Curse of the Crescent Isle
Available: Xbox 360 Indie Games Marketplace
Overall score: 9
Curse of the Crescent Isle applies a blocky world to present a tale of a kingdom attacked by an evil figure. Not a new story; Curse of the Crescent Isle uses a premise that has been used time and time again. What freshens up this platformer is a switch of perspective that is a rarity. Even with a twist using a dated game design crates issues at times that can make this game a chore. Though every chore is rewarding and Curse of the Crescent Isle is no different.
A Warlock brings on the curse during the wedding of the Princess of the Crescent Isle and Prince of the Northern Isle. Though only meant for the King of the Crescent Isle, the King made a narrow escape that took away his kingdom and transformed his subjects into monsters. All is left to the King to save the Crescent Isle from the Warlock’s curse. Few video games place the player as the “King,” or in the position of the authority. Unlike the perspective of a “Hero,” typically a random character without cause beyond the “King’s” order. Shouldering the personal responsibility from the start provided deeper motive to be successful and see the fruits of my labor. After every boss fight a portion of the cures is broken, mending the kingdom. With returned subjects to speak with is a nice reward as they thank and provide players with information. All of which compelled myself into the playing Curse of the Crescent Isle straight though. Which brought on an ending that will be a punch to the gut; with a final twists that left me with some shock. Proving that a thoughtful shake-up of a common video game tale can do wonders.
The King of Crescent Isle is not loaded with; magic, technology, or great strength. Though he was given the power to pull by the Gods. Game play in Crescent Isle is reminiscence of old NES games that is given reason and thought. In addition to running and jumping the player will interact with environments and enemies with grab’n throw game play. Using enemies as weapons or tools to assist with progression in the game. Each enemy has an effect that will be used for fighting and overcoming obstacles. Effects range from altering gravity to freezing; switching up game play and forcing the player to plan out a strategy with the tools given. Curse of the Crescent Isle wants the player to work out obstacles as death brings no penalty and restarting a section is instant. Lacking a save function, for sake of longevity, play sections are served in bite sized areas so that restarts are not a pain. Free from the worry of dying makes the adventure sweeter, as the challenge isn’t to live, but to overcome obstacles through calculated actions. While enemies have effects none of them have a true destructive element; nor does the player against most enemies except for bosses. Why would a game take away the joy of stomping a little enemy to death, because it is one of the King’s subjects. Forced to have a guided hand in violence makes boss battle more epic. With all of King’s subject assisting to bring an end to the curse allows for motivation and reason for battle.
Even with reason it can be trying to restart areas just because a transformed subject runs off screen. Along with the good of old school game comes the annoying in the form of glitches. All of which will either force the player to restart or at least loose health. These are the awkward glitches like falling through the floor unexpectedly to death. Even more taxing is waiting for the right subject to be in the right place at the right time. As the cursed subjects have different abilities some are needed for particular platform obstacles. When they scuttle off screen they disappear and even when a player has
control of one off screen the King comes out empty handed. Forcing a number of restarts and hoping that a subject will scuttle right instead of left. While glitches like this don’t happen often; they occur often enough to cause slight irritation. Compared with the rest that Crescent Isle has to offer; this is only the medicine coated with sweet jaggery.
The wrapping for Curse of the Crescent Isle has an exotic Indian influence, rich with color and sound, though nothing that overshadows game play. Heavy play areas feel clear and direct allowing for the mind to follow the obstacles. While enemies are small; each are very distinct and almost adorable and are given some expression. Bosses are always imposing and lack the innocence of the cursed subjects. Taking monstrous forms that are far from human and would never be confused with a subject. Most impressive are the rewarding cuts to the Gods thanking the King for defeating bosses. These small areas are bursting with vibrant sights of Hindu like gods. Like visiting an alternate heaven after every battle by using beautiful pixel art that puts many old 8 bit games to shame. Sound definitely holds up as well with enticing adventure music driving the journey. During the long quest that shifts from the lights of the heavens to the depths of hell can be felt from the music. Using a chip tune style sound to match the visuals the composer did their best to keep up with the art. While invoking the sounds of childhood gaming the soundtrack sticks with a fantasy style of music. Almost a kin to a one of the classic Zelda video games where traveling music is playful yet bold. Which disconnects the Indian influence in the visuals, but nothing that can’t be overlooked.
Curse of the Crescent Isle is not a video game to be overlooked. With a dynamic story and game play that keeps a player hooked till the shocking end, making Crescent Isle a must play for anyone. Heck, skip the demo and buy this little game. Only 80msp/$1 as a downloadable title for the Xbox 360 it is a steal for what it offers. A delightful video game that is rooted in simplicity, but exploding with freshness. For myself, this game was so enriching it has become a favorite to comeback to.