Review – Mundaun
Horror games are no longer a small cult genre in video games. P.T. brought about a resurgence in celebrating the subtle but surreal, while 4v1 games saw titles like Dead by Daylight pay quite a bit of homage to the stalker/slasher films. And, of course, survival horror shines when a dash of unknown supernatural is added. Mundaun, by Hidden Fields and MWM Interactive, isn’t any of these. No, Mundaun is more akin to the 2016 movie, The Witch; a story whose hook is more about the telling and the intrigue than the bizarre or the bloody.
You play Curdin, arriving in Mundaun after receiving a letter from the town’s pastor telling you of your grandfather’s passing in a burning barn. Grabbing the next bus, you head to your old family farmstead to pay your respects, but soon find yourself involved in a mystery that gets more and more surreal: deals with devils, defiled churches, tapestry portals, and so on. Hell, they even threw in a goat for good measure.
Let’s not mince words; Mundaun is a walking sim, or a First Person Experience if that politically correct term is still a thing. How about we just go with, “adventure title”. You walk around piecing together the clues that lead you to the next ones. The game does throw in some action elements, such as fighting off straw-men with a pitch-fork or fending off bees, but these are used more to add a sense of thrill to a story, rather than difficulty. Mundaun isn’t about the destination, it is about the journey.
The puzzles are fairly simple. Mostly, they simply involve walking around enough until you find a key to open X door or turn on Y machinery. You have a book that you collect all the hints in to help you along your way. Sometimes, due to direction and graphic design, it can be difficult to make out items so you simply use the “Press X” prompt to let you know when you come across one. While the puzzles are simple, they sometimes wander into the realm of being too simple. Simple like staring in a mirror the right way, for long enough, that the world around it perverts so you may continue. So simple that you more so resolve them by accident than by following any clue.
The more charming bits of Mundaun, and what I feel truly ties together what the team is wanting to deliver, is its art and sound. The artwork is that of a living, hand-drawn sketchbook. It works wonders to create the setting and time period, as well as the presentation of a story. Mundaun is an actual former municipality in Switzerland, and the game’s presentation does a wonderful job leaning into this. I wouldn’t call it beautiful in the conventional sense, instead I would say it has an beautiful charm and intimacy to it. Everything is dynamic and moves, but as if directly off some canvas.
The game makes a risky, yet rewarded, choice in making the entirety of Mundaun spoken in Romansch, a lesser known dialect spoken only in the Swiss alps. Every thought and spoken word is conveyed through subtitles for the player, but this creates a sense of placement. You are equal parts enjoying an old tale as you are playing a new game. I can’t say if it is great or subpar, but it does what the most accomplished soundtracks aim to do which is to draw you into its world.
If you want to tear Mundaun apart for the things it isn’t, you are absolutely able to do so. Mundaun can be a bit, well, mundane. That said, it really is a nice way to kill a weekend as you are playing on your couch, late at night, enjoying its tale and the approximate eight hours of gameplay. Not every story is meant to scare, some are meant to chill like one of grandpa’s creepy tales of yesteryear at bedtime. Mundaun is one last story from Grandpa. You’ve just got to deal with some snoring now and again to get through it.
Conventionally, not an eye popping game, but it conveys a charming beauty that cements the setting.
98% exploration and simplistic puzzle solving, 2% poking your pitchfork at straw men. Gameplay isn’t the hook this game is trying for, and it shows.
Being entirely in Romansch was a risk, but one that rewards the player. You truly feel you are being told a tale.
Fun Factor: 7
All the minuses aside, this is a surprisingly fun tale if you like this type of game. If you don’t, this will do nothing to convince you otherwise.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Mundaun is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4.
A copy of Mundaun was provided by the publisher.