I finally sat down to play this artistic, horror story and was surprised by the story and the graphics, but that is not to say the game was completely captivating. Let us start with the story itself. The game was released in March of 2021 and created by the Indie developer Hidden Fields. This is Hidden Fields first major title but goes with their theme of artistically drawn games. All their games feature a pencil drawn atmosphere which is unique and a good change of pace.
As for the game, you start off on a bus heading up to the mountains of the small village you grew up in after receiving a letter from the local priest that your grandfather has died due to a barn fire. You arrive to the barn and immediately things start to get strange. You see a painting of a burning barn and get pulled inside. You talk to a strange man in black who marks you by burning your left hand. From there you are led on a journey of figuring out the truth to the strange happenings of the town.
Your allied cast of characters include a drunken soldier, a cowardly priest, a mute girl and a talking goat. You are led on a very weird journey through the mountainside, come across hay demons, evil beekeepers and zombie soldiers and a creepy painter that knows more than he is letting on.
The cast of characters are interesting to say the least, however the game dialogue is more RPG than story driven. With multiple text boxes that have audible Swedish, I personally felt detached from the emotion of the game. While the story may have been good, I did not feel any attachment to the characters. Whether by invention or planned, the story is well-paced, original and makes sense. It is easy to follow and understand what is going on. That leads to a very predictable flow of where things are going to head. There are no real surprises during this story, but that does not make it a bad story, in fact, in a way, it is a sort of comfort to know roughly where the story is heading.
Mundaun is not a jump scare horror game, it is not a twist ending psychological horror. Mundaun is that eerie story that just nags at you in the back of your mind. Realistic and believable that just goes over that line of complete fantasy. This keeps things just creepy enough to be entertaining and not be a bore to those huge horror gaming fans.
The game has some adventure element to it. When you come across the enemies, they are not in droves, and it is not quite easy to fight and kill one. The game is more focused on story and graphics than gameplay and it shows. The fighting is very clumsy, it is not extremely easy to hit an enemy with your pitchfork and forget trying to shoot every enemy with your rifle, but it does have the option, which a lot of stories driven horror games lack. Mundaun has a sort of elegance to it when it comes to the gameplay. Yes, the fighting ability is pretty bad, but it’s meant to be.
This is how I interpret the gameplay of the game and keep in mind, to do this, you must compare it to other games of the same genre. Horror games are primarily either narrative driven or action/fighting/hiding (primarily you die or kill a lot). Yes, there are a plethora of games that fall in between, but most horror games you are either fighting for your life or you are just walking a path. Mundaun combines both and does it well. You are walking a path, but you do get to explore outside that path. You are doing a story, but you can die from enemies, you can also hide, run, or fight, but those are not your primary options. At some point you must do a little of everything and that is the beauty of the gameplay. It is a little of everything.
After discussing the story and the gameplay it is finally time to talk about the aesthetics and sounds. Hidden Fields knocked this out of the park. Sure, it is not the AAA game, realistic graphics, but that is not what they wanted anyway. They wanted to make artwork. The sound is simple and superb. The artwork is fantastic, it is absolutely refreshing to play a game that is not too cartoony or too realistic. It leaves a lot to the imagination by doing this. It creates a perfect ambiance to the game’s story. Remember when I said the game that nags the back of your brain, the artwork fits perfectly into that. The pencil drawn graphics create a dark, eerie feel that sets the tone. The black pencil on the tan parchment look creates a feeling of dread. A not completely painted piece of art, lacking color. This is sort of representative of how the character feels, he lost his grandfather, the man who basically raised him, and now he is trying to figure out the dark, mysterious past of why. His world has no color, everything is dreadfully dreary and the more he learns the worse it gets.
This is not complete praise for the game though, it has a lot of drawbacks. Besides the horrible fighting gameplay, the distance of travel can get mundane and will break the story long enough to start getting bored. There are times where the dialogue gets a bit lengthy. You get regular objectives to complete, but you are left guessing on where to go to achieve it which wastes time and takes away from the flow if you get lost or sidetracked. The game does try to remedy this with preventing a lot of side missions or achievements. It does keep you on a single track even though you have the freedom to move around go almost anywhere.
The game delivered to me a good 5-6 hours of gameplay and I could see it being a little longer for people looking to complete everything. While not a “true horror” game in the sense of the genre, Mundaun leaves you with an eerie feeling deep inside that is artistically delivered and a good idea to never visit small mountain towns in the Swiss Alps.
Mundaun is out now on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Windows PC. The game was reviewed on Windows PC by being purchased by the author. Nothing was provided to the author and he is not getting paid for this review.