I put a couple of hours into Cursed Mountain this weekend. So far I’m enjoying it a lot more than I expected to.
The thing about Cursed Mountain is that it is an old-school horror game that is trying its best to learn from new-school games. The camera system, in-game UI, ranged combat system, and several other core elements clearly mark the game as post-Resident Evil 4, but the pacing, storytelling, and level design are based in the norms of a generation prior. If you are the type of horror gamer that thought that Resident Evil 5‘s focus on intense zombie-capping action was the worst idea ever, and you can’t wait to get back to searching rooms for hidden items and reading lots of diary entries, Cursed Mountain may be something you want to check out. The pace is very slow, the majority of the game play is walking around and examining things, and there’s lots of story to keep track of (protip: turn on subtitles to avoid missing key info in crazy flashing cutscenes).
Personally, I am a fan of this kind of game play. I really enjoyed Resident Evil 5 as well, but Cursed Mountain’s let’s-explore-the-narrative-as-physical-space design fits like a glove. The game has some issues; the camera is jittery and makes the frame rate look like it is stuttering when it really isn’t, the collision detection seems to snap on square-shaped objects, and the cutscene system makes the story is a little difficult to follow. But I like the control scheme, I like the combat system, and Cursed Mountain’s content is nice and fresh: I’ve never played a game about ghosts in remote Himalayan villages before. It’s not totally grabbed me like some other surprisingly good games have, but after my 2 hours of play it feels pretty solid.
One bit of advice: the game makes it harder than necessary to follow the story. The cutscene style is interesting but hard to follow–there’s a lot of benefit to turning on subtitles. Also, when you collect documents, you can’t read them directly from the item collection screen; you need to back out, go to the inventory, and read the document there. It took me a while to realize this. Since this kind of game makes up for slow pacing by giving you narrative content to chew on, I recommend focusing on the story and not letting the cutscenes or documents slip by when you play.
So far my impressions of Cursed Mountain are pretty positive. It’s trying to stay fresh in the game play and narrative department while simultaneously giving props to its survival horror roots. I’m hoping that it can pull off that balance for the rest of the game.