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Cursed Mountain (Wii) artwork

Cursed Mountain (Wii) review


"While Cursed Mountain provides thick atmosphere, tightly designed levels, and an adequate battle system, it skimps on the aspects a horror title should contain: challenge and scare factor. Without challenge there's nothing to fear."



Cursed Mountain asset

AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MEH-NESS


The mountains are forbidding, but not half as terrifying as that which dwells within them. Eric Simmons's younger brother, Frank, has disappeared trying to summit the mighty Chomolonzo--a sacred mountain said to hold an ancient Buddhist treasure. Shortly thereafter, the restless and hungry spirits of the mountain began their depredation, picking off Sherpas and monks one by one and causing the mountainside residents to flee. Only Eric can silence spirits, exorcise the demons, recover his brother, and restore peace to the mountains.

Through empty city streets, vacant villages, and lonely monasteries Eric travels. He must search every pitch black alley, darkened corner, ominous shack, and frozen lofty height for clues that will help him to advance further. The clop of his boots and the soughing of the wind are his only soundtrack. In the distressing stillness, he can sometimes hear the maddening whispers of deviant spirits. Eric can run and hide, but he knows he'll find no safety. Apart from the scenic mountainside beauty, the land and residential areas conspire against him. A dense fog rolls over territories and block his vision and confuse him, and tight quarters limit his movements.

Cursed Mountain screenshot


He can feel them in the fog,on high platforms above him, hiding in the shadows: the restless spirits. Wide angle shots and POV camera views serve as omens, warning you of the impending danger ahead. The ghosts attack Eric in small numbers at first, approaching maybe one or two at a time. By his journey's end he'll fight off large groups, many clawing or firing projectiles, others charging and sapping his life as they make contact with his warm flesh.

But Eric's not unarmed. Infused with powerful Buddhist artifacts his icepick has become . . . . A MAGICAL SPIRIT-FIGHTING GUN! No, seriously. Eric's icepick fires a variety of projectiles, from a basic fireball to a shotgun-like spread of bullets to a grappling harpoon. Upon plugging the phantasmal fiends full of magical bullets, an emblem appears on their chests. A quick press of the 'A' button while aimed at the emblem will send you into a 'compassion ritual'. Following the prompts on the screen, you must swing the Wii Remote in just the right ways to finish off the ghosts and exorcise them once and for all.

There is a name for a combat system such as this, and we shall call it 'adequate'. It's not the combat system, nor even the silly magic-bullet-firing icepick, that ultimately kills Cursed Mountain's chances at greatness.

Eric eventually grows weary of battling specters. Although they come in greater swarms after a time, they do not come in greater variety. There are six different enemies to fight, but only three different types. Some ghosts lumber and paw at you, like zombies; others float about and shoot; while others rapidly teleport side to side and attempt to draw you closer with a harpoon of their own. Since there are only a few different enemies, there is little need for Eric to modify his strategy. Almost any situation can be solved by running in circles and stopping to take the occasional potshot. The only complication is that he cannot move while aiming and firing. This is more of a minor setback than a full-blown challenge.

Cursed Mountain screenshot


It's not as though his task is difficult, or even frightening. For each ghost he exorcises, Eric receives a fair chunk of his health, and he can take out the spirits quickly and easily. Ammo is infinite and health items are plentiful. Apart from journals and incense sticks needed for healing, there isn't much to gather and help build a staunch survival element. All Eric needs to mind is his health (and his oxygen in one level).

Combat systems in titles like Silent Hill are basic for a reason. You aren't guiding a battle-trained badass like Dante, Kratos or Bayonetta. You're guiding an ordinary citizen with a broken pipe and a handgun, someone who can effectively swing a random item but not tear apart legion after legion of beasts. Developers of more effective survival/horror entries wisely left protagonists vulnerable, with gathering and avoidance as their only chances at survival. Sometimes there's nothing more terrifying than feeling disadvantaged and unable to fight off ghastly, flesh-eating hellbeasts. Eric, however, is empowered. Because he can exorcise ghosts so effectively that there's little reason to fear them.

More effective horror titles have relied on psychological scares to frighten gamers. I'll never forget, in Silent Hill 2, running down a deep flight of bloody stairs while a demonic howl emanated from the darkness below; or in Fatal Frame, exploring the depths of the mansion, creeping around in the narrow hallways of a basement and battling ghosts with little more than a camera as your weapon and limited film. You had to make every shutter count. Cursed Mountain is light on scares, relying too much on the atmosphere and grotesque spirits, which can be easily dealt with, to scare you. There are no psychologically scarring moments where Cursed Mountain pushes you into a direction you don't want to head, nor are there very many environments and situations that produce panic-filled moments and/or desperate actions.

While Cursed Mountain provides thick atmosphere, tightly designed levels, and an adequate battle system, it skimps on the aspects a horror title should contain: challenge and scare factor. Without challenge there's nothing to fear. Deep Silver could have made up for this by providing some great scares, but Cursed Mountain features very few moments where there could have been many. Experienced horror gamers will spot the many missed opportunities and sigh.

Rating: 5/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 08, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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honestgamer posted October 08, 2011:

This was a great review that covers the game as it is and explains the missed opportunities. What happened with this sentence, though?

There are no psychologically scarring moments where Cursed Mountain pushes you into a direction you don't want to head, nor are very man environments and situations that produce panic-filled moments and/or desperate actions.

I know what you're trying to say, but you're missing one word ('there') and another ('many') is missing the 'y' that it so very much needs. You should fix that or something!
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 08, 2011:

D'oh! Good catch! Thank you.
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Masters posted October 11, 2011:

Nice review as always, Joe. I had to read this one especially, because I was vaguely interested in the game. Your penultimate paragraph and the one just before it make some good points.

Combat systems in titles like Silent Hill are basic for a reason. You aren't guiding a battle-trained badass like Dante, Kratos or Bayonetta. You're guiding an ordinary citizen with a broken pipe and a handgun, someone who can effectively swing a random item but not tear apart legion after legion of beasts. Developers of more effective survival/horror entries wisely left protagonists vulnerable, with gathering and avoidance as their only chances at survival. Sometimes there's nothing more terrifying than feeling disadvantaged and unable to fight off ghastly, flesh-eating hellbeasts. Eric, however, is empowered. Because he can exorcise ghosts so effectively that there's little reason to fear them.

This is mostly true, but Resident Evil 4 and its ilk remain compelling exceptions. I feel as if RE4 managed to be 'scary' despite Leon being incredibly bad ass, simply because of how badly he was outnumbered. Having a slick, powered up handgun capable of managing headshot instakills didn't mean that reloading at an opportune time with one's back against a door didn't have you peeing yourself when four groaning zombies rushed in. Such a special game...

More effective horror titles have relied on psychological scares to frighten gamers. I'll never forget, in Silent Hill 2, running down a deep flight of bloody stairs while a demonic howl emanated from the darkness below; or in Fatal Frame, exploring the depths of the mansion, creeping around in the narrow hallways of a basement and battling ghosts with little more than a camera as your weapon and limited film. You had to make every shutter count. Cursed Mountain is light on scares, relying too much on the atmosphere and grotesque spirits, which can be easily dealt with, to scare you. There are no psychologically scarring moments where Cursed Mountain pushes you into a direction you don't want to head, nor are there very many environments and situations that produce panic-filled moments and/or desperate actions.

You put this very well, and this is what it comes down to really: panic and desperation. If a survival horror game gives you a bazooka, it's not an instant fail if they can still make you fearful. Great summation of what works in horror, and what doesn't.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted October 12, 2011:

Thanks, Marc! I agree about RE4, though I wasn't quite as freaked out playing that one. I still absolutely love it, though. It's probably my favorite RE.

I think maybe the proper way of saying it is that horror games are scariest when there's a sense of vulnerability, and that's one thing RE4 definitely did right despite having such an empowered character. Rather than making him vulnerable by taking away his capabilities, they increased the volume of enemies.
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honestgamer posted October 12, 2011:

Survival horror is about knowing that you probably have the resources to get through the unknown, but realizing that it still might not be enough unless you put every advantage you have to use.

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