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Bramble: The Mountain King | Game Review | Turning Fairytales Into Nightmares

Bramble: The Mountain King - A Terrifying and Unique Fairy Tale Adventure. Discover a twisted narrative, stunning visuals, and intense gameplay in this M-rated game!

Bramble The Mountain King Game Review Bramble The Mountain King Game Review

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Have you ever had a dream devolve and deteriorate on you until it becomes a terrifying nightmare?

One minute you’re frolicking (yes, frolicking) through a beautiful landscape decorated with colorful mushroom caps and inhabited by furry woodland creatures. The next, you’re wading through a vat of gore and viscera while a 10-story-tall rat butcher snarls and chops away at unidentifiable piles of meat.

No? Just me?


It must have been all the time I’ve spent playing Bramble: The Mountain King, the most f***ed up and twisted fairy tale I’ve ever encountered. Does the sharp turn into nightmares make it a game to remember, or a story better left on the shelf? Lets find out in this review.

Crafted by Storytellers

Bramble The Mountain King Mushrooms

Bramble: The Mountain King was developed by the Sweden-based Dimfrost Studio, and published by Merge Games. Dimfrost’s previous project was the similarly fairy tale-driven (though to a lesser extent) story exploration game A Writer and His Daughter, a VR title that works as an excellent test run for the studio’s sensibilities.

With Bramble, Dimfrost has gone several steps beyond what they established in their freshman project to create what feels like a classic fairy tale we might have heard as children. However, the story also includes glaring and violent omissions that adults might have spared us from. Their accomplished environmental storytelling does the bulk of the information delivery, though there is the pervasive narration that solidifies what you’ve gleaned from the alternatively beautiful and hellish areas you explore.

Dimfrost’s story work here is top-notch, and while it is undoubtedly constrained by the limitations of the format the game is presented in, I wish the gameplay held up just as well.

A New Tale in a Classic Genre

Bramble The Mountain King Danger

If you’re completely unfamiliar with Bramble: The Mountain King, it is the latest addition to the linear narrative puzzle-platformer genre that gained popularity following the release of Playdead’s Limbo.

Playdead went on to knock it out of the park with Inside, and other studios have tried their hand at the formula with their own distinctive style with games like Little Nightmares, the Far series, and most recently, Somerville.

If you’ve played those games, you know the drill for Bramble. Players take control of a small, defenseless child who embarks on an incredible adventure that more often than not puts them in grave danger. The gripes I have with other games in the genre continue to hold true in Bramble. This includes slightly floaty controls that often lead to more than slightly annoying platforming sections. Additionally, the viscerally violent deaths of the player character in Bramble are shocking at best and stomach-churning at worst. This is a six or seven-year-old child after all, and seeing him be chopped in half, eaten, or clamped in a bear trap doesn’t exactly sit well with me.

However, I do understand that that’s probably the point. You aren’t supposed to want the child to be maimed and mutilated, and the level of control afforded to you seems like it might be intentional - like poor combat mechanics in survival horror. Another design carryover from Limbo and its ilk in Bramble is its signature trial-and-error gameplay. Unless you have lightning-fast reflexes or some kind of clairvoyance, you're going to have to fail a sequence in order to understand how to deal with it.

These occurrences are semi-frequent throughout Bramble: The Mountain King’s roughly four hours of gameplay, but at least the reloads are mercifully short, and the checkpoints are generous enough that you never lose too much progress. It’s not a style of gameplay I would prefer, but it keeps true to the genre and things do move along at a steady pace.

Bramble has plenty in common with the narrative exploration games that came before it, but what sets it apart from its contemporaries is how it vacillates between colorful, dream-like fairy tale and cruel brutality.

Tiptoe Through the Tulips (and Tendons)

Bramble The Mountain King Gnomes

The impetus for embarking on your incredible journey in Bramble is perfectly in line with the original intention of the myriad of fairy tales that inspired the game: to coerce children into behaving properly by instilling fear within them.

The game picks up with Olle, our unlikely hero, waking up from a nightmare. Looking around the room, he realizes that his sister, Lillemor, has climbed out of their bedroom window to go on an adventure. This is despite their mother reading them a bedtime story about a little girl who sneaks out at night and succumbs to the dangers of the forest.

Bramble The Mountain King Story

In an attempt to foreshadow, a line of narration lets us know what their mother’s final words were before tucking them in for the night:

Bramble The Mountain King Mothers Warning

Kids will be kids.

From there, the game presents itself as a bright and cheery galavant through an enchanted forest. It is complete with infant-like gnomes that you literally play hide and seek with, along with a number of other friendly fantasy creatures that aid you along the way.

Things take a turn when Lillemor is abducted by a troll, which is represented in this game in a particularly unsettling manner. Like other creatures in the game, it towers over each of our protagonists, but that’s not the unsettling part.

It looks absolutely human except for its undeniably troll-like nose, grotesque face, and tall, pointy ears.

Bramble The Mountain King Troll

This scene definitely rattled me quite a bit.

It’s also where the game’s cheerful mask began to slough off like tattered skin, and it’s far from the worst thing you’ll see before you hit the end credits. Before you know it, you’re escaping unseen threats by wading through maggot-infested gore and coming face to face with no less than seven terrifying boss characters, culminating in the titular Mountain King.

These “fights” (they mostly consist of running away or hiding) aren’t always particularly fun; they are always creative and visually stunning, much like the rest of the game. I won’t soon forget Näcken’s sharp head turn and slink into the lake to terrorize me as I hopped across lily pads, or the guttural snarls the troll makes as you try to stay out of its spotlight.

This Is Not a Children’s Story

Bramble The Mountain King Butcher

It’s easy to forget when you’re playing with gnomes or strolling through a field of clovers, but Bramble: The Mountain King is an M-rated game, and it definitely earns that designation.

It definitely doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to its content, and it warns you of as much before you even see the start screen. There are portions of this game that shook me to my core, and not always in a good way. But even the most devastating sequence in the game (having to do with an infant and a witch) felt authentic to the story and setting, and not at all gratuitous. As I mentioned before, Bramble’s story is expertly told, and every frame of every scene is there to push the narrative forward and elicit whatever emotion a particular scene calls for.

Which was mostly fear or dread in my experience.

A Terrifying Tale Worth Telling

Bramble The Mountain King Stone


Dimfrost Studio’s Scandinavian roots definitely benefit Bramble, as that influence shows through in every aspect of the game. At every turn, even when things get dark, there is a distinctive European charm, the kind you would get from flipping through pages of Grimm’s fairy tales.

This spirit and presentation work in tandem with the game’s narrative to create something that is difficult to put down, even through some tricky gameplay sequences that might require several restarts to figure out. Bramble: The Mountain King is gorgeous, shocking, and powerful, but above all, I would say it's very unique and very well-made.

It’s definitely worth the four hours of your time it asks of you, and you can pick it up on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

This review is representative of the Xbox Series X version of the game as played through a Game Pass subscription.

Final Score: 8/10

Bramble The Mountain King Frog King

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