>> Mundane

Finished main content at around 6 hours on May. 02, 2021

Mundaun PS4 is a first-person horror mystery adventure game with a hand-penciled sepia aesthetic where the player journeys to his grandfather's funeral and unravel his deal with a demonic spirit. What makes this standout aside from its strong visuals is the language and beliefs in the small village that radiates a sense of allure and mystery. While this game is highly artistic and shows passion, its gameplay aspect pull this game down severely. I like this short game and recommend it but do know it has severe flaws.

>> Notes and Thoughts

To preface my criticism with the game's good points, I like the story idea of a devil's bargain where the next generations pay the price. The mystery presented also heightened the atmosphere and tone alongside the sepia imagery and cinematography makes this experience memorable. Enemies have unique designs, low weapon durability and item scarcity increases the tension. For a small indie game with this amount of effort and artistic merit, it is impressive and should be commended, so these issues are painful to raise.

The biggest issue with the game is the pacing and story progression. As the story is about an intriguing curse, many of the story objectives feel unrelated or padding and does not feel insightful or rewarding. While a short story is fine, the objectives can be reworked to feel more engaging and involved rather than meandering. For example, a road block could be an invincible monster that can be weakened then killed in several ways or a fetch quest could be a multi-item inventory puzzle that can enhance exploration and world building. When the story and pacing picks up, the game is at its best but that is between long stretches of uninteresting traversal.

Navigating or exploring the world is tedious and uninteresting as this undermines the atmosphere and pacing. For this kind of first-person exploration, a combination of well-designed maps, enemies, abilities and pacing can remedy this. Aside from increasing the enemies at strategic points, improving enemy design I believe can be the most effective since most enemies are simply long range units that can be easily outrun or evaded making them more of an annoyance than a genuine threat. If adding new monsters and abilities is not possible, adjust from the player's side can work such as limited health with recovery items instead of auto-recovery, items to draw attention or stun such as rocks, slower move speed when detected and so on. While increasing difficulty must be balanced against being challenging or frustrating, this can make exploration tense and treacherous while also making its atrocious backtracking meaningful.

The story experience is short and unique but unsatisfying for me with many questions about the mechanics of the world. How the protagonist's curse is removed does not make sense since it was not building up to it nor attention to actually removing it. I felt the resolution with the demon was a narrative contrivance although I did like uncovering the demon's secret. Alongside the game its moments, the narrative payoff does not feel rewarding despite its allure.

While the game's aesthetic is a strength, it can also be a flaw within the item hunting mechanics. Since everything is sepia toned, it is hard to find items which could be addressed as hard contrast or highlights accessibility options. Same issue within the inventory that is it hard to know which is the current item again can be resolved with highlights. While the sepia tone is unique, some people might have color blindness so providing visual accessibility options would be welcome. As a first-person game, it is also lacking in options such as field of view, sensitivity and so-on to prevent motion sickness specially when driving the truck. Nonetheless, the visuals is still a strength and can be experienced better with more options for it.

The combat system is simple but requires more polish. For the pitchfork, attacking sometimes does not trigger and feels unreliable. The attribute bonuses that provide increased health, fear resistance and rifle accuracy should be removed as the game is already easy or turn them into temporary bonuses or usage based instead although I do like making coffee here. For the rifle, weapon sway and limited ammo is nice but accessing the inventory to reload instead of a weapon reload animation is strange. When doing damage from stealth, a notification appears which break its aesthetic and should be removed. For the inventory, the game lacks enough usable items or complex interactions to warrant the current inventory system. The inventory should also stop time as it is hard to access the correct item or allocate a button to cycle with relevant items if it cannot be removed. While the game discourages combat, engaging in it should be smooth to avoid ruining immersion.

I do have other issues such as the immense loading times, harsh bee sound effects, truck handling, fast run speed and so on but these are minor. Nonetheless, this game will be remembered despite its shortcoming which can hopefully inspire more kinds of this game.