Munin: A Review

Munin is a pretty cool puzzle platform game that, for some reason, wanted to be about Norse mythology. The premise of the game is that you, usually a raven that helps Odin keep an eye on things, have been turned into a human by Loki. To regain your crow form, you need to travel the different worlds of Norse lore and collect enough feathers to reverse the transformation. It’s 2D, you jump around to collect stuff, there are platforms, and each section does a pretty decent job of tying its theme to the different parts of the Norse mythological world.

The screen is divided into blocks that can be spun around in 90-degree increments. Usually, it is divided into a 2×2 grid, but sometimes it can be 4×2 or larger. In some levels, spinning one section will also spin another section in tandem. If you think it is just about aligning platforms to get from one area to the other you would be wrong. Each section adds to this mechanic by introducing thematic elements that make it more complex. The first area, for example, is based on Jotunheim – the home of the giants – and is depicted as a rocky place. In this world, there are round boulders which will roll, fall, or otherwise find some way to squish you when you aren’t paying attention. Future worlds have elves and dwarfs that shoot lasers, runes that need to be completed, water and wells that need to be managed, and more.

A lot of games leave me feeling disappointed because they did not push the limits on their mechanic. They give you something cool and interesting and then either don’t do anything with it or just let it fizzle. Munin is different. I feel they cranked as much as they could out of their rotating screen mechanic and they did it in the perfect way every puzzle game should do it in. The best puzzle games start off easy, to intuitively teach you what to do to solve its puzzles. It’s like getting to know someone on a first date. Start the conversation light and friendly – “What do you do for work?”, “Do you like the city you live in?”, “Do you think cheese belongs in a salad?”. After the base has been set, then it can get crazy.

Munin does this over and over. Each world starts off rather easy to show off and teach you the main mechanic for that world. Then it gets progressively harder where you first have to demonstrate what you know before really breaking the mind bank and stepping out of the box on some of the later levels. And then the game starts throwing everything together into some evil smorgasbord of turning panels of death.

When approaching a level in Munin, the easy part is knowing where to go. The hard part is figuring out how to get there. Since you can’t manipulate the screen in a section you are currently in, or a section connected to the one you are currently in, you need to think a few steps ahead. Turns this, jump there, turn that, drop down there, avoid the laser, get that feather, climb up there and oh no I miscalculated! 

Death comes easy but it never felt terribly punishing, which is fine in a game like this. You might have to remember some of the combinations, though, as the level resets as well. However, giving the amount of time I spent figuring out the solutions, this was never a problem unless I walked way from the game.  It was fun beating the levels, especially towards the end when your manipulation of the screen can affect things in real time. Often, I would rotate a corner that shifted a laser just right so its beam bounced off the other corner and obliterated me. These parts uncovered the frustrating thing about Munin – the jumping. For a platformer, the jumping feels completely off at times. Sometimes it works, sometimes it only kind of works. For the most part, this isn’t a problem with the game since it is rather slow paced but towards the end when you need to react to things happening in a timed window, it can get frustrating.

What initially drew me to Munin was the Norse mythology aesthetic, because I am a sucker for that. However, I think that Munin will only appeal to people who specifically like 2D platform/puzzle games. There are better entries in this genre for those who aren’t used to them – Fez, Braid, and Thomas Was Alone come to mind. It is not because Munin is a bad game, far from it, but it doesn’t have much to it besides its puzzles. The Norse theme is nice but it could have had any other skin and work just as well. The better games in this category have puzzles that are just as satisfying,  but also better sound, aesthetics and a story.  That being said, Munin is often on sale for less than a Euro and at that price, it is completely worth it if the mechanics sound interesting. It is really the only thing the game has going for it – unless you also appreciate the Norse mythology setting. The setting I feel a little torn over. On one hand, I love that they were able to tie the mechanics to the different worlds of the Norse mythos, but on the other, there isn’t much there that really has to do with the mythology.

The bottom line is – if you want a decent puzzle platformer that beats most of its competitors on the regular Steam sales, (and you have already played the powerhouses in the genre) then Munin is what you want.

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