Though the word often carries a negative connotation, there’s something special about a piece of entertainment that can pull off the slow burn. Giving you drips of information as you slowly build to a satisfying climax or revelation. Hidden Fields’ Mundaun does just that, as the game often keeps players in the dark, constantly guessing what will be around the next corner. That said, Mundaun certainly isn’t flawless in its telling of its dark mystery.
What’s done in the dark…
Mundaun follows the story of a young man who travels to the Swiss Alps in order to investigate the circumstances surrounding his grandfather’s untimely death. As he begins to poke around and discover more about his grandfather and the other members of the quiet town, dark secrets come to light. Mundaun is a horror adventure game that mixes elements of puzzle, action, and stealth.
The town, appropriately named Mundaun, is eerily quiet and off putting at first arrival. Out of the gate, the developer nailed the horror elements so well. From the booming tick-tock of a grandfather clock to the creaky floorboards and door hinges, I felt like I needed to brace for a jumpscare at every turn. This is the mark of horror done right, where the player constantly feels that sense of dread, even when nothing is actually happening.
I was also really impressed with how the developer implemented environmental storytelling into Mundaun. When walking around the town, certain objects will trigger a sequence where the camera slowly zooms in, music swells, and we get new background information via either narration or alternate imagery. What’s really cool is that these scenes happen live within the game’s engine and aren’t cutscenes that abruptly pull you from the action. It keeps the immersion, which is incredibly important in an atmospheric horror game.
A lot of Mundaun’s gameplay revolves around players collecting items and using them to solve puzzles around the world. Whether it be finding the right key to open a door, or finding a use for a random cigarette. The game isn’t in english, which is perfectly fine considering it’s all properly subtitled. However, it was a bit frustrating that the inventory items aren’t captioned/written out. With the text on most objects written in German, I wasn’t even able to properly identify some items.
Mundaun includes some light stealth combat features to go along with its other elements. Players are equipped with a pitchfork and rifle, which they can use to fend off the threats they encounter throughout the town. They can also opt to go quietly and avoid detection. I found the combat to be a little wonky, as both shooting and melee didn’t feel quite right.
Combat also took away from the game thematically. I felt like Mundaun was at its best early on when the player is defenseless. Being forced to run and hide instead of fighting feels more in line with the game and is consistent with those feelings of dread and helplessness.
Artistically, Mundaun is super impressive. The entire game is done in a hand-drawn style, with no colors outside of penciled structures, nature, and characters. This works to up the game’s creepiness, as it would be far more unsettling if everything was done in a more traditional 3D style.
The hard truth
Mundaun is a horror adventure with a compelling mystery, all wrapped up in some well-executed horror. Unfortunately, the game is often weighed down by some of its core mechanics, such as combat and inventory management. Despite that, it’s still a unique experience that offers a fresh approach to the horror genre.
This review is based on a digital download code provided by the publisher. Mundaun is available now for PC, Xbox, and PlayStation.
- Compelling mystery
- Great horror elements
- Unique art style
- Combat is mediocre
- Inventory UI isn't clear
Donovan Erskine posted a new article, Mundaun review: What we do in the shadows