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Bramble: The Mountain King Review

A magical and sombre journey awaits

Every now and again I’m thankful that I grew up in Tasmania and not one of the Nordic countries, as there’s a fair chance I would’ve been taken by a troll or eaten by another creature. At least that’s what Nordic folktales have led me to believe. Swedish developer Dimfrost Studio has dug into this trove of stories from its heritage to help craft its dark adventure game Bramble: The Mountain King. Folklore is often a great source of inspiration for adventure games, and if done right it’s a combination that can result in some unique and creepy experiences. So does Dimfrost Studio manage to successfully utilise Nordic folklore to deliver a story for the ages, or is it destined to be forgotten?

The story of Bramble sees you play as Olle, a young boy who wakes up one night to find his sister, Lillemor, missing. As it turns out, Lillemor has been kidnapped by a troll, and Olle takes it upon himself to rescue her from its clutches. But doing so will be no easy task – not just because Olle is a child, but because standing in his way is a handful of nightmarish creatures from Nordic folklore.

On paper their names could easily be mistaken for pieces of IKEA furniture, but Bramble’s mythical creatures are creepy and impressively designed. Two that we have seen in the game’s marketing are the Näcken, a creature living in a lake who lures children to drown through their music, and the Skogsrå, a female beauty who leads men into the forest, and ultimately to their death. Several other creatures (which I won’t name here) are also excellently brought to life, and there are several storybooks that players can find throughout the world that fill out their backstory, leaning nicely on the Nordic folklore vibes.

My what a large nose you have

On paper their names could easily be mistaken for pieces of IKEA furniture, but Bramble’s mythical creatures are creepy and impressively designed

A narrator will guide Olle forward in his mission, and it really does play like an interactive dark fairy tale. There’s a magical and enchanted feel to the world, with Olle befriending trolls, riding animals, and rescuing Nisse (gnome-like creatures) throughout his journey. But it’s not all cute animals and gigantic mushrooms, with Bramble’s narrative exploring some dark themes, such as suicide, infanticide and animal cruelty, creating some really poignant moments. All of this is viewed through the lens of a child, which adds extra weight to scenes that already hit hard, and I really liked how Dimfrost mixed Nordic folklore with its own narrative. It only took me about 4–5 hours to complete the game, but I was engaged by the story from start to finish.

Despite its grim underbelly, Bramble is a gorgeous looking game thanks to the beautiful and lush forest areas and some truly superb lighting effects. At times, Olle will be running forwards and the camera will zoom out, giving you a full view of the beauty of Bramble’s world, and the game’s melancholic soundtrack only accentuates the beauty and the tragedy of Olle’s journey. And when you’re in locations that lack greenery, such as areas at night or inside caves, the atmosphere truly elevates the experience.

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The world of Bramble is full of beauty

Bramble’s gameplay feels like it’s been ripped straight from the PS2 generation, and I mean that in the sincerest way, with its fixed camera angles and platforming sequences harkening back to a simpler time. There’s an old-school adventure game charm about the linear experience Dimfrost Studio has created, and quite frankly it works well for the most part, but some of the more involved gameplay moments do feel dated at times and the movement can feel a little stiff.

These are often boss fights, where Olle must dodge attacks and use his powers of light to defeat the enemy. But as Olle is a child, one hit is enough to do you in, so these encounters can quickly become frustrating if you’re forced to do them multiple times. Only two fights towards the end of the game (including the boss fight) really tested my patience, but this was largely mitigated by a generous checkpoint system. Dimfrost is clearly aware that these sequences are some of the weakest parts of the game, as they’re often short and don’t overstay their welcome. Regardless, it’s the one part of the game that stops it from being one of this year’s best indie titles.

The boss fights can feel a little dated

Final Thoughts

I’m a sucker for a dark fairy tale, especially one that calls upon Nordic folklore to shape its premise. Some of the gameplay sequences may be a little dull, but a striking enchanted world and an engaging and sombre story mixed with Nordic mythology ensured that I really enjoyed my time with Bramble: The Mountain King. If you’re a fan of narrative-driven adventure games with a shadowy and creepy tone, I think you’ll find a lot to like here.

Reviewed on PS5 // Review code supplied by publisher

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Bramble: The Mountain King Review
The siblings grimm
Bramble: The Mountain King is a beautiful, charming and disturbing interactive dark fairy tale that is undone slightly by some dated gameplay moments.
The Good
Beautiful and magical world
Engaging dark narrative that mixes in Nordic folklore
Impressive creature designs
Melancholic soundtrack
The Bad
Some gameplay sequences do feel dated
Movement can be a little stiff
7.5
Solid
  • Dimfrost Studio
  • Merge Games
  • PS5 / PS4 / Xbox Series X|S / Xbox One / Switch / PC
  • April 28, 2023

Bramble: The Mountain King Review
The siblings grimm
Bramble: The Mountain King is a beautiful, charming and disturbing interactive dark fairy tale that is undone slightly by some dated gameplay moments.
The Good
Beautiful and magical world
Engaging dark narrative that mixes in Nordic folklore
Impressive creature designs
Melancholic soundtrack
The Bad
Some gameplay sequences do feel dated
Movement can be a little stiff
7.5
Solid
Written By Zach Jackson

Despite a childhood playing survival horrors, point and clicks and beat ’em ups, these days Zach tries to convince people that Homefront: The Revolution is a good game while pining for a sequel to The Order: 1886 and a live-action Treasure Planet film. Carlton, Burnley FC & SJ Sharks fan. Get around him on Twitter @tightinthejorts

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