Montague’s Mount Review: A Plodding Attempt at a Scary Dear Esther

For me, the cardinal sin of any video game is the wasting of my time.

I’m an adult at this point in my game-playing life, and my free time is limited by all sorts of obligations. So if a game wants to take up my time, it has to work for it. It must earn my attention, and it must recognize that keeping me waiting for stupid things, like slowly opening doors or the cranking of machinery as a puzzle is completed, becomes inexcusable if it happens too often. I didn’t decide to dedicate my time to your game to be bored by it.

My chief complaint with Montague’s Mount, a heavily atmospheric, apparently horror-esque first-person adventure game, is that it constantly wastes my time. Everything about the game is slow, and there’s no payoff to my time invested — no great plot, no fascinating visuals, no scares, no slow-burn intensity of danger ahead. Montague’s Mount greatly overestimates the importance and effectiveness of its own premise and atmosphere, and ends up feeling confusing, frustrating, and boring.

Montague’s Mount
Platforms: PC (reviewed), Mac
Developer: Polypusher Studios
Publisher: Mastertronic
Released: Oct. 9, 2013
MSRP: $9.99
Available: Gamers Gate, GoG.com, Get Games

The most apt description I’ve heard for what Montague’s Mount is trying to be is “Dear Esther, but with gameplay.” That’s actually not such a bad idea, as while Dear Esther was a visually interesting game with a literary narrative that unraveled in strange, fascinating ways, it could be seen as a little thin and maybe a little dull.

But what Montague’s Mount does with that formula is take the worst parts of Dear Esther — namely, the slow, plodding hike around an island — and mixes them with nonsensical puzzle-solving.

The story follows an amnesiac man who awakens on the beach of an Irish island with no idea of who he is or what he’s doing there. The sky is perpetually gray, rain storms come and go with alarming frequency, and the houses scattered around the island aren’t just abandoned, they’re basically demolished, apparently by time. No one has lived here for a while, apparently.

Well, no one lives here except for whoever left intricate puzzles closing gates and raising bridges, that is. The “gameplay” part of Montague’s Mount consists of a series of locked doors that are opened by absolutely ludicrous means. For example, one early puzzle requires players to find a particular piece of paper that tells them to find a key, then find a telescope that looks out on a floating buoy off the beach, then decipher the Morse code blinked out by the buoy’s light, then find a series of cylindrical colored “spinners,” then put the spinners into sconces on a particular wall, then use the deciphered code to find out which colors the spinners should be displaying. That’ll lower the bridge to the next part of the island.

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