People may write off the Wii as the home of shovelware, but there are a decent number of games on the system that tell a good story and this is one of them. The game plays out like a really long film and is sort of a cross between an adventure game and a 3rd-person action title. Combat with enemies sees the character controlled Resident-Evil 4 style, but the pacing of the game is a bit slower. Given your weapon consists of blessed artifacts affixed to your ice axe, it’s not the bullet-fest many “survival horror” games have become.
Cursed Moutain tells the story of Eric Simmons who goes to the Himalayas to try to save his younger brother Frank. Their relationship is troubled by a long-time rivalry and Frank has been impulsive and gone for glory only to find himself lost in the formless void of the Tibetan Bhuddist purgatory called the Bardo.
The game does have it’s share of frights with ghosts jumping up at you, but mostly the atmosphere is morose and foreboding. The chilling setting is ably maintained by excellent atmospheric music and sound effects which include chanting monks, drums and blowing winds.
The visuals are quality and it’s worthwhile stopping to use free look at observation points where you can check out the scenery – clearly the developers wanted to show off their handiwork and this is a game any graphic designer would be rightly proud of. Cut scenes are sometimes rendered using the game engine, but more often enacted story-book style with moving panels of hand-drawn art coupled with audio dialogue.
It’s definitely not perfect, however, with the imitation of Resident Evil 4’s controls extending to the tank-like steering of your character using the Nunchuk control stick to rotate in place then pushing forward or backward to move in the chosen direction. It’s awkward and annoying – especially if you’re surrounded by angry ghosts! Motion controls are also a mixed bag. There are sections requiring balancing whilst walking across narrow beams where anything less than rapid tilting of the Remote to correct off-balance moves results in death. The developers deserve a lot of credit for having frequent auto-saves, though – specifically right before these balancing sections, to reduce frustration.
The motions required to pull off mystic wards to dispel ghosts or unlock magically sealed areas largely work well, but detection of vertical movements of the remote and nunchuk is very poor. Thankfully these aren’t game-breaking and ensuring your gestures aren’t too sharp and chained moves are separated by a second or two works a treat. Of course you can also use mystic energies to blast ghosts to oblivion instead – if you don’t need the health restored by banishing them gesturally (though using the gestures is quite satisfying – when they work). Note to developers (which bears repeating endlessly): please please please, if you’re going to use gestures ensure there’s a setting to control sensitivity!
Replay value is down to whether or not you want to experience the story again, but don’t let that hold you back. After playing the game for 10 hours you’ll truly felt you’ve gone on a journey with Eric Simmons aided by some first-rate voice acting. The game never drags and the writing is excellent. Well worth a look!
Baraduke (Virtual Console Arcade)
Another classic arcade game from Namco, this one features the first female sci-fi gaming protagonist, beating Metroid’s Samus Aran by a year. It’s a 2D action title which sees players controlling “Kissy” (Mr. Driller’s mum!) as she invades the Octi base and lays waste to all the alien baddies in sight. Some may find the visuals a little creaky and the action a bit on the slow side, but I think it’s brilliant!
Bakutotsu Kijuutei (Virtual Console Arcade)
The sequel to Baraduke is a little more linear (strictly left-to-right; without the vertical bits from the other), though it does have better graphical polish. It’s not as charming as the first game, but it’s still a good bit of fun and worth a look for fans.