
Award winning novelist Guy Anthony De Marco will be a member on both the short fiction and world building interactive panel discussions.
Fantasy and science fiction author Anthony Dobranski will offer two presentaions, “How to Swim Upstream: Not being in the mainstream of your market/genre” and “Working with Others: How to direct others in a project”. In addition, he will offer two interactive workshops. “Business Class Tarot” and “The Savage Horror of Writing Back Cover Copy”.
Author for young readers, Jason Henderson will be presenting “Story Ideas and the Choices You Make” and moderating the interactive book marketing panel discussion.
Media tie-in author Kevin Killiany will be a member on the interactive world building, media tie-in, and short fiction panel discussions.
Award winning young adult fantasy author L. Jagi Lamplighter will be on the interactive panel on world building, and moderate the interactive short fiction interactive panel discussion.
Award-winning science fiction author J.R.H. Lawless will be a member of the book marketing interactive panel discussion.
Award winning and New York Times bestselling multi-genre author Jonathan Maberry will be a member on three interactive panel discussions: short fiction, world building and media tie-ins.
Award winning multi-genre author Bobby Nash will deliver a presentation on “The Importance of Promotion”, as well as being a member of both the media tie-in and book promotion panel discussions.
Science fiction and fantasy author Jody Lynn Nye will offer a presentation on using humor in science fiction and fantasy writing, “Bringing the Funny: how to apply humor to your writing” and she will be a member of the world building interactive panel discussion.
Award winning fantasy author Ellie Raine will sit on both the short fiction and world building interactive panel discussions.
Award winning multi-genre author Art Rosch will offer a presentation on “Creating Villains We Love to Hate”.
Award winning multi-genre author Sean Taylor will offer a presentation on “Visceral Story Beginnings”.
Science fiction author and marketing expert Alexi Vandenberg will be joining the book marketing panel.
Award winning poet and author Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer offers a livestream presentation “The Gateway to the Unknown: A Poetry Thought Shop”.
Author and educator Rick Wilber will be a member of the short fiction interactive panel discussion.
Award winning and New York Times bestselling science fiction and fantasy author Dave Wolverton/David Farland offers a”Promoting Your Book BIG” and he is a member of the interactive book marketing panel discussion.
You can find a full schedule here. I do hope all of you will join us for this unique writing event. It’s the first of its kind and we could be making history. You can be a part of it, too. Join us.
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Through the Nethergate, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle, is a captivating journey in the here and now that reaches through the barriers of time to bring legend to life, and it’s a very scary legend. This is a tale of horror, but not all spirits are evil, and many of Cheadle’s ghosts make up the cast of characters. Cheadle brings the characters in this story life masterfully, even the ghostly ones, whose backstories are woven into the legend’s tapestry to become part of the whole while still standing on their own individually.
When Margaret comes to live with her grandfather in a haunted old inn that has been in their family for centuries, she discovers that she has the uncanny ability to bring spirits back and make them more real and substantial. But, she doesn’t possess the ability to release them from the tethers that bind them to this plane. As she meets each of the inn’s ethereal occupants and learns their stories, she finds they are all held by an entity of local legend, Hugh Bigod, who prefers to appear in the form of a huge black demon dog. Hugh Bigod was a truly evil man and his spirit is just as nasty. When he feels the spirits pulling away from him, as Margaret’s presence breathes new substance into them, he blames her and vows to stop them by putting an end to her.
Through the Nethergate is a brilliant production of the stories within the story, and an excellent example of god vs. evil dark fantasy. Filled with plenty of suspense and clever story twists. I give it five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
When I was a young girl, I loved to read and so I did. I read and I read, until there were no children’s books left in the children’s section of the library for me to read. South Africa during the 1980’s was a conservative place to live, so the librarians did not allow children to go into the adult section of the library, never mind take out books for it.
Fortunately for me, my mom was a big reader herself. Her taste ran to classic literature, horror / supernatural books and the odd sexy book too. The temptation of her collection was to great for me and I resorted to reading her books behind the couch in the lounge. By the end of my tenth year I had read, possibly without full understanding but with enough for me to enjoy the stories, The Shining, The Stand and Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz, Lace by Shirley Conran and the Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. By the time I was thirteen, I had added all of my mom’s Charles Dicken’s books and her collection of books by Winston Churchill to my list. I read these ones with a dictionary and looked up words I didn’t know, some of which I have never forgotten.
When I had my own children, I didn’t want them to have to lie about the books they read. My motto was “If they can read it, I will let them read it,” I do not believe in sheltering children from life, death and everything in between, within reason. I do not have the same view about visual products like television or video games. The reason I see these differently is that I believe a child can only visualise the things he/she reads to the extent of their personal experience. A visual depiction puts the picture into the child’s mind and that content will be outside of their experience and could be very frightening.
Greg quickly evolved into a big reader and I had trouble feeding his book appetite. He read all the books I read as a child, including the sad and unusual ones like I am David by Anne Holm, Struwwelpeter by HeinrichHoffmann and Fattipuffs and Thinifers by Andre Maurois. Some books I offered to him, but he didn’t fancy their themes such as The Diary of Anne Frank and Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. I had read both of these when I was twelve, but Greg has never read them and probably never will.
Other moms from his school were shocked that I didn’t restrict his reading, but my son had the freedom to choose while their children did not. Some of their sons read books behind their mothers back so they could not discuss their content with their children and demystify it. Greg has grown into a balanced and intelligent young man with strong views on personal freedom. He always support the human rights of the “underdog” and I think he will turn out okay.
These are my thoughts, but what do other people think about this. I did some research on the internet and this is what I found:
- Children need to know that all circumstances in life can’t have a happy ending. Sometimes people and animals we love die and our sense of loss is profound;
- Many sad and scary stories for children come from folklore. Folk stories are good for children as they gain cultural awareness and learn about life among different peoples of the world;
- Know your audience, if your child is highly sensitive or prone to nightmares, or simply doesn’t want to read the book [like my son, Greg], don’t force them. Respect their views;
- We live in a scary world and our children need to be prepared and also learn how to deal with emotions like fear, anger, frustration and jealousy. Scary and sad books help them learn how other people deal with these emotions;
- Scary stories can get children interested in, and exhilarated by, reading; and
- There are life lessons to be learned in scary and sad books such as don’t take sweets from strangers.
As October is Halloween month and I love scary books of all kinds, I read a review a few to include in this post.
The Haunting of Hiram by Eva Ibbotson – Goodreads review
The Great Ghost Rescue by Eva Ibbotson – Goodreads review
The Witchlet by Victoria Zigler – Goodreads review
Dragon Kingdom & the Wishing Stone by StacieEirich – Goodreads review
About Robbie Cheadle
Hello, my name is Robbie, short for Roberta. I am an author with six published children’s picture books in the Sir Chocolate books series for children aged 2 to 9 years old (co-authored with my son, Michael Cheadle), one published middle grade book in the Silly Willy series and one published preteen/young adult fictionalised biography about my mother’s life as a young girl growing up in an English town in Suffolk during World War II called While the Bombs Fell (co-authored with my mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton). All of my children’s book are written under Robbie Cheadle and are published by TSL Publications.
I have recently branched into adult and young adult horror and supernatural writing and, in order to clearly differential my children’s books from my adult writing, I plan to publish these books under Roberta Eaton Cheadle. My first supernatural book published in that name, Through the Nethergate, is now available.
I have two short stories in the horror/supernatural genre included in Dark Visions, a collection of 34 short stories by 27 different authors and edited by award winning author, Dan Alatorre. I also have three short stories in Death Among Us, a collection of short murder mystery stories by 10 different authors and edited by Stephen Bentley. These short stories are all published under Robbie Cheadle.
I have recently published a book of poetry called Open a new door, with fellow South African poet, Kim Blades.
Find Robbie Cheadle
Goodreads: Robbie Cheadle – Goodreads
Instagram: Robbie Cheadle – Instagram
Facebook: Sir Chocolate Books
***Just a note here, since Robbie is so modest. She has five stories of dark fiction coming out in anthologies this month. “The Siren Witch”, “A Death Without Honour”, and “The Path to Atonement” will appear in Dan Alatorre’s Nightmareland horror anthology, and “Missed Signs” and “The Last of the Lavender” will be featured in the WordCrafter paranormal anthology, Whispers in the Dark.
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