Bramble: The Mountain King Review – Nordic Nightmares

    Title: Bramble: The Mountain King
    Developer: Dimfrost Studio
    Release Date: April 27, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Merge Games
    Genre: Horror Adventure

It’s been a while since a game left me scared. While some titles begin with a few frights, the novelty wears off, and I’m left waiting for the credits to roll. However, that wasn’t the case with the Dimfrost-developed horror adventure Bramble: The Mountain King, which dives into Nordic fables and has players face off against some genuinely nightmarish creatures.

Bramble: The Mountain King opens with Olle following his older sister, Lillemor, into a dark forest. As he explores, he finds a glowing stone with which he and his sister play with, carelessly. While atmospherically spooky, the opening introduces Olle filled with childish curiosity. It’s good to remember that the character is not an adult, as it plays a significant role in his mental stability the further into the forest he goes.

A troll appears and kidnaps Lillemor, and Olle kicks it into gear to save her. This triggers a much larger adventure that Olle faces as he encounters many creatures on his travels. The entire story is told like a fairy tale where a narrator details all of the significant story moments. The fantasy elements ring true during every moment as Olle figures out what he must do to get to his sister.

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The larger narrative highlights various Nordic fables, some being friendly creatures, but more often than not, everything in this forest is trying to kill you. The story takes players through some rather tense encounters that had my heart racing but then balanced it out with moments of serenity as Olle makes his way through beautiful open fields.

As the environments change, so does the folklore, and there will likely be a sort of boss encounter that caps off the area. Each boss is different in their abilities and requirements to defeat. This keeps the entire game fresh, as you can’t reuse tactics. However, I will say that some encounters are nightmare-inducing with extremely graphic and gory imagery.

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The game is relatively linear, with only a few collectibles to search for. This was kind of a downer for me, given that the world is so detailed that I couldn’t help but want to explore. However, most of the time, the stationary camera will point you in the direction you need to go, and that’s that. Still, the developers use this to their advantage, with some areas requiring you to use thoughtful means to progress.

A few different puzzles hinder progression, but none will leave you stumped for too long. I enjoyed these moments only because I didn’t have to worry about a troll eating me. Still, I wouldn’t say there are a lot of puzzles. They are cleverly placed and never overused.

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Platforming is the most significant system used, as players must navigate the fairy tale world. It’s all rather straightforward, as the game typically points you in the direction you need to go. Still, each new area features some new element of gameplay that stretches the skillset of Olle.

During exploration, he can hold out his rock and use it to flashlight out, which has various effects. However, this is expanded on with the stone being able to shoot out a beam of light and, at times, turn into a sword. This constantly evolving arsenal keeps the adventure from becoming dull.

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A first playthrough will take 6 to 8 hours, depending on how often you die. Regardless, an extremely generous checkpoint system gets you right back into action with only a bit of time lost. Even during boss encounters, as they change forms, a checkpoint will save your spot so you don’t have to constantly do the same thing over and over again.

In retrospect, I feel like the devs did this because they have a story to tell and one they hold close to their hearts. They want every player to experience this narrative, even though it will likely leave them with nightmares. Regardless, there’s a decent balance of challenge, even without difficulty options, and the story remains digestible even when traversing unsettling topics.

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Bramble: The Mountain King is a beautiful game. The fairytale world is filled with gorgeous set pieces alongside dark and gloomy stretches of land. Sound plays a huge role in delivering this horror experience, as each area is filled with audible movement and forest life. The music only enhances this package with some tracks that aid the gameplay’s more tense or serine moments. I’d also like to say that the final boss theme is brilliant.

In terms of control, I will say that Olle’s jump can be somewhat clunky. Reaching areas and judging distances is almost always a gamble, and there always seems to be a slight delay when taking an action, but you get used to this. Further, some transitions between areas are just too coincidental at times that I felt there could have been a better flow.

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Bramble: The Mountain King is an excellent horror adventure that doesn’t overstay its welcome and constantly delivers nail-biting moments of gameplay. Its narrative and characters immerse the player in this world heightened by the wonderful sound design and environments. You should make this your next weekend game. Sure, you might lose some sleep for a few nights after, but you’ll have a really good time.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.