I’m a big fan of survival horror games–I’m the kind of person who will play one alone in the middle of the night with all of the lights off and windows closed. Any game that wants to play ball with my desire to freak myself out is good by me, but as a fan of the genre, I will admit that there is a lot of sameness in these games. Similar creatures, similar circumstances, similar scares, and sometimes similar stories detract from the shock value and emotional affect these games are supposed to have on you–if a psychological thriller isn’t thrilling anymore, it’s not doing its job. Cursed Mountain probably fits more into the “thriller” camp then the “horror” one, but you will have to fight to survive in extreme conditions regardless, and in an original, refreshing setting with a story that will keep you in your seat.
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Deep Silver/Sproing
Aug. 25, 2009
Cursed Mountain is a creepy game, thanks to its atmosphere, its setting, and the nature of your enemies. Ghosts are an entirely different breed of enemies than something like a zombie, which has become the go-to horror game opponent. Ghosts can disappear, they can move through walls, and they possess things, while a zombie just kind of lumbers at you. When you combine ghosts and their abilities with a mountain setting, one that, despite its massive scale and open space, feels claustrophobic, then you’ve developed a creepy atmosphere that will keep your gamers uneasy throughout. While the game isn’t outright scary, it does a great job of leaving you feeling unsettled and uncomfortable with your situation, and it does try to mess with your head in a psychological manner that keeps both you and the main character, Eric Simmons, guessing about what’s going on.
The setting is also successful in replicating the area it represents. Deep Silver went to great lengths to research Buddhist and Tibetan ideas and beliefs, as well as the region they lived in; this shows up in the villages, the insides of houses, the monasteries, and the mountain paths. One nifty item is that you can see the game world from anywhere in Cursed Mountain. If you’re at the bottom of the mountain in the village, you can see your destinations alongside the mountain, and as you climb up, you can see where you used to travel getting smaller and smaller as it moves further away. You get a sense of your accomplishment as well as the scale of your undertaking and the mountain this way; it’s a unique item that adds to the game experience, especially when you look back or forward to take it in.
Not everything works this well though. It’s a bit annoying when there are doors you can’t open though–not locked ones either, just ones you can’t interact with–and also when a path that appears open is unable to be accessed by your character–invisible walls, of sorts–and these moments do break up the atmosphere and remind you that you’re in the middle of a game. The controls also need some work, though this is a common complaint for this type of game–in fact, it has the same tank-like movement issues that plagues most survival horror. Eric Simmons might be a normal person, but he should be able to turn around faster than he does, and he walks and jogs a bit slow for my liking–the game suffers from some pacing issues already, and this doesn’t help. The motion controls work pretty well though–you use them to banish ghosts, releasing them from their prison in this world. Deep Silver wanted to use Wii Remote and Nunchuk gestures to perform a ritual for removing these ghosts, and you do this by moving both controllers side to side, diagonally or up and down, depending on the markers on-screen. There’s one Nunchuk motion that sometimes gives me trouble, and I have to do it 2-3 times before it works, but it’s never a game-breaking issue. The IR implementation is probably the smoothest portion of the control scheme, as you can fire bursts of energy at these ghosts or throw a sort of capture net around them so you can banish them quicker.
Even if the controls or pacing frustrate you a bit, the story will more than make up for it. Simmons is trying to locate his lost brother, who was scaling the mountain in order to find a sacred and secret item. Things are not what they seem from afar, as Eric finds the village empty save for one person, with ghosts coming at him from all sides. From there, he searches for clues about both the appearance of the ghosts and the disappearance of his brother, sometimes finding help along the way, but often finding himself outnumbered and the object of scorn for both the living and dead. I don’t want to spoil any plot details, just know that the story is worth your attention.
Graphically, Cursed Mountain looks pretty good. There’s a lot of detail in the setting, and as stated, viewing the entire game world at once is a wonderful trick that the game benefits from. Eric’s animations are sometimes stiff though, and I feel like a lot of the game looks dark in places it doesn’t need to. Overall though, it’s well above-average for a Wii game, especially a third-party one, and does a far better job than most of the realistic-styled titles on the system.
Blast Factor: Story, setting and atmosphere are the keys to Cursed Mountain. The gameplay works but has its issues, and the pacing is sometimes a little too slow, but there’s more than enough good to make up for those minor problems. Here’s a quality, realistic, mature title for the Wii that wants nothing more than to creep you out while it tells you a fine story, and that’s good enough for me.
Cursed Mountain is available exclusively on the Nintendo Wii, and retails for $49.99