Montague's Mount

 

Montague’s Mount is a first person atmospheric adventure starring a faceless protagonist who finds himself washed ashore on an island somewhere off the coast of Ireland. The focus on exploration and puzzle solving immediately brings to mind Myst, only that franchise succeeded in blending exploration and puzzle solving. Though atmospheric, Montague’s Mount falls flat in both departments. A terrifically slow pace combined with questionable puzzle design turns what could be an interesting experience akin to Dear Esther into a dull and dreary test of patience.

Supposedly based on a true story, the game opens with the player character awakening on the sandy shore of an island with no knowledge of how he got there. The moody and seemingly abandoned island holds the promise of discovery but only after the player has helped the character locate a walking stick in order to support his injured leg. From there, the player is set upon a significantly linear path across the island and must solve puzzles in order to advance through a personal journey of personal retrospection and revelation. The game bills itself as a psychological thriller and there are moments in which the protagonist speaks about the condition of madness and his own state of mind. However any attempt to garner any sort of emotional response is ultimately undone by the frustrations and tedium created by the slow pace with which the game actively maintains.

Everything about Montague’s Mount is slow. Moving backwards and forwards across the game’s linear path is a painful chore. The game establishes early that the player character has injured his leg but there is no reason to make the player suffer from the excruciating slow movement, especially when backtracking is necessary. Puzzle activations, the transition in and out of puzzle object manipulation and cutscenes also suffer from this problem. For example, early on the player will come across a stone-like observation sculpture. Activating the object will force the camera to take over by zooming in ever so towards the center of the viewfinder where it will automatically point to what the player needs to see. There’s another moment when uncovering a photo board in a locked cave. Upon its discovery, the camera makes you sit through a nearly 30 second long camera pan.

I might forgive the game’s pacing if the environment were beautiful and fascinating. Outside of mysterious shifts from color to black and white, there is nothing that really stands out. Flotsam litters the island’s sandy shores while thick foliage frame the thin and winding walking paths. Puzzle objects, be they levers, door locks or combination locks, blend into the environment far better than they should. An early puzzle has you scrounging around for four objects, some of which are not in easily noticeable places. In fact, key items are not easily identified from the abandoned rubble that surrounds them. Moving your cursor over the object will cause it to glow faintly and change the cursor from an eye to a hand. This results in a photo hunt approach to finding puzzle parts. There’s no greater pain than realizing that you’ve only got three out of four pieces and are stuck having to retrace each step, keeping your eyes peeled for anything out of the ordinary. The puzzles themselves aren’t very interesting either. They tend to be a little obtuse and convoluted with very little payoff in getting through them.

Another weird problem with the game include the inability to properly zoom in on a document. Essential bits of gameplay information are written on scraps of paper or set within picture frames. Reading the contents of the notes involves moving as close enough to read them. A strange design choice, especially in a game so narratively focused. It also seems a little goofy. It is easy to imagine seeing my avatar from a third person view, his face pressed against a fluttering piece of paper while his hands remain at the sides.

Montague’s Mount is incomplete, this being part one of a two-part interactive story. If the experience I had will be the same in part two, I see no reason to put myself through the trouble. The design is clunky and for being billed as a horror game, there’s really nothing scary or unsettling about it. There are games that have done a much better job at accomplishing drama through first person and puzzles. Montague’s Mount really tries to aspire to their level only to fall quite short.

Teen Services Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.