An Indie Debut
‘Tis the season for first person suspenseful horror games. Montague’s Mount is the first title from Polypusher Studios and is out now on Good Old Games, GamersGate and Get Games, as well as being on Steam Greenlight. You play as a man shipwrecked on a mysterious Irish island. Taking one step at a time you must solve puzzles and explore this place, uncovering the secrets it holds while trying to escape.
It’s hard to know what you’re in for at the start of the game. The first thing you are struck by is the visual style. The island is dark, and the weather is stormy, and to suit this everything is wonderfully desaturated. It’s not quite black and white, indeed the colour returns somewhat when you are inside, but outside the world is bleak and the optional film grain just adds to the effect. One theme seems to be the colour red, present on discarded inflatable life rings and buoys on beaches. The game looks pretty good for the most part, although I did encounter very noticeable environmental pop-in, particularly the longer I played.
More dreary than horror
The dreariness of the place seems to point towards something rather undesirable going on and the further you play, the more unsettling the island becomes. You were injured in the shipwreck and your first task is to find something to act as a walking stick. This gave the developer an excuse to have an incredibly slow and deliberate pace to the game. While it works narratively, in practice it simply becomes frustrating, especially when you realise you have to trek back down several paths to complete your task.
The idea behind the story itself is rather unpleasant but I was never sure what I was supposed to be feeling. The atmosphere Montague’s Mount creates is dark, for sure, but I was never scared. But I don’t know if I was supposed to be. The fact that this man is a breath away from being a cripple suggested that I wouldn’t have to be doing any running, and there didn’t appear to be any controls for fighting, so I just wandered around the island never really batting an eye to the flickering lights or spooky swaying trees, or the occasional scary audio sting or howling wind. There is a sombre soundtrack of piano and strings to back everything up and it further sets the mood, but there was just something missing from the whole experience. The problems with the overall immersion were compounded by getting stuck on bits of scenery and even one hilariously jarring moment where I actually got catapulted into the air by an electricity pole.
hit and miss puzzles
Puzzle design varies between mildly taxing and head-scratchingly difficult. An early puzzle has you watching some morse code and translating it using a chart to be able to figure out which combination of colours you need to lower a bridge. It was fairly interesting, but also made me wonder exactly why the buoy out in the middle of the sea held the secret to the next part of the island. The majority of puzzles are simple “find the thing you can pick up and bring it here to insert into the other thing” quests, sadly. The darkness of the island makes this less of a test of how smart you are and more of a test of how observant you are. It turns out I’m not very, even when I turned on object highlighting in the options. Sometimes you have to remember combinations to safes, sometimes you have to use your compass, and although there were some unique ideas in there, I was never really blown away by any of it.
Even after you open up new areas of the island, you can still go backwards to places you’ve already visited if you like. But the game sections areas off fairly cleverly so you are never wandering too far away from your objective. Every time something major happens, like turning on a generator or opening a gate, you are greeted with a checkpoint. However, since the game is technically open world, you might not have all the items in your inventory needed for the next puzzle. At one point I reached a checkpoint, and decided I would venture a bit further to see what was up next. I realised that I needed to backtrack and grab an item I had missed, but I couldn’t figure out how to progress further than that, so I turned off the game and took a break for a while. Of course, when I came back to the game, I had to backtrack for a second time, leaving me longing for a manual save system. One feature I did appreciate was the Statistics screen showing you how many footsteps you have taken in your journey.
Montague’s Mount draws you in by creating an eerie atmosphere and a degree of mystery. Some puzzles leave you feeling satisfied, while some have you wishing for a hint system. It looks pretty good, despite some graphical hitches, and it’s backed up by some excellent audio design. There is definitely room for improvement, but it’s a decent debut title from this new indie developer.
Great sense of atmosphere
Some bugs, and some puzzles seem a little contrived.