Other Side of Mist and Mountain Review – Waning Poetic

It’d be a bit strange to start a review titled like this by waxing poetic, so allow me to get straight to the point. Other Side of Mist and Mountain is a side-scrolling visual novel. It is a puzzle game with light horror elements. It’s a unique exploration of the real-life Kisaragi Station myth. Above all else, Other Side of Mist and Mountain is the epitome of “we were so close.”

All right, maybe a little poetic. See, developer Universe Studio’s Other Side of Mist and Mountain initially has a lot going for it. It’s part visual novel, part puzzler with an eye-catching art style. The characters look great, if a little inexpressive. Backgrounds during text segments are detailed and even vibrant at times, bolstered by haunting music throughout. Interactive items mostly stand out, puzzles are actually fun sometimes, and we get to investigate a bunch of seemingly unrelated mysteries that delve into the supernatural—all tying back to the Kisaragi Station ghost train myth. There’s a genuinely great foundation here.

Relax, there’s no way she’ll ever find us.

Unfortunately, what was built on that foundation falls apart a few dialogues in.

The most glaring issue with Other Side of Mist and Mountain is its English script. It reads largely like a poor translation. Upon further research, I can’t actually tell if the game was originally in English or translated from another language, so I’m hesitant to be too harsh. What’s unavoidable, however, is how jarring it is to read. Getting invested in protagonist Shizuno’s quest to find his missing girlfriend Mau (or Maha per the Steam page, or Lan per the achievements…) is difficult when the scariest thing on screen is the grammar. Nothing comes together narratively. Sentences aren’t quite formatted correctly; superfluous descriptions abound; the haunted old grandma meant to instill terror is constantly referred to as “the old man.” It’s… quite funny, actually.

Nothing gives off an air of mystery like explicitly telling me there’s an air of mystery.

The poor writing doesn’t just hamper dialogue. Stray notes found in investigations, key items for puzzles, text interactions with the online chatroom: every last bit of worldbuilding is left clunky and stilted by this script. It’s a massive shame, too, because there’s a lot of it. Clear effort has been put into fleshing out not just the Kisaragi Station myth in this context, but every last character here. Other Side of Mist and Mountain has multiple stories to tell within its greater narrative, with no shortage of interesting personalities. Yet, none of them ever manage to be more than a mere spark of potential.

Of course, dubious English isn’t the only thing to blame for this middling narrative. Even excusing that, Other Side of Mist and Mountain lives up to its titular fog a little too well. Perhaps most offensive is the promise of branching paths. The store page mentions choices which “trigger various storylines.” In reality, these choices are simply “continue the story” vs. “experience a new failstate (read: die).” The paths are about as binary as they come. Each decision has enough surrounding context to make clear which option is the right answer. After realizing this, I became thoroughly uninterested in going back for more “endings” after the main story’s end. My tipping point was trying a different choice early on, only to find Shizuno jailed for life after a hilariously contrived series of events. In chapter 2.

Oh well that’s alright, then.

These contrivances extend to the puzzles, too. For the most part, Other Side of Mist and Mountain offers fun challenges that play like escape rooms. Find various interactive elements, and use context clues to figure out how they piece together and the story they tell. There are some real head scratchers, which left me genuinely satisfied when I got them right. Yet, here too, the game severely lacks consistency.

Some puzzles are well-crafted escape rooms with a narrative hook. Others, like the late-game forest area, are a smattering of conveniently placed items and obstacles that feel less like they have a purpose and more like Universe Studio needed to pad the runtime. Add to this clunky chases and the occasional obtuse puzzle that left me randomly clicking till I figured it out, and you get a frustrating experience, to say the least.

I… Don’t just TELL me that, man.

Presentation also suffers at times. Character sprites are well drawn and backgrounds are gorgeous, but the animated elements do the exact opposite of tying it all together. Shizuno’s run is awkward. Characters have exaggerated breathing movements during literally any dialogue. The “horror” comes from cut-to-black jump scares with decidedly unscary monsters. Animated sequences look less like meaningful cinematics and more like those weirdly uncanny movements in mobile game ads. Much like the story, there are simply too many disparate elements floating around for any of them to feel satisfying when brought together.

Therein lies the core problem with Other Side of Mist and Mountain. Intriguing elements, near-zero execution. The already lackluster horror and mystery energies are irredeemably marred by a constant question of “…wait, what?” with disjointed storylines and a terrible script. All of this is made only more tragic by the clear potential struggling to eke out an existence. I want to be all-in on this ride, but far too often it feels like Other Side of Mist and Mountain never really left the station.


Sarim played Other Side of Mist and Mountain on Steam Deck with a code provided by the publisher.

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