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Adult, as in grown up rather than top shelf, drama brings unique interest to Cursed Mountain. What might have been a standard survival horror game becomes and intriguingly creep action adventure with compelling human themes of love, loss and family ties.
Where other games feel they need to shock and awe the player with blood guts and god-knows what else, Cursed Mountain goes about its business with a steady intentional maturity that really impresses.
What's more the story telling doesn't feel the need to pull the corporate line either. Characters are as intriguing, quirky, boring and fretful as everyday people. Eric Simmons misses his brother Frank, lost during a trek through the Himalayas. His pilgrimage to uncover what lay behind his sibling's ascent through the rising mountains to his permanent absence from family life, Christmases, births and funerals.
This vertical emotional slide is mirrored by the games ascent in the opposite direction. You make your way up and up the mountain, and as you do Frank's descent is slowly uncovered in flashback. And here are found dark human forces rather than the zombies of other survival games. The story is an epic in every sense of the word, taking in monks, villagers and hikers through the years. Through this runs the theme of being trapped, and on the mountain that means bardo's shadowy heaven.
What results is a game that draws on player's engagement to challenge them to unravel what exactly is going on here. Their survival depends on these answers just as much as any flight from zombie as found in the likes of Resident Evil 5. But enduring in Cursed Mountain is about finding a way to live with loss rather than simply avoid dying.
Through this runs the theme of being trapped, and on the mountain that means bardo's shadowy heaven.
As you explores the landscape's temples, mountains, ravines and caverns each element plays to the other well and becomes a whole. Checkpoints loom in the distance and beckon you on, and upon reaching them you can see back down the hill to where you've been. A small thing but this sense of journey really makes the game feel genuine emotionally.
This all brings to mind the mountainside opening of Disaster Day of Crisis Wii. Like that game it is all rendered in a 3D engine that makes good use of art and atmosphere. As you progress there are real breath taking vistas that punctuate the way. This isn't going to match the fluidity and horsepower of the bigger consoles, but for the Wii it does more than enough to win you over.
A modern savvy game that attends to a genuine grown up audience.
The game could move a little faster at times. And Simmon's plodding progress did frustrate me at times. Fighting the spirits you encounter was refreshing though with upgrades and character skills that slowly open up options for aggression. This is all handled with some Wii-mote pointing, gestures and the odd button press. It feels a little dated but just about avoids detracting too much.
The more serious tone makes the game immensely dark at times which is worth noting. As well as this there are a good handful of jump-out-of-the-seat moments. Set aside the standard controls and you have a modern savvy game that attends to a genuine grown up audience. As someone who really enjoys an experience that sets my heart pumping this is great value. What I hadn't expected was for it to be so cerebrally scary at the same time.
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