Genre: Survival Horror
Release Date: October 2003
Platform: PC (version reviewed)
“Become Dr. Darien Dane or his assistant Victoria Sutton, as you investigate the mysterious disappearance of an ancient sacred Egyptian statue from the British Museum. This unique statue is protected by an evil curse that resides within it, that causes madness, or violent death, to all those who come in contact with it. The Curse manifests itself by raising the dead and animating diabolical objects. It is up to you to find and return the cursed statue to the pyramid that it should never been taken from.”
Horror-survival games have remained popular for years thanks to series like Resident Evil, Clock Tower and Silent Hill. This genre was first introduced by Hubert Chardot’s Alone in The Dark in the 80s and is usually a mixture of adventure and first-person shooter elements with a solid story and plenty of action. Curse is the latest addition and this time the story evolves around a stolen statue called The Eye of Isis. This statue is believed to have a curse upon it that can turn a human into a zombie-like creature.
What at first seems like a promising story with a solid beginning soon becomes just another blood-fest. One thing that I liked most in the Silent Hill series was the variety of puzzles and it was hoped that Curse would follow suit, but unfortunately it was not to be.
First of all, the controls, AI and camera are all quite bad. A combination of mouse and keyboard is needed to play, and patience is the key. The fighting sequences are almost impossible using only the keyboard, but an "accuracy" system that is supposed to make these sequences easier is almost useless. You are supposed to hold your right mouse button until it is locked onto a specific spot to increase damage to your enemy, but for the most part you never have time to stand still long enough to wait until it is locked in place, especially if more than one enemy approaches. It is actually easier to frantically click the left mouse button until you kill your enemy, which usually takes about 3-4 hits. On the other hand, the targeting system works quite well as you can analyze whether or not there are multiple hit spots on your opponent’s body. Unfortunately, most of the time there is no noticeable difference between these spots and the same level of damage is produced no matter which spots you hit.
As for the AI, some enemies are so dumb that they will stand still in the distance while they’re being shot at and occasionally they will not leave a room even after they hear gunfire. The camera angle will also conspire against you as occasionally the main character will become stuck in a corner when trying to escape from zombies.
Worst of all, Curse suffers from consolitis - the same disease that has afflicted other games transferred from console. Yet, Curse manages to be even worse as you can only save your game whenever you see Abdul. Yet there is never any rhyme or reason to when Abdul will appear! He shows up after long periods of time in the most unexpected places. Even worse, several tough bosses have to be defeated before the game can be saved. If the player dies before being able to save the game, then everything has to be redone from the last save game point. While this is understandable for console games as they don’t have a lot of space and memory, it is inexcusable for a computer game. If the developers believe that this kind of save game system makes the game more difficult, then they are mistaken. More difficult puzzles or enemies make a game more challenging, not a lame save game system.
To add to the frustration, Curse has limited inventory slots. Up to eight different items (excluding documents and weapons) can be carried at one time, but there is no way to drop items when the inventory is full unless you can find Abdul or Darien/Victoria (depending on who you are playing as at the moment). So, for example, if you have a full inventory, want to pick up an important item and aren't able to find these characters, the only solution is to re-load to a previous save game. Most of the time the slots provided are enough, but on one or two occasions I had to re-load my game in order to proceed.
The puzzles are a monotonous nightmare accompanied by hordes of zombies that make your finger numb by the repeated clicking on the left mouse button to kill them. Almost 85% of the puzzles involve finding a key to unlock a door, chest, or anything that could be locked. The solution for most of the puzzles is the same: locate enemies (this is how you find the correct path), kill them, search their bodies or your surroundings for a key or an item that could be used as a key and then use it to unlock nearby door, chest, or anything looks like a door. Then repeat this sequence ad nauseam. In the first two hours of the game, only two of fifteen puzzles differed somewhat.
I told myself to be patient because the instructions stated I could control two different characters. Maybe it would be like Alone in The Dark: The New Nightmare where the male character is action-oriented and the female puzzle-oriented. Guess what… wrong again. Both use the same concept: kill enemies, search for keys and then unlock doors. How much more monotonous could it be?
Despite all of these problems, Curse still has some good points. The graphics and sound are both above average. Lighting effects and textures are really good; one of the best parts is the ripple effect of the water when walking through the sewer in the middle of the game. The sound effects are also quite realistic and served up some chills.
Level-loading times are very minimal and occasionally nonexistent: a nice feature for this type of game. The cut-scenes are well done with quality voice acting that is very professional and representative of the characters.
Curse is a medium-length game. It can be finished in under 20 hours - or less than 10 hours if you use the trainer/cheat. The game world is quite big and spans from a British Museum setting to an underground sewer system, a big tanker and, of course, an Egyptian pyramid.
Unfortunately, graphics and sound are not the only criteria for a good game and they are not enough to make Cursestand out in a crowded marketplace. Curse is definitely not suitable for adventure gamers due to its monotonous puzzles and it also is not edgy enough for action gamers. If you have some free time and are desperate for a new game, then it might be for you. Otherwise, consider yourself cursed if you add this to your collection.
Final Grade: D
600 MHz or equivalent
128 MB Ram Direct3D compatible video card with true Hardware Transform and Lighting capability
DirectX 8.0a compatible sound card