This is a Snapshot, a quick, un-scored review of a game we think you should know about.
As the unnamed protagonist of Montague's Mount, you awaken on a beach with no recollection of who you are, how you got there, or where "there" even is. The island on which you've washed ashore is full of debris and scenery that seems to come from many periods of history: within the stretch of half a mile you'll find gasoline-powered generators, sun dials, clocks, a tire swing, a pulley-based lift and Polaroid photographs.
Not far into the game, you'll also begin to see ghostly visions of a young boy. Who is he? Is he real or a hallucination? What ties him to the island and the unnamed man you control? Montague's Mount dangles all these threads in front of you, and they're all enticing enough to chase.
The core of Montague's Mount is simple: explore the island, find items needed to open a locked door, solve a puzzle, open another door, repeat. Controls are limited, as everything you need to do, from inventory management to environmental interaction, is handled with a click of the left mouse button. The good news is that this means Montague's Mount is easy to get into right away. The bad news is that every step of the gameplay cycle is broken. Exploration is a chore thanks to the slow pace of the protagonist, who moves at roughly the speed of a three-legged turtle. This ponderous gait is justified by the character having sustained injury, and initially that serves as a serviceable explanation. When you're asked to backtrack across the beach you just spent five minutes hobbling across, it's less comforting.
The island is littered with refuse both antique and recent. Alongside a suitcase you might find a hand-knitted Gaelic cross. An ancient, ornately carved stone might be hidden inside a safe. There's a lot to see, but most of it is just that: static, non-interactive decor. There's so much debris scattered about the island, in fact, that it becomes incredibly easy to miss the minor but vital pieces of whatever puzzle you're trying to solve.
I searched for a solid half hour, for example, trying to find a "colored spinner," a small wooden cylinder with three faces carved into it, each a different color. I swept back and forth across the island multiple times, only to see that I'd missed it, barely hidden under some foliage.
Of course, before you can even get to that point, you need to find said flashing light. You'd think directing a player's attention toward a flashing light would be easy, but the best hint you get is from a hidden note that tells you to look at a buoy "from a commanding position." I didn't even see the light until I'd lowered the bridge by just guessing the color combination, because guessing was less frustrating than trying to figure out what the game actually wanted me to do. For the record, the light comes from less of a "buoy" and more of a "lighthouse," as it rests on top of a large rock formation across the bridge.
Few puzzles follow any kind of logic. Set a sun dial to 10:10 to progress, because that's the time on a broken clock hanging outside another cottage. Place stones onto a pedestal to open gates. Use a busted oar to create a crank that opens a garage-style door. And then there's the aforementioned drawbridge and its colored cylinders. The bridge, incidentally, takes an entire minute to come down, during which time you really have nothing better to do than ponder why you're still playing.
Montague's Mount is supposed to be a suspenseful, even scary, but the obscurity and lack of guidance in the puzzles removes any sort of engagement with the narrative. In a good adventure game, the puzzles – strange and obtuse as they may be – remain connected to the story. Here, these elements are completely separate.
It's a shame, because Montague's Mount has some great ideas. When was the last time you played as someone with a cane? What other game features translated Gaelic? The somber piano music sets the mood perfectly. The art style complements the dreary tone with muted colors, contrasted by the occasional bright red of a lifesaver or a buoy, and the island begs to be explored. Montague's Mount offers a promising situation full of mystery, but the aggravating pace and nonsensical puzzles suck away all the enjoyment from unraveling it.
"Who am I?" "Why am I here?" "What is this place?" By the time that bridge finally comes down, you won't even care.
This review is based on a review build of Montague's Mount, provided by Mastertronic. Montague's Mount is available now on GOG.com, and it was recently Greenlit on Steam.