I didn’t play enough video games last year. This isn’t something people normally lament, but, you know, for me it’s a matter of professionalism. So I’m making a commitment to myself for 2011: to try and play a different game every week (over and above the ones I’m obligated to play for review, I mean). At the very least, I will be attempting to sink an hour into my current project every day, even if I don’t finish.
We’ll see how this actually plays out. You’re welcome to take bets on how long it takes this to flop embarrassingly. My money’s on “three days.”
Anyway, I started Project 365 (as I’m stupidly calling it) with a title very close to my heart, or at least my sense of narcissism: Curse of the Crescent Isle. An Xbox 360 Indie Title, Curse was crafted by a regular on our very own Talking Time forums, one A. Mowery (not his actual online alias). Exciting!
This makes one more creator of cool games who frequent Talking Time. I’m building quite the collection, here.
Mr. Mowery is clearly a man who appreciates the finer points of Super Mario Bros. 2 (the American one), and Curse is more heavily inspired by Mario 2 than any game I’ve ever played. The only other example of such a thing that comes to mind at all is the Noah portion of Bible Adventures, but, uh, this is way better than that. You can see the inspiration right there in the screenshot above — you hop on enemies, grab them, lift them above your head, and chuck them. Pretty straightforward, right?
Well, no; it’s not quite so cut-and-dry as Mario 2. Throwing an enemy at another doesn’t take either one out of the picture; it simply stuns them momentarily. But each enemy has its own attributes when lifted or chucked, meaning that some monsters briefly stun their fellows while others (namely the slime) freeze them indefinitely.
Still, if that’s all there were to Curse, it would be a pleasant but quickly forgettable little game. To be completely honest, it doesn’t play nearly as smoothly as Mario 2. I like the fact that the little king moves like a hybrid of all of Mario 2’s cast (fast like Toad, capable of jumping extended distances like the Princess, etc.), but he controls a little roughly; his jump is a simple arc rather than the more complex parabola you expect from Mario. His edge detection feels a bit off compared to Mario, too, and it’s a little too easy to bump into enemies or fall off edges while rushing in for a jump.
These issues quickly fade away the minute you reach the game’s second level. It’s here that you suddenly realize why the game’s controls are a little weird: the button to lift enemies is different than the button you use to throw enemies because the lift button (X) begins to serve double duty as a special command button, which varies according to the enemy being held. The grey drill guys let you pogo-hop and drill through rocks, Duck Tales-style; the green tentacle dudes let you essential reverse gravity and stick to the ceiling, Metal Storm-style. This greatly expands the king’s repertoire of skills and makes the stiff jumping feel like a trivial issue, because you’re doing so much more than just jumping.
It also turns Curse into something akin to a grand tour of great NES platformers: It looks and plays a lot like Mario 2, with a hero capable of exploiting varied enemy skills like Kirby, and said skills encompass the gamut of 8-bit classics. Even the music is redolent of the best of the NES: The title screen scrolls in to the accompaniment of a Hip Tanaka pastiche (blending tunes redolent of Kid Icarus and Metroid).
Anyway! It’s really quite an enjoyable little game, especially for a buck, I heartily encourage everyone to download a copy. Admittedly, I’m not exactly unbiased here, but I’m genuinely looking forward to tomorrow’s hour with the game. Would this tiny pixellated face lie to you?