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Munin

Score: 83%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment
Developer: Gojira
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle/ Platformer/ Platformer (2D)

Graphics & Sound:

Fans of hand-drawn art will instantly love the way Munin looks, with an atmospheric design style well matched to the gameís subject matter. Building on Norse mythology obviously meant going a bit dark at times, but there are the opposite moments in bright lands like Niflheimr. Another game Munin brings to mind is Braid, not only for its aesthetic, but also for gameplay. As was the case in Braid, each level in Munin has a shimmering, watercolor appearance that is accentuated by movement of gameplay elements and in the background. 2D this may be, but itís still richer and more interesting than a lot of 3D games youíll encounter.

Music and sound effects are sparse in Munin, and thatís okay. Anything but an ambient soundtrack would have seemed a bit odd here, honestly. There are scripted sequences between stages that advance the story and help explain how Munin came to be wandering in search of her feathers, but very much as a short bridge between levels. Thereís very little to distract you from the visual feast that makes Munin a standout Platformer.


Gameplay:

Itís become increasingly difficult to stand out in the crowded field of platforming titles, even with a pretty face. On one hand, you have retro fever, with new games that recall 8- or 16-bit classics, if not refitted versions of the games we played 20+ years ago. On the other hand, you have an explosion of interesting approaches to platforming, everything from time travel to roguelikes to augmented reality. Munin does carve out a unique spot for itself, while drawing on some mechanics youíll find familiar. The story definitely lends itself to the genre, since Munin and Hugin both were known in Norse mythology as continually wandering on behalf of Odin. The twist here is that Munin has been transformed by Loki into a human girl and must now reclaim her raven form by gathering feathers scattered through the nine realms.

Steeped in source material, each realm has a unique design style and set of challenges. The first three youíll encounter range from the rock-rolling physics obstacles of JŲtunheimr to the liquid physics of Niflheimr. The third land, Helgardr, features machines powered by souls in a land somewhat like a Western vision of Hell. These worlds and others contain the 77 playable levels in Munin that publisher Daedalic estimates will weigh in at about seven hours of gameplay. The central theme is always physics-based manipulation of elements in each level, but the variation across worlds is refreshing, especially since you can move between unlocked levels at any time. This might be the best feature of the entire game since itís usually the case in this genre that you move linearly from level to level.


Difficulty:

Whether you find the game challenging is somewhat besides the point, since none of the challenges here can hold up to repeated experimentation. Instead of the typical twitch reflexes assumed for a Platformer, Munin is all about slow and steady approaches. The classic formula of running, jumping, and climbing is given a nod here, but you only get to use those skills after shifting the geography of the level by rotating its pieces like some giant Rubikís Cube. Unlike Rubikís, there arenít a huge number of combinations in most levels, so itís tempting in the first hour to assume that Munin is light on challenge.

Once you get past the introductory levels, difficulty spikes up considerably. A perfect example is in Helgardr, where timing rotation of one part of the level has to be coordinated with movement of those spirit platforms. In this way, Munin gives a nod to the classics while introducing something new. Sure, thereís a lot here that feels derivative of Braid, but in the best possible way. Munin feels a bit less cerebral and more accessible, perhaps because of its theme. Even at its most challenging, you need to know that Munin isnít a game about split-second reflexes, so itís fair game for gamers looking for a more relaxed Platformer.


Game Mechanics:

The Rubikís Cube analogy is great for understanding Munin, but since weíre talking about a 2D experience, itís more like one of those sliding tile games. Imagine a square divided into four pieces or a rectangle divided into three pieces. Now imagine being able to rotate each piece independently. All the usual platforming pieces are in place, but rotating parts of the level will shift ladders and platforms. In this way, itís a bit like a 2D version of Fez, with that same simple control scheme. As you mouse around the level, youíll see the cursor change when you can rotate that sector, with the rule being that you canít rotate a section you currently occupy. Linked sectors in later levels make things more complex, but the idea is that every feather scattered through a level can be reached by some combination of moving and rotating parts of that level.

The difficulty ramp might be a bit too gradual for seasoned fans of platforming and puzzle games, but if you keep at it, youíll find that later levels are plenty challenging. Munin is a beautiful game and itís rewarding to unlock the full experience and explore the worlds mentioned in Norse mythology. Thereís just enough novelty here combined with proven approaches borrowed from similar games weíve enjoyed immensely to make this an easy recommendation.


-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows: XP/Vista/7/8, 2.33 GHz Single Core, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible, 2 GB available space

Mac: OSX 10.5, 2.33 GHz Single Core, 1 GB RAM, DirectX 9 compatible, 2 GB available space

 

Test System:



Mac: Lion 10.9.1; 2GHz Intel Core i7; 8 GB RAM; Intel HD 4000 with 1024 MB VRAM.

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