You wake up to see your sister gone and embark on a journey through a forest to save her. As an Olle, an 8-year-old boy, the player can immerse themselves in the dark Nordic fables in the indie game Bramble: The Mountain King. As a disclaimer for players, this game has explicit violence and excessive blood and gore while also referencing topics such as suicide, infanticide and harm to minors and animals.
As a platformer, the game has different obstacles and routes the player must clear while following the set path, but you can also just enjoy the scenery, for example, walking through fields of flowers. While the player ventures deeper into the forest they will encounter many creatures on their way from friendly gnomes to gruesome trolls. Bramble has collected Nordic fables and portrayed them by making Olle encounter the creatures and experience events inspired by their stories. For example, going through an escape from Näcken, a water spirit that haunts a lake and a fight against Skogsrå who sacrificed men to strengthen herself. In addition to the encounters with the mythological creatures, the player can engage with storybooks that offer more insight into the creatures.
The game has managed to build a captivating experience where the atmosphere is created with not only a beautiful portrayal of Nordic nature but also foreboding events through music and sounds. The soundtrack was fitting for the game and made the experience more pleasant. The forest’s details looked realistic and reminded of me what I’ve seen by myself in nature. The Nordic beauty was captivated by details like moss on rocks, water lilies in ponds and the mystic atmosphere of dense forests.
The game isn’t for the faintest and it sometimes felt like the gore was too much. For example, wading in entrails or walking on a path surrounded by crucified can make the player uneasy while the sounds enhance the experience. During playing, I usually found myself getting frustrated by the camera angles. In fights, it was fixed to stay still, while at other times, it moved and made the journey look cinematic. The character could run out of the frame and leave you wondering whether the camera will follow or the scene change. When rocks are falling on you or you must quickly jump out of the way of a knife, the fixed camera angle is not helping. In addition, the controls felt sluggish which did not help the experience during situations that were supposed to be fast-paced.
Bramble was best during the first hour where you get the magical atmosphere and puzzle-solving while going further into the forest. The boss fights, especially when they take many rounds, didn’t add that much to the game. I would have preferred the game to concentrate more on the scenery and fables while letting the players immerse themselves in the atmosphere.
Ultimately, it was an experience that only took around five hours to complete, so trying it out won’t take too much from the players, especially if it happens to be free or on sale. I would recommend the game for its music and the graphics that created the atmosphere, not forgetting the interesting Nordic fables. However, if you are looking for smooth gameplay and a game that doesn’t repeat itself, then this might not be your piece.
Publisher: Merge games
Developer: Dimfrost Studio
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, Xbox
Release Date: April 24, 2023
Genres: Indie, action-adventure, horror
Photos: screenshots from Bramble: The Mountain King, taken by the author
Exploration enthusiast who has a bad habit of speed-running new content to see it all. Preferably playing action-adventure RPG’s but sometimes she can be found arguing with friends in co-op puzzle games or trying horror games with eyes closed.
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