With a resurgence of horror in media in the last couple of years it can be hard for games to stand out from the oversaturated pool of horror games. Thankfully, Dimfrost Studio has created an atmospherically-rich and terrifying world in Bramble: The Mountain King that will have you captivated throughout the short but thrilling journey.
Set in a world inspired by horror and Nordic folklore, Bramble: The Mountain King follows Olle, who must traverse a dark, dangerous world to rescue his sister from the sinister Mountain King. On his quest to save her, he encounters peculiar friends along the way as well as some menacing and often disturbing creatures. Despite the 3-4 hour playthrough, the story has quite a lot of depth to it, with only the narrator and several lore-filled books to help you better understand the world.
Little Nightmares is a game I am very fond of, and Bramble: The Mountain King shares a lot of gameplay mechanics with it. The core gameplay involves navigating areas of the world which include platforming and avoiding ominous creatures which will kill you in one hit. It is far from a Little Nightmares copycat though, with Dimfrost Studio adding their own flair to the genre.
Olle uses an enchanted fragment called the Spark of Courage to help guide his way through the threatening environments and take down enemies. As far as combat goes, there is very little. That being said, the boss encounters are by far the standout. I would genuinely always be looking forward to the next one, and even though there was little to no combat involved, the tension was always there.
I consider myself to be quite desensitised to horror, but I was absolutely terrified and caught off guard a handful of times throughout the game. One particular encounter had me just about falling off my couch (if you are reading this review after you’ve played it, here’s a hint: The Näcken).
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Bramble: The Mountain King’s shortcomings come through lack of polish. The movement can feel jittery at times, and as a platformer, that will tarnish the enjoyability of the game for some players. I had issues with the accuracy of some controls as well. One section had me pushing a wheelbarrow uphill but wanted me to be pushing the analog stick right. Turning crank handles may be the true nightmare of the game though. Despite these faults, the storytelling and overall aesthetic and presentation of Bramble are the saving grace.
The music accompanies the game very well and enhances the tension without fail. There are moments between certain chapters where beautiful, peaceful songs play which really lightens the mood. There are some dark themes present in Bramble, so this juxtaposition is well-earned by anyone who plays the game.
In terms of performance, the game runs well with the occasional frame-rate drop in some more action-focused areas. The art direction would have to be the best I’ve seen in a horror game in a long time. The camera pans outwards in a cinematic way frequently to allow for some amazing screenshots, which you can find throughout this review.
Despite some minor flaws, Bramble: The Mountain King is an entertaining and well-crafted addition to Dimfrost Studio’s portfolio which will tickle that itch of any horror fan.
Bramble: The Mountain King is now available to play on PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.