I’m going to get this out of the way — this hand pencilled, enigmatic folk horror? It can be an absolute chore to play, and the switch port is in all honesty, a bit rubbish. But Mundaun is an absolute must play.
It can grate — any combat is that classic Survival Horror thing of being just a bit too clumsy to be enjoyable, but never quite employed delicately enough to justify it. I’d much rather skewer the hay folks with panache if I have to do it this often. But, as you don’t really play say, Silent Hill for the combat, it’s not the main draw here. If you do play Silent Hill for the combat, you’re a braver soul than I, and I’m sure you’ll relish this clunky mess of poking.
For the rest of us cowards, Mundaun is peak folk-horror. It’s a slow moving, glacial burning look into a place out of time. You have roots up here in the Swiss Alps, with your family history. That’s the basic hook — go return to a place you used to call home. And it’s odd — as a return usually is. Things haven’t changed, as they never do in this genre, it’s uncanny. Mundaun is peppered with smaller moments, recollections from childhood; a cave hideout, your bed, your grandpa, mysterious beekeepers. It’s a wriggling, gnawing thing.
Until it slithers, twists. Sinister things come out to play, peeling back the fraying edge of home a little. Faces move, churches contort. The devil is here within Mundaun, and while it is by no means a seat jumping, white knuckle thrill ride, you aren’t ever comfortable. It elegantly drives under the skin and into the psyche, and relishes in pushing at it gently, moving smaller and smaller things, all until it’s time to turn the screw.
I very much wish to discuss that moment. But, it needs to be seen. It is fabulously executed, and stunning. And it clicks everything about Mundaun into place, elevating it to one of the finest horror games you can play right now, and definitely one of the most beautiful. The art is idiosyncratic, and extremely novel; hand drawn textures scanned in from the very paper they were sketched on. That’s so cool! I would love to see that style taken further, with other art directions – but that is for other games.
In Mundaun, a game that lives in the uncanny, it is a pencil stroke of genius to look the way it does. It is familiar, homely, but different. Sinister. Brilliant.