When you first enter the world of Munin, it is explained in beautifully presented, runic text that you have been duped by the trickster god, Loki and transformed from a raven into a human girl. Munin and Hugin were the raven messengers of Odin the Allfather in Norse mythology and quite cleverly, the developers, Gorija, put you in the unfamiliar human shoes of Munin, with Hugin helping you fly off to new levels when you complete each in turn. Considering you will have to do a lot of thinking and memorising tiles to beat some of the terrain based conundrums posed, the names of the ravens are quite apt, Munin (memory) and Hugin (thought).
You’re dropped into a minimalistic, yet aesthetically pleasing, hand-drawn world where you will learn the basics of the game. Namely, rotating sections of the screen in order for you to collect the feathers which Loki stripped you of. Being a devious sort of git, Loki has scattered them far and wide through the nine realms, all smartly connected by the tree of Yggdrasill and each having their own theme which more or less fit with the mythology of their background.
Beginning the journey in Midgardr, the land of men, the relatively tame puzzles let you find your footing in basic gameplay, which is based on rotating square segments of the scenery to navigate your way to your sought-after feathers. In the first few levels, you will be led through some simple routes, turning the squares so that previously unreachable feathers fit into an altogether more reachable sequence of climbing, jumping and turning mechanics. With every level cleared of feathers, your counterpart swoops in and carries you off to the next area.
A little further on, rotating one segment will also revolve a connected part of the screen, making things a little more difficult to handle. That’s not saying the puzzles are impossible at this stage, merely you have to be observant to continue on the path that leads to your goal. Munin can’t twist an area that she is standing in, nor one that is connected, forcing you to move to an adjacent tile while you piece the map together. Luckily, there’s a a highlighted indication of which squares are linked, allowing you to plan your journey with some ease.
After a few more levels, you’ll be transported to Yggdrasill, where you can choose your destination from a handful of new worlds opened up after completing the tutorial. This is where Munin delivers some nasty surprises and the difficulty can ramp up to frustrating levels. See, being well linked to their backgrounds, as previously mentioned, the worlds each have a theme stipulation.
Jotunheimr for instance, the land of the giants, has a rocky and barren landscape with obstacles in the way of rolling rocks, trapped by barriers until you rotate the squares. If hit by one of these rocks, you die in a small, bloody splash and have to begin again. The idea is to use the terrain to your advantage and stay out of the way of the boulders. They’re not only used for a horrible trap though and the boulders come in useful for some of the puzzles. Rolling one underneath a hard to reach feather may just give you a leg up to pluck the prize from an unreachable height or using it to lever a fallen log into a suitable platform can be helpful.
Every other world has it’s own feature too, such as Niflheimr, land of ice, being water themed, giving you some bloody hard thinking to do when using the water physics to fill certain parts of the level so you can swim to heights you couldn’t reach before. Hel is fire themed and is probably the most unforgiving set of levels to grace Munin. One touch of lava, which moves pretty much the same way as water, and you might as well be blackbird pie.
Although these worlds can seem to be a little random when it comes to working out solutions, there are a number of well thought out ones that make the game stand above the clouds of Valhalla. Later on, you will have laser controlled switches that will activate items of scenery, such as moving platforms, spike traps and the like. Another makes you connect runes to make parts of the scenery move and let you continue through the trap filled level. This is where Munin excels in it’s genre and gives you the time to figure out your strategy before plunging on.
While explained that the graphics of Munin are minimalistic, they also ooze character in certain parts. When you are avoiding the boulders of doom in Jotunheimr, great giants will stalk the background and the halls of Asgard are decorated in the finery you’d expect for the home of the All-father, Odin. It’s these touches that stop Munin from being mediocre and the link to the mythology the game tips it’s hat to is more than it first seems.
The controls are fairly simple too. Using the usual WASD combination and Space to jump, moves Munin around the area fluidly and clicking your left mouse button to rotate tiles is all as easy as it sounds. That is until you try to run from a peril right after clicking and realise you don’t have the time to reposition yourself before you burst into a cloud of bloody feathers.
The sound is fairly decent, probably nothing to get emotional about but it adds a calming ambience to your sessions which is always needed when your brain starts melting at some of the harder tasks.
Munin is a very well put together puzzle game and deserves a home in your collection if you enjoy this type of fare. It doesn’t quite stand up to the monsters that are Braid and Trine in it’s manner of complexity but it is certainly a brain-teasing filler of seventy-seven levels and enough diversity to keep you collecting feathers like an Assassin’s Creed II fan with OCD.
Gorija have done a great job of instilling the mythology in such a way that you have to pay attention to the game as a whole to see how it all fits in. It has been missed by many reviews so far and it would be a crime not to recognise the thought that the developers have inputted to craft Munin.
Munin is available for download on Steam for £6.99 now and is no short task when it comes to solving Loki’s physics based mindbenders.
This review is based on the PC version of Munin, supplied by Daedalic Entertainment.