In the classic single-player mode, you'll play a slightly truncated version of both scenes, one after the other. Shared Story, meanwhile, restricts your perspective and, therefore, overall understanding of the story. The characters will share their knowledge and experiences once they reconvene in the game, which helps both players to keep up with the narrative beats, too. There are subtle details, through — the tone of someone's voice, for instance, or whether a character appeared to be lying — that you won't be aware of unless you talk with your controller-wielding companion. It's your choice, of course, whether you share accurate or misleading information with them throughout the game.
Shared Story is hard to recommend for a first playthrough.
It's a fascinating concept with a few rough edges. Any conversation between two player-controlled characters, for example, is littered with awkward pauses as you deliberate dialog options and potential actions. Every choice has a timer which keeps the dead-eyed stares brief. But they're just long enough to derail the game's otherwise film-like pace and editing. In addition, some corridors on the Ourang Medan are barely wide enough to fit two people. If you're both in the same scene, that can lead to some hilarious and atmosphere-breaking "you go first, alright then I'll go first" moments.
To make matters worse, some concurrent scenes are clearly more interesting than others. I would much rather go deep sea diving, for instance, then hang back on the boat that I've already spent an hour exploring and relaxing on. As such, I often felt like player two — the Tails to someone else's Sonic — whenever I was lumped with a scene or character that I didn't really care for. Shared Story, therefore, is hard to recommend for a first playthrough. While enjoyable and refreshingly different, it never feels like you're seeing the whole story and, therefore, the full Man of Medan experience.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is mostly identical to Until Dawn. Some sequences let you walk around and search for useful items, similar to classic point-and-click adventure games. Proceed far enough and you'll trigger a cutscene, some of which have branching actions and dialog choices. The compass-inspired conversation system, which gives you two responses and a middle-of-the-road silent option, works well enough. The QTEs, too, are serviceable. My favourite addition is a mini game inspired by ECG graphs. To stay calm and avoid detection, you have to press the appropriate face button whenever a spike in your character's heartbeat slides across the screen.
Exploring the world, though, is rough. Characters move like bulldozers and it's weirdly difficult to line them up with interactive parts of the environment. Until Dawn had similarly stiff 'tank' controls, but I don't remember them being quite this bad.
The game's premonition system also falls flat. You will occasionally find paintings that tease a possible sequence in the story. Until Dawn had a similar Totem system that was designed to both forewarn and terrify you about what might happen next. The paintings in Man of Medan, though, are too short to glean much from. I was usually puzzled, rather than scared by what was being depicted and never knew what, if anything, I should be doing to steer my survivors away from that outcome. Thankfully, the painting vignettes can be analyzed multiple times from the menu. Unfortunately, these repeat viewings did little to change my emotional state or strategy throughout the story. By pure chance, I never once experienced what I had seen in a painting, either.