A desolate island off the coast of Ireland is your new home. Yay!
Montague’s Mount, the debut game from Polypusher Studios, is based entirely on an Irish island and has done a good job of convincing me that I would never want to visit this part of the world. The game is a first-person journey into the mental illness of the players’ character, which I am sure has had an effect on the island setting. But the island is quite simply the most desolate, depressing, miserable place I have ever seen, and I live in a seaside town that closes down for Winter. Seriously, if the game wanted to portray misery, this is the perfect setting.
However, the setting is not all that the game is about. The player takes on the role of a man who appears to have been shipwrecked on the island and has no memory of his past. This in itself raises interest enough to cast aside the bleak setting. He begins with an injured leg and must first stumble around the beach, amongst the washed up rubbish, and find something that can be used as a walking stick. Thankfully, this doesn’t take long as the progress is incredibly slow going with the injured character.
But even with the aid of a walking stick, the character still moves at a slow and deliberate pace, something that will turn off many players before they even leave the beach. The island setting is offered to the player as an open world, with areas blocked off until certain puzzles are solved. But the problem is that the player will find themselves backtracking repeatedly to find items or solve puzzles, making for a lengthy amount of slow stumbling. This problem is only compounded by the lack of manual saves, which means returning to checkpoints should the player have to quit and potentially stumble around slowly again.
But the unfolding story involving the characters identity and other questions, such as who is the creepy child that pops up, will serve to keep the player exploring, sometimes in near pitch darkness, and solving puzzles. Clues as to these questions can be found and the player will occasionally be treated to lengthy views of photos or passages of text to emphasise their importance to the tale.
The puzzles themselves are mostly of the “find the right item and take it to the right place” type. In the options, the player can choose to highlight important objects. But even with this turned on, missing objects is incredibly easy as the atmospheric lighting and general bleakness of the island make spotting objects amongst the detritus strewn everywhere incredibly difficult. Aside from these “find and fetch quests”, there are a few more complex puzzles to be solved, that may take the form of code breaking and such. These puzzles are more involving than the exploration style puzzles, and can be quite difficult at times.
The game is played in the first person, with almost a black and white filter cast over the view. There are splashes of colour, and things become more colourful once the player escapes from the bleak outside world. But despite the almost complete lack of colour, the setting does build an atmosphere, aided by the piano and strings soundtrack that really makes the player feel lost and alone. Storms come and go making everything more difficult and more desperate, and darkness simply serves to make the job of finding items almost impossible, emphasising the need to hurry.
But hurrying too much will rapidly bring you to the end of this title without too much conclusion. Montague’s Mount is only the first part of a full game, and as such players may be disappointed to have their questions left unanswered whilst they wait for the second installment to be released. More resolution of these questions would have been appreciated, rather than a cliffhanger leading to the next game.
Montague’s Mount is not entirely bug free either. Environmental pop in, getting stuck on the scenery and unsolvable puzzles if approached the wrong way can all be found. There is no denying that Polypusher has created something interesting here, but it just doesn’t feel finished.
Montague’s Mount will be coming to the Oculus Rift, and on that platform I expect it will be an incredibly immersive experience. However, on the PC it falls a little flat. The game is buggy, the players’ character moves far too slowly and the island is just grim. For a first title, it is impressive, and it holds promise for the future. But right now, playing Montague’s Mount is as depressing as the setting.