Mundaun (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 11.04.2021

Review for Mundaun on Xbox One

Anyone aiming at developing a horror game will always be faced with having to conjure a visual style to help create an atmosphere. Setting the mood is one of the most critical pillars of crafting a worthwhile horror experience in an age when most titles are becoming more homogenous in their design. Mundaun takes a bold leap with its efforts to create a first-person survival-horror done entirely in a black and white sketch art style. Is this gimmick enough to carry the hefty demands of a psychologically-driven game?

The developer of Mundaun has to be commended for a few bold decisions. Having to make the entire visual style entirely grayscale is outrageous and opting for everything to be rendered in a charcoal or sketchy pencil filter is very brave. Even more so is that the effect is largely unconvincing due to the extremely low-quality textures and sloppy character modelling. Mundaun is one ugly visual and thankfully, the unsightly crudeness of the graphics ultimately is a boon to the horror atmosphere.

The graphite-on-paper effect would have been convincing if the artists had put a bigger emphasis on shaders for the models. The reliance on penciled textures does not deliver on the promise of a living 3D drawing and instead resembles someone sloppily drawing on 3D objects. The grass effect is especially unconvincing; 2D assets are sloppily applied to the geometry and awkwardly sway to simulate wind. There are times where the effect comes close to being realised, but it is less often as it should be. For the most part, the creatures and the world look more like something from the PlayStation 2 era.

The modelling is very limited and surprisingly basic for a 2021 release. The few characters that are seen come off as more uncanny as they move in a weirdly twisted cadence. It is unclear if this effect was intentional, but the results are more off-putting than expected. The muddy pencil art and creepy models make everything feel diseased and filth what with faces agonisingly animated in contorted expressions. Scarecrows roaming the open-ended hub areas blend in with the environment, making their ambushes an earned jump scare. Despite its limitations in virtually every area, Mundaun manages to feel pretty creepy.

Screenshot for Mundaun on Xbox One

A lot of the imagery is steeped in witchcraft iconography and demonism. A lot of the goals are seemingly veiled demonic rituals where players will be tasked with filling their inventory with all kinds of disgusting trinkets and weird new-age talismans that have some kind of evil significance. The puzzle design itself, however, is often inspired. Such can be seen in the puzzles' creative use of the environment and the excellent ways they engage with the 3D space. Shockingly, there are some brief vehicle segments where Curdin, the protagonist, is able to freely drive a truck which makes for some welcomed variety.

Moreover, the premise of Mundaun is interesting. It has an old folklore flavour that compliments, and subsequently shows the need for, the handmade visuals. Curdin sets out to the Swiss Alps where the secluded town of Mundaun resides. His grandfather had recently died in a fire and Curdin is tasked with uncovering the truth behind his cryptic passing. Not everything is as it seems since Mundaun is an enigmatic and haunted place. Thus, restless spirits and visions of the past torment Curdin as he seeks answers.

Screenshot for Mundaun on Xbox One

As Mundaun gradually opens up, the player will be able to explore a sizable hub, find keys, solve puzzles, manage their inventory and avoid getting hunted while riding down the Swiss Alps on a sleigh. This is no walking-simulation; the gameplay adheres to classic survival-horror philosophy, meaning interconnected areas, limited resources and frequent backtracking. The path forward is rarely obvious and there are plenty of optional objectives that may distract Curdin from his goals. It is common to have multiple objectives at any given moment and, unlike most modern games, Mundaun has a savepoint system. Dying can mean losing a lot of progress and the designer respects the player enough to take precautions into their own hands.

Screenshot for Mundaun on Xbox One

Easily the weakest aspect to Mundaun is what can be laughingly referred to as the combat. The developer must be commended for not choosing the obvious route of having no fighting. The game is plenty unsettling even with the option to stab monsters, but the execution is all wrong. At times, getting into scrapes feels like one of the earliest King's Field titles on the original PlayStation. Curdin's movements are much too slow and are embarrassingly weak. Being ineffective is not even its greatest flaw; the protagonist can easily stun lock threats as they get back up, trivializing all confrontations.

Mundaun was very close to being decent. It may be offensively ugly, but its haggard imagery enhances the atmosphere and makes for a more unsettling experience. A lot of the time it can feel like a hazy fever dream where nothing feels real. The hands-off approach to guiding the player in an open-ended small region goes a long way in making Mundaun feel more immersive. With a bit of polish and smoother controls, this could have been a quality cult classic.

Screenshot for Mundaun on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

The folksy ambiance helps Mundaun distinguish itself from most horror indies on the market. The rough and flawed graphics work in ways the developer may not have intended and the frequent backtracking may not be for everyone. With only Curdin's notebook giving any idea of what to do and the terribly unresponsive combat, many people might give up on Mundaun. It may be a slog at times, but this is definitely worth a look for fans of horror classics.

Developer

Hidden Fields

Publisher

MWM Interactive

Genre

Horror

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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