Bramble: The Mountain King Review
Nordic folklore is sinister and somber, yet there is a beautiful innocence that resides throughout. While elements such as gnomes and trolls have seeped into popular culture, there is a dark and twisted portion to the cautionary stories that dwell in Scandinavia. Dimfrost Studios aims to capture the contrast in their wonderful epic, Bramble: The Mountain King. Will this be a delightful, devious amalgamation or will it fumble its clasp on legend?
You play as Olle, a young child who wakes to discover that his sister, Lillemor, is not in her bed. With the window open and bedding tied into a rope, her path is clear and you decide to follow the trail to find her whereabouts. Soon you discover a stunning world that is full of personality. Beautiful green land stretches the area with quaint buildings and charming flora that builds a comfortable ambiance. There’s a meandering pace to the opening which allows you to soak in the environment. Simple childlike tasks give an insight into the characters and lure you into a false sense of security.
A Tale of Two
When all seems hopeful and you reunite with your sister, Bramble: The Mountain King takes an unsettling turn. Your sister is captured and you begin a trek through haunting areas that are inspired by Norse tales. You quickly notice a change in the world, the gentle woodlands turn into a twisted haven that houses nightmarish creatures. The atmosphere grows thick and the pleasant stroll morphs into an anxiety-ridden sprint to safety.
Mythical beasts are central to segments of the game. You will learn about their disturbing tale and then endure horrific scenarios as you venture forth for your sister. The snippets of history are fascinating and foreboding. Although it’s interesting to learn about the stories, you soon realize that you will live through the same torment. The imposing creatures are large and grotesque. They haunt your every step as you try to avoid their gaze or attempt to escape their grasp. This leads to some terrifying moments and concludes with grand encounters.
Bosses are fierce and can end your quest with one powerful blow. Due to this, you must use cover and the stone of light to overcome the mammoth foes. Most battles require you to avoid strikes and use elements in the environment or your special ability. With the stone, you can fight against the darkness by aiming at key aspects of the battle. The item evolves to add new gameplay opportunities throughout which keeps new segments distinct. Even though the fights themselves are straightforward, the presentation is immaculate and creates some memorable set pieces.
An Arduous Trek
Traversing the world is a large part of the game. You will need to climb up walls, jump across deadly gaps, and balance on rickety beams on your journey. The cinematic camera guides you in the right direction so you always know where to go. While this does restrict exploration, it creates a purposeful pace. Movement is a little sluggish which can make the platforming feel a little cumbersome. At times I did fail the odd section due to this, however, the generous checkpoints meant that I never really lost much progress when I had to restart a section.
Small puzzles add variety to the adventure. Some are environmental and where you work out a path and others are more traditional, requiring items to proceed. As these are sparingly used, they are refreshing when you come across them. These are rather simple conundrums that you will solve quite quickly, however, the placement is thoughtful, and they give you a much-needed breather after an intense segment.
The overall presentation of Bramble: The Mountain King is jaw-dropping. There are aspects that will make you gush and then others that will make you squirm. Details in the environment are bleak as you’ll see people hanging on trees and other disturbing happenings. The cinematography adds to the notion of a journey as you follow Olle to the next set piece. Due to the delicious use of depth of field, at times there are parts that are obscured. Although this does create an intimate whimsy, it also adds an element of mystery that permeates your exploit. Its intoxicating world is heightened through its beautiful score and disturbing sound design. The buzzing of insects and squelch of remains linger. While this creates a sickening air, Dimfrost Studios also counters this with moments of pure beauty. At times, Scandinavian folk songs play which adds introspective moments of bliss that stand out from the grim events at hand.
Bramble: The Mountain King is a fascinating adventure. Each character you meet on your Nordic expedition is wonderfully designed and will instantly capture your imagination. Even though the movement is a little rigid and the game is extremely linear, it manages to deliver a unique experience that will fester in your psyche.
***A PlayStation 5 code provided by the publisher for review***
- Beautiful World
- Disgusting Creatures
- Incredible Sound Design
- Movement A Little Sluggish
- Very Linear
- Some Awkward Sections