Developer: Hidden Fields
Publisher: MWM Interactive
Genre: Adventure, Horror,
Platform: Xbox One (also available on Steam)
Age Rating: PEGI 16
Release Date: 16/March/2021
A code was provided for review purposes.
I love playing horror games. When I saw Mundaun spring up on my Twitter feed I was immediately captivated by its look. I knew nothing more about the game other than it had hand-drawn pencil graphics, but I needed to play it. When I saw that it was a horror game, I was just over the moon.
Mundaun is a mix of survival horror and puzzles, and that has historically proven to be a match made in heaven … or hell I guess, depending on how you want to view it.
The game is the product of Hidden Fields, a single developer studio, and represents their first full-length product. I can say now that I will definitely be excited about their second, whatever it is.
Let’s Talk Aesthetic
I already mentioned that I was drawn in by the art style in this game, and after having played all the way through the game, I only fell more in love with the aesthetic. There was an eerie beauty to the style that perfectly suited both the setting – the Swiss Alps – and theme, adventure-cum-horror.
I love the freedom that indie studios have when it comes to letting their creativity flow. The ability to think outside of the box with their designs. We had Obra Dinn a few years ago with their negative contrast, and recently I played My Beautiful Paper Smile on Steam, but none of these came close to capturing the world like Hidden Fields have done with Mundaun.
There is something majestic about the way they captured the scenery. Bringing so much detail to life with just a pencil and clever shading. The game took my breath away. Each chapter I played through, each new stage we visited, only impressed me more. From the opening interior of a run-down bus to the top of the alps and down into the depths of a cave, all I can say is, beautiful.
Haunting and Creepy Rather than Scary
Too often horror games want to chase the jump scare and force the fear levels, while really, what makes great horror is the atmosphere. It is the suspense and the wonder of what is waiting around the corner. It is the promise of fear that makes things scary. Mundaun did this very well. The game was never truly scary, yet I often found myself on the edge of my seat. There was a haunting eeriness to the game that pulled me into the story, deposited me in the world and left me there with nothing but a pitchfork to defend myself.
Stealth is important, but enemy encounters are brief. The game is not driven by these moments, rather they are a small element that must always be considered as you follow the central narrative.
A story as old as time told with delicate precision. That would be how I would summarize the game. A combination of two core concepts: A deal with the devil and the sins of the (grand)father are laid upon the children. It’s up to you to right a wrong and save the lives of everybody you come across, but none more so than a young girl.
Interesting Cast of Characters
As you make your way up Muldaun the mountain where this tale is spun, you encounter many different characters. Some fleeting, others more repetitive. All impact your story and are represented in a range of ways. From the spooky and the serious, to the cryptic and the humorous. This mix is well served and combined and certainly helps grab your attention. You feel connections to each of these characters and learning more about them as you progress through the game is another example of the excellent storytelling at work in this game.
I think it’s actually quite interesting and novel that the character you know the least about, and in many ways feel the least connected to, is yourself. The game is played in the third person, and other than knowing you had not been to visit your grandfather for a great many years, you learn nothing else about your character. The best thing is you don’t need to. This is not an error or a problem with the game. Rather, it is a great strength.
Interesting Puzzles and Objectives
The game is linear in the way it progresses. Yes, you have an open world to explore, but certain areas are locked until you complete the core storytelling objectives. There are also optional objectives you can accomplish, such as drinking all the coffee you find or retuning the rifle at the end, but for the most, you follow a linear progression.
The game is heavily narrative-driven. The story is strong, the dialogue is well written and certainly the core driver of things. However, the puzzles you need to solve in order to further the story are well put together, cleverly thought out yet never too difficult.
The game follows the same path as many others, the most recent example I have played would be Call of the Sea and gives you a diary where your character notes down and draws out clues he finds along the way. All the answers you need are found within these pages. I can see how some may want the puzzles to be harder, I think it’s imperative to understand that the puzzles are not the core element of the game.
There was a nice variation to the puzzles, or I suppose we could even call them objectives at times. From finding and interacting with a character to selecting specific radio frequencies and aligning different symbols at various locations. The only tip I will give you is, do not forget your toilet paper.
Debut Release with Only Minor Issues
As I mentioned at the beginning, this is the first full game from the single-person studio, Hidden Fields. From what I can see it’s only the third published title for them. The game is a very polished product. The only real issue I had was a noticeable frame rate drop when turning around. These were often short-lived and never put my character in any danger, so while noticeable, it was not detrimental.
For the rest, the game had great pacing and kept me engaged throughout. I experienced no other issues or bugs and generally, really enjoyed my time with it.
Mundaun is a fantastic achievement. A great example of what can be achieved when the developer is passionate about what they are doing. I enjoyed every minute I spent playing the game and would relish another run through in the near future. The creativity in both art style, puzzles and enemy design will surely see Mundaun pick up more than a few awards as the year goes by.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase your copy of Mundaun from the Microsoft Store now.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.