Reviewer: Jeremy Jackson
Played on: PlayStation 5
Mundaun is a survival-horror game set in the hauntingly peaceful (or is it peacefully haunting?) Swiss Alps. The game was developed by Hidden Fields and published by MWM Interactive, but it was conceptualized and designed by Michel Ziegler, who enlisted a small team to help him with sound design and such. What immediately stands out is Mundaun’s hand-drawn art style, which perfectly fits the Alpine setting—as well as the folklore the game is inspired by. But is a unique art style and setting enough to impress the IGP’s horror honcho?
STORY – SYMPATHY FOR THE GOAT HERDER
Mundaun puts you in the hand-sketched shoes of Curdin as he returns to the eponymous Alpine town of Mundaun after receiving a mysterious letter announcing his grandfather’s death. The letter also urges Curdin to stay away from the town—a suggestion that he of course ignored (who wouldn’t!?). Upon arrival, you quickly discover the townsfolk are hiding something about the untimely death of your grandfather, who has not received a proper burial and is stuck in limbo.
As you race to save your grandfather’s soul, you uncover and combat the town’s twisted secret and curse, which manifests in a slew of strange enemy types. Let’s put it this way: I’ll never look at a bail of hay in the same way again.
The story, which sees you facing off against the ominous and manipulative Old Man, pokes at some tried-and-true classic horror themes. Still, it approaches these done-to-death tropes in personal and entertaining ways—somehow managing to keep a light and pleasant tone throughout.
In many ways, Mundaun triggers nostalgia for older forms of horror while bringing a fresh perspective. The setting is what stands out the most, though—from the mountain’s grassy lower sections to its snow-shrouded summit. I won’t spoil it here, but both create an unsettling contrast for the darker themes the story pokes at.
GAMEPLAY – A WALKING SIMULATOR THAT WALKS THE WALK
Mundaun is a survival-horror game through and through, especially at the start. You walk towards a task to find an item, which sets you on the path of pursuing a new task. This loop is broken up occasionally by short and simple puzzles. However, as you unlock more areas of the map, you unlock a car and a rifle, adding some welcome gameplay variation.
This game is ultimately an exploration-focused experience that has you walking around to develop the story further. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s typically something that I warn people about when they’re interested in survival horror. So consider yourself warned!
While Mundaun’s enemy design is excellent and diverse, encounters are mostly short-lived and shallow. It’s possible to kill some enemies, but you can just as easily run around them, meaning they’re more of a speedbump than a threat (even the more difficult ones). Nevertheless, I loved the originality behind every enemy type, and interacting with them was a joy.
A LOVE LETTER TO HORROR AND FILM
The opening scene of Mundaun is a direct and clear homage to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. As you inch up the mountain in a bus with music reminiscent of The Shining’s iconic opening, the similarities between the two works are striking.
The inspiration from film and other horror games don’t stop there, with many nods to German expressionism and incredible cinematography all around. Hidden Fields has done incredibly well in learning from past works to craft a memorable game world.
Mundaun also borrows some proven themes and features from past survival horror games. I specifically saw a lot of Amnesia: The Dark Descent within Mundaun. These inspirations paved the way for Mundaun to deliver a truly gratifying and original package—something Amnesia Rebirth failed to deliver on last year.
The Verdict – A NEW FAVORITE IN THE SURVIVAL HORROR GENRE
Mundaun balances inspiration from past works with a unique art-style and quaint setting, crescendoing in a nostalgic and refreshing experience that has etched itself onto my horror game wall of fame. It’s not without its problems, but a bit of jank is always expected from a project of this scale. Hell, it even adds to the experience in a weird sort of way. To any fans of horror and great storytelling, I recommend Ziegler’s labor of love that is Mundaun.
7/10 – Great