Platform: PC (£6.99)
Developer: PolyPusher Studios
A broken man washes up on an Irish Isle in search of identity and answers. It's a powerful premise that sees us shambling about the windswept manse as we slowly solve some truly wicked puzzles, leaning heavily on a crutch as we gradually piece everything together.
With Halloween just around the corner, its great to see a horror game ignore cheap and easy thrills in an effort to do something more. Montague's Mount isn't just a ghost train, rather it attempts to subtly chill us as we exercise our grey cells, a little like a cross between Myst and Dear Escher.
Only nowhere near as good.
The first person puzzling gets off to a flying start. Grainy visuals, slow movement speed and the first person perspective make Montague's Mount a very personal experience, hammering home a real sense of isolation and helplessness. Slow and tense exploration is therefore the order of the day, complimented by appropriately worrying sound design that leaves you jumping at shadows.
There's no combat; just you, your brain and your crutch against a thrillingly creepy environment. Unfortunately there's also no real sense of threat either. Montague's Mount is very much a brainteaser rather than a horror experience, so once you've seen through the trappings, you're left with an all-important selection of puzzles.
A precious few are phenomenal. One requires a working knowledge of Morse Code and a keen eye. Another requires some pleasingly cerebral broken logic. But far too many rely on finding one specific item or clue to progress, which involves an inordinate amount of tedious backtracking and trawling through every square millimetre of terrain. At best Montague's Mount is supremely satisfying, usually it's just aggravating like a throbbing headache, but at worst it's utterly galling to have to find one particular thing even though there are plenty of other things lying around that would be equally effective if we could only pick them up. It's haphazardly designed, lacking the clockwork-like internal logic of a truly superior puzzler.
Who likes the sound of long backtracking puzzles with no manual saves and a laboriously slow movement speed? Anyone? No? Obviously not, because it's a monumentally stupid idea. Much like the grain filter, which looks great until you realise that it obscures useful details and forces you to squint mere centimetres away from your monitor just to read anything. At least you can optionally turn it off.
Much of your squinting will be directed at some scribblings and journals that gradually threaten to unveil the underlying storyline. Though the writing is a little amateurish at times, the plot is engaging and keeps you locked in despite the inconsistent puzzles, compelling you forward with the desire to finally understand.
But in a final insult, the story is rendered meaningless by a cliffhanger that glibly teases a sequel without resolving anything remotely important. We've painfully frittered away our time for nothing, leaving our labours pointless and unsatisfying.
- Creepy first impressions
- Effective feeling of powerlessness and dread
- There's potential for an excellent horror puzzler here...
- ... but it needs better puzzles!
- Specifically: less backtrack-heavy fetch quests and more consistent internal logic
- Half-decent story poorly told, lacks closure
The Short Version: Montague's Mount shows signs of great ambition, but never realises its potential as a creepy puzzler with brains to spare. Inconsistent and frequently tedious puzzles, not to mention weak writing and a tragic lack of closure, fail to make the most of a neat premise. Montague's Mount needs a full do-over, not a sequel.