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Mundaun

Described as being a hand-drawn psychological horror game inspired by folk tales, Mundaun immediately tickled my fancy. Developed by Hidden Fields, this game is basically like playing a film, so I'll focus more on the story rather than gameplay elements. Therefore be warned, there are minor spoilers ahead. I won't be discussing details of the ending though, just my overall opinion.

The game opens on a bus winding its way up narrow roads on the Swiss Alps as our protagonist, Curdin, makes his way to his grandfather’s home of Mundaun, where he often visited as a child. He reads a letter from Father Jeremias who tells him that his Grandfather, Flurin, has sadly perished in a fire in his barn and has already been buried. The letter advised Curdin not to come back to Mundaun, but something about this letter feels off, which prompts him to return anyway.

As we arrive in Mundaun, Curdin begins to investigate the mysterious circumstances of his grandfather's death. Whilst investigating the burnt-out barn where he died, he comes across a mysterious painting of the fire that he somehow enters into like a portal, which takes him to the night of the barn fire. There he meets a sinister stranger who, quite literally, leaves his mark on Curdin. In addition, he also discovers the windows boarded up and his grandfather's charred remains, contrary to Father Jeremias’ letter. Confusing yet intriguing, no?

The story is linear and focused. It centres on uncovering the truth behind Flurin's death and the role played by the old man with the creepy face. Although described as being a horror game, it feels more of an adventure game. You spend a lot of time exploring and completing objectives with your trusty companions of a mute little girl and a severed goat's head. There's puzzles along the way too, which don't really pose too much of a challenge. That suited me just fine as generally it takes me way too long to solve puzzles, despite my love of them. Things just keep on getting weirder and more intriguing the further you delve into the world.

Each area of Mundaun comes with its own unique foes, including beekeepers and men made out of straw. The survival horror technique of avoiding them seems to be the best, but as you progress though the game you do get access to more weapons. There is also a nod to the Amnesia games, where Curdin will become increasingly distressed and almost paralysed with fear if he gets too close to an enemy. Although linear in it’s storytelling, each area does allow for some exploration, like a scaled-down open-world game.

This very much feels like a folk tale and is inspired by the story of the devil appearing at a moment of great need and offering a deal, and provides a cautionary tale of the consequences of accepting such a deal. As we approach the conclusion of the tale, Curdin discovers that his father made some kind of a pact with the old man, or devil if you will, during a war, allowing him and his men to survive insurmountable odds. This comes at a high price though, and in return they're expected to give him an unbaptised soul in exchange. Flurin attempts to con the old man, which ultimately led to his demise some years later. The consequences of his choice ripple forward through time, posing the question of whether short-term gains are worth it for the long term consequences.

There's also this painter woven into the story somehow, who seems to have his own pact with the old man. He plays a relatively minor part of the story, but an important one nonetheless, particularly when considering the consequences of the choices we make. Which leads me nicely to the point that Mundaun has multiple endings. There are a couple of different choices throughout the game that you're presented with, which affect the ending. So you can really explore the consequences of our choices, and ask yourself if just because you can change the past, should you?

Fortunately Mundaun does not rely on the horror game trope of jumpscares here, there and everywhere. There are jumpscares, but they're few and far between, which gives them more of an impact. Instead this game opts for an overall unnerving atmosphere which is heightened by the hand-drawn style.

The hand-drawn monochrome style does take a bit of getting used to, and sometimes the textures seem to blend into one another. But with that being said this game has an eerie beauty to it. The detail in Father Jeremias' chapel really showcases the hand drawn style used, it is simply mesmerising. I did find that after a long session playing this game, as soon as I stopped and took in my own surroundings, the world seemed so bright and colourful. Mundaun really does absorb you fully and I can't say I've experienced this before when playing a game.

Upon hearing that this was a psychological horror game, I was expecting some kind of twist similar to Cry of Fear. Mundaun does need to be taken at face value though, and in retrospect I do think I got too caught up over analysing potential hidden meanings, rather than just enjoying the game for what it is. So, if you play this game, I recommend you just accept everything at face value and not overthink it.

The pace of the game feels deliberately slow too, with long sections of pure dialogue. This feels like a story that's meant to be absorbed slowly, with attention paid to the meticulous design and storytelling. That being said though, the game can be played in about 8 hours and feels more like you're watching a long film unfolding.

A unique concept that doesn't disappoint. Mundaun is clearly a labour of love, with each element of the game being meticulously hand-drawn to create a mesmerising and unnerving experience. I would recommend this game to people who enjoy a good story, and are happy to take their time absorbing it. This is not one for people who enjoy more action-orientated or jump scare horror games.


Pros:
Engaging story
Multiple endings to explore

Cons:
Textures sometimes blend together
Slow pace 

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