Before I started my Man of Medan demo, I was specifically asked if I wanted to make decisions with my mind or my heart. Now I realize that the question was just asked so that the PR staff knew which T-shirt he should give me. It showed a graphic that showed everything I had selected, but the question was relevant throughout my game of play.
In Supermassive's Most Productive Game By dawn, I made many decisions based on my emotional attachment to the characters. Supermassive's gameplay hook certainly depends on how adorable / evil his characters are, and fortunately, Man of Medan seems to produce strong, fleshy personalities. there's the flirty idiot, the nice guy, the nerdy brother, the captain, the adventurous girlfriend. I was attracted to them and equally shocked; A good sign if any of them could die at any point in my playthrough.
But not only I controlled her fate. I played the first 90 minutes of Man of Medan with a co-op partner. With Until Dawn, Supermassive realized that the horror genre "Choose Your Own Destiny" was a lot of fun when more than one person made the decisions. Party mode, where you swap the controller between a larger group.
Playing with someone else made a lot of conversation after the demo ended because our experience was very different even though they were in such an isolated location. The first 90 minutes of Man of Medan take place on a small boat on which the aforementioned Ragtag group undertakes a costly adventure to find an undocumented wreck.
As my co-operation partner and I played, we would inhabit different characters according to how the story went, which would often put us in very different scenarios. At some point, I played with Conrad aboard the boat as he flirted with the captain, while my co-op partner played as Alex and suggested to his girlfriend Julia under water (or not). Of course, I wanted to know what happened to Alex and Julia during this sequence, and a big point of discussion after the demo ended was how our individual experiences worked.
Despite cumbersome facial animations to make the time when your co-op partner has made a decision, interacting with them also promises to be fun. Mostly, you have the choice to be nice to them or to be a real git, so the conversations can be very different depending on who you are playing with. In this case, my partner played well and so did me; I can imagine playing with people who are not so generous and the cheerfulness that would result if characters live or die. At some point, I made the decision to save the rest of my friends from a threat (which I will not spoil here) by fleeing on a speedboat. Every step I took had to be timed, just like a duck to avoid a bullet. It was exciting – I'm looking forward to more of this desperate scramble that went so well with Bis Dawn – and there was a lot of pressure knowing that if I killed a character, I would kill that character for my co-op partner. Also.
Which leaves the question: Is Man of Medan scary? It definitely had moments of sudden shock and a feeling of escalating anxiety and seems to cross the fine line between horror and black comedy that Supermassive has already proved it can do. But the first 90 minutes was an exercise to achieve what promises to be the really terrible meat of the game. So there is much more to discover when it is released on August 30th.
Lucy O'Brien is Executive Editor of Features at IGN. Follow her on Twitter .