Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
April 27, 2023
Bramble: The Mountain King takes players through a realm of twisted folklore based on horrific Nordic tales. An adventure of wondrous fables and intimidating creatures awaits as young Olle chases after his sister into the forest after dark. Despite drawing some early and unfavourable comparisons to titles like Little Nightmares, Bramble quickly finds its stride as the grim fairytales and affecting imagery continue to build in impact over the course of the ~6-hour experience.
Bramble could be aptly described as a horror-themed adventure game with some light platforming, puzzling, and boss fights. It’s a game that loves to highlight size and scale as protagonist Olle is dwarfed by the creatures and environments around him. Early segments of the game will see Olle encountering more friendly creatures, with small minigames allowing him to find gnomes and other fantasy friends that help him progress further on his mission. Intertwined between all of this exploration and whimsy are the strokes of horror that amplify louder and louder as the game progresses. It’s in these moments where Bramble really shines as new menacing foes are introduced, often with a flourish for the sudden and dramatic. Whether it’s a creature emerging out of the water as you hop by or a looming threat appearing in the blink of an eye, the foes in Bramble know how to make an entrance and the game is all the better for it.
You can see the developer’s prowess for storytelling as new enemies are introduced, often with some genuinely captivating backstory to send a chill down your spine. Using Nordic folklore here ended up being such a good idea, and the way that folklore unfolded was pure glee. Playing Bramble at times feels like an authentic journey through these stories that were passed down from generation to generation. It’s a shame then that the culmination of that folklore, the inevitable boss fights that conclude a particular foe’s chapter, never lived up to the impact of the rest of the experience.
“…with very cool storytelling, engrossing creature design, and impressive pacing always building to an underwhelming gameplay climax.”
Bramble: The Mountain King does struggle in the gameplay department. In early chapters that struggle is felt largely through shoehorned gameplay segments and ideas that quite frankly felt just too similar to what has come before it. Playing hide and seek with the gnomes or herding small flower characters ended up being unnecessary busywork, introduced seemingly to add variety to what would otherwise be somewhat samey gameplay. The aforementioned boss fights vary in success, and the “combat” mechanic of throwing a small glowing orb never landed with the impact it needed. For this reason, Bramble unfortunately never felt as though it fully stuck the landing, with very cool storytelling, engrossing creature design, and impressive pacing always building to an underwhelming gameplay climax.
I can’t compliment the game’s implementation of this horrific folklore enough. Bramble understands the reveal, and for a game that at times feels so unassuming, it really finds ways to hit you with a thorough punch. Whether that’s a more standard jumpscare, or simply an affecting visual or mechanical sequence. The game isn’t afraid to go hard and for that reason, players may need a content warning before heading into this experience. It’s grim, it’s bold, it’s at times shocking, and it isn’t afraid to showcase themes of death, gruesome visuals, and of course horror. I wasn’t expecting to be quite as shaken as I was during moments of the game, but in a good way. Bramble doesn’t hold back and it’s all the better for it.
The overall narrative of Bramble: The Mountain King is nothing necessarily special. A journey through a perilous and fantastical world in pursuit of your sister. It’s really the backstories and individual creature spotlights that are where this game narratively excels. literal storybooks of lore will be given to the player but in a way that’s genuinely appealing, like a glimpse into another world. The game’s enemies are unveiled largely one at a time, giving the player time to understand who they are and build up dread before that particular chapter’s foe is dealt with and a new one is revealed. Like a rotating door of well-told spooks.
Visually Bramble is quite striking with a few instances of visual glitches or wonky animations that hold it back. Specific camera angles are well-implemented, highlighting the looming threat or the intimidating figure. The design of the world is varied and ultimately quite captivating as you’re constantly kept questioning your surroundings and wondering how things tie into the bigger picture. Whilst the visuals vary somewhat in their success, the sound design is instead impeccable. From the ambient noises keeping you constantly on edge to the use of music that perfectly sets the tone and encapsulates the mood of the storytelling. Bramble may not be a perfect game, though it’s hard to criticise the audio from its curious start to its bombastic end.
- Excellent use of Nordic folklore
- Some shocking moments that felt very impactful
- Audio design is top notch
- Gameplay doesn't hold up to the standard of the rest of the experience
- Some visual gltiches and wonky animations
Bramble: The Mountain King finds ways to excel throughout the ~6-hour adventure. With superb audio design and some really satisfying and engaging storytelling centred around Nordic folklore, the game showcases glimpses of greatness and refuses to hold back from depicting the horrifying and grim world around you. It’s a shame that every new enemy’s introduction and build-up is undermined by the inevitable average boss fight. It’s true there’s obvious room for improvement with Bramble’s gameplay, though the overall experience is certainly still worth uncovering, especially as the game goes from strength to strength with some seriously impactful core moments.