Review: Curse: The Eye Of Isis (XB)

As always, if you can name the quote I paraphrased as my tagline, I’ll but you in the MAILBAG.

Okay. I admit, I’d never heard a peep of this game until I saw it in the stores going for twenty bucks. I saw the Dreamcatcher logo and decided to pick it up. And it looked cool. Incredible graphics. Victorian England Survival Horror, something not seen since the first Alone in the Dark! It had mummies! And a flamethrower! The plot sounded right out of a 1920’s silent film and so I had to go for it. Especially as it was so damn cheap.

Little did I know that 20$ was the starting price until I got home and looked it up on Dreamcatcher’s home page. Now, normally a game started that low gives me worry. But Pokemon Channel was cheap and we voted that GAMECUBE GAME OF THE YEAR! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! EAT IT UP BABY! And because Dreamcatcher games are usually much cheaper than other games, and still pretty good.

I found myself thinking, “This is going to be like Resident Evil…except with Mummies and in a cooler time period’. Then I opened the manual and saw the control guide.

And I thought “FUCK! This is going to PLAY like Resident Evil…except with mummies and in a cooler time period.’

Let me say right out, I hate the Resident Evil controls. But then most people do. They play the games for the plot and the graphics. I don’t know a single person who would admit to same “The Gameplay of Resident Evil is terrific. They should make more games like it!’ No, if you want a survival horror game with good control, you pick up Eternal Darkness or Clock Tower.

And so I went into this game with a bit of trepidation. I refuse to buy Resident Evil games. I owned the first on the Saturn and found it boring. My college roomie owned the second. And I thought it nowhere lived up to the hype. 3 seems to be universally panned so I’m not alone there. Code Veronica RULED. Gaiden and the Gun Survivor games again sucked. And I bit the bullet and got Resident Evil: Redux for the cube. And was horribly hating the controls and the game.

So to see Curse was yet another Resident Evil clone ala Clock Tower 3 (Fuck you very much for ruining this series Capcom) and Dino Crisis, I was worried.

But you see, I forgot one thing: Capcom didn’t made this game. Thank bloody Christ. Don’t get me wrong: I worship Capcom. Street Fighter, Cannon Spike, Mega Man, Dungeons and Dragons, Viewtiful Joe. The list goes on about how great this company is. But I HATE their survival horror controls. HATE HATE HATE. And in spite of that instant fear towards Resident Evil clones, Asylum and Wanadoo managed to pleasantly surprise me.

Let’s Review

1. Story

It’s 1890. You are an American named Darien Dane. You have decided to visit your good friend Victoria Sutton who is a famous Egyptologist like your father. Her exhibit on Egypt is about to open at the Museum of Great Britain.

Unfortunately, the night before your visit, a cat burglar known only as Le Chat has tried to steal an ancient statue, and in doing so, unleashes a curse of terrible proportions that causes the dead to rise and objects to animate and hate you good.

The curse spreads through the museum killing guards and workers, and causing the Police to close down the museum barring further investigation. Oh and Le Chat and Victoria are trapped inside.

Being super intelligent, you decide to sneak in and of course are trapped inside by a “mysterious force.’ And here you come to encounter not only the curse released by the Egyptian artifacts, but also Abdul Wahid, who worked with your father and gives you notes from his final days. Turns out he was cursed too. Oh and so are you. Thanks dad! But are they the SAME curse? You’ll have to play to find out.

I loved the setting, but the plot was a little thin. Did everyone need to be cursed in some way shape or form. Couldn’t there have just been the one big curse. Plus as the yellow spook gas curses you, you can possibly be triple cursed. Although of course, it’s the yellow gas curse that actually affects you as it constantly drains health from you! Oy.

I like that you get both the stories of Victoria and Darien as well as play as the two of them on and off. It was a lot like Resident Evil 2 in that respect. And it added SOME depth to the plot of this game but not much.

As Survival Horror games go, there are many which much better plots, with Fatal Frame or Alone in the Dark 1 as examples. But Curse reminds me of an old classic Hollywood film, except without the very kick ass Lon Chaney being present. It’s a bit cheesy, not very scary, and most of what is in here has been taken from other games. But the hodge podge it has made works. I don’t know why. But it works. And I enjoyed it.

Story Rating: 6/10

2. Graphics

The opening moments blew me away. Damn you Dreamcatcher for ALWAYS having incredible graphics. You’re going to make me develop squareitis and start to think your games are good just because they are pretty!

And everything was incredible looking…except the zombies. Those were pretty bad looking. But the backgrounds, the characters models. All were excellent. Darien does look a little too much like Zeke in The Haunted Mansion for my tastes though. But then I am known to really like that game, so it didn’t hurt Curse any.

What I love is that facial expressions actually change in this game. Unlike most platformers or adventure games where the faces don’t change even while the voice acting has a lot of emotion, Curse actually has moods imprinted on the characters faces.

The game isn’t always gorgeous, with generic monsters often being pretty ugly, and sadly the gameplay demo shown at the beginning is very ugly. Far worse than the game actually looks when you play it in fact. But overall, the game manages to keep Dreamcatcher’s reputation as one of the best publishers in terms of graphics alive. Even if this is no Dracula or Necronomicon. But then even Final Fantasy games wish they had the graphics of Dracula: Resurrection.

Graphics Rating: 8/10

3. Sound

I love the voice acting. Darien sounds American. Abdul is obviously a stereotypical Arab. Victoria sounds like my ex-fiancee (which may explain why I would be a lot more reckless with her than with Darien) and every character in the game sounds right. No “You are the master of unlocking’ crap here.

But then you have the music. Oh god, do you have the music. I swear it’s like listening to a washing machine with a shop vac inside. You will come to loathe going into the options menus for Darien or Victoria. It’s also a shame the tune you here the most often also starts the game. That coupled with the horrible gameplay demo made me feel like I might as well have spent the twenty bucks on getting someone to kick me in the ass. But thankfully Asylum just chose to make their game appear really crappy so that once you got into it, you were relieved and end up enjoying it far more.

So with good vocals, but music that makes you wish you were deaf, Curse gives you a mixed bag. But hey, that’s what the mute button was for.

Sound Rating: 6/10

4. Controls

Better than Resident Evil! But then, they’d have to be wouldn’t they? I found this game a lot easier to do melee combat with, but much harder to shoot things with. Curse has a very weird aiming/accuracy cursor that splits and moves and takes a bit of time to get used to. I eventually said f*ck it and bludgeoned things to death most of the time. Also took less damage that way.

As well the controls can be a bit sluggish. I found I really had to press down on the buttons to get them to respond. Still, after you got used to that, there really wasn’t much of a problem with the play control.

It’s odd. Like everything else about this game, Curse is basically a Resident Evil rip off. But the one thing they did better than Resident Evil are the controls. I do wish the 180 degree turn was in Curse though.

Control Rating: 6/10

5. Replayability

Aside from being able to choose a higher difficulty, there is no reason to play this game again. It take 10 hours. It will play exactly the same. There are no cheats or unlockable goodies that I found (unless I just totally missed them) and as facing the RAM once in your life is annoying enough, I can say don’t bother playing this again unless you really develop an affinity for it. I’m keeping my copy for two reasons: the first it at 20 bones it will have next to zilch for trade-in value, and the second is that it’s a decent game to loan out to friends for a weekend.

Replayability: 3/10

6. Balance

I hate the Ram. I hate the Ram. I hate hate hate hate hate the Ram. Don’t ask. YOU have to experience the horror for yourself.

But other than that, the game is pretty balanced. Monsters don’t keep coming back. Zombies are stupid, mummies a little bit harder, and the bosses take a lot of ammo.

It’s a good mix of easy generic enemies to help you get used to the controls and let the story progress followed by some bosses that are pretty nasty.

Oh. And the ability to be cursed by mummies and fog and god knows what else. Curse’s SUCK. As I have said before they constantly drain your life, and there is a very limited amount of amulets to remove said curses. This adds to the difficulty in a new and original way. At least it’s not lickers or a giant hulking behemoth groaning out “STARS!’

Balance Rating: 7/10

7. Originality

Aside from the ability to get cursed, nothing is really original. It takes the play control from Resident Evil and changes it a tad. It takes the time frame of Alone in the Dark. It takes the main character from Haunted Mansion. It tries to get the feel of Eternal Darkness. And it gives you Mummies. There aren’t many mummies in survival horror games at least, right?

The game is a piecemeal of every game within the genre, but with the pieces jammed together into a way that makes the puzzle work.

It’s not abysmal, but you can tell Asylum was doing a paint by numbers here. But if you like the genre, you’ll enjoy Curse.

Originality Rating: 4/10

8. Addictiveness

Middle of the road here people. It’s a neat game. But if you die, you don’t have a real urge to replay and retread everything from the last save point to get back there. It’s pretty to look at most of the time, but the plot just doesn’t suck you in enough.

This is the problem with being a game the damn near emulates every other in the genre. Because it doesn’t truly stand out, you can never truly get the bond with it so many gamers have with other games. If this had come out say 5 years ago, Curse would have the emotion and loyalty we all have to games like Resident Evil. But now it is just too little, too late.

Addictiveness Rating: 5/10

9. Appeal Factor

I think Asylum and Dreamcatcher were counting on a large chunk of the Survival Horror Craze that hits gamers in the late 1990’s on the PSX.

But see, it’s a few years too late and there are really only three SH games out right now that seem to still have fondness in the public mind: Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Eternal Darkness. Fatal Frame’s not the same style gameplay so I won’t include it with the bunch.

The craze has passed. And when you combine the fact Curse came in at low tide coupled with ABSOLUTELY NO MARKETING, the game is going to languish in the bargain bin for a long, long time.

It’s too bad. This game is one of those that would be a great rental. It almost exists solely to be rented. An average game that has no real flaws, but no real stand outs. It’s easy to beat over a weekend and fun for what it is, but not worth a full blown purchase.

If you can find this game at a Blockbuster or Hollywood Video or local chain, by all means rent it. It just may appeal to you. Just don’t buy it like a certain HBK we all know and love.

Appeal Factor: 5/10

10. Miscellaneous

Curse offers nothing but a foray into almost double digited hours of gameplay. It’s got some mummies, some yellow fog. Some dead snaggle-toothed Brits (but one could say that about the living ones too) and two difficulty setting.

It’s a cheap game for a reason folks.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

Short Attention Span Summary
Nothing really bad about the game (Aside from the music), nothing really great about the game (Aside from the graphics), Curse is inevitably lost in the scuffle amongst hundreds of other games. Worth a rental, but decidedly not worth a purchase, the only Curse this game suffers from is the curse of Mediocrity.