Curse: The Eye of Isis
# of Players:
Computer gaming geeks have ample
reason to rejoice at the Xbox’s release schedule this Winter: with
games like Baldur’s Gate II and Broken Arrow joining
the roster to varying degrees of success and acclaim (no comment).
Fans of somewhat stilted survival horror designed for the mouse pad
should be well satisfied at the latest curiosity to make the leap to
console gaming: the budget priced Curse: the Eye of Isis has
arrived, at a $15 price point, no less. Dreamcatcher has ported the
game to the Xbox, and fans of survival horror (like myself) may very
well find themselves well scared (though not for the reasons one
might hope or expect).
The game presents an interesting, if
somewhat cheesy Scooby Doo premise. Set in a foggy Victorian (or is
it Edwardian?) London, you play as Darien Dane, son of Dr. Stanley
Dane, the famous American Egyptologist and associate of Victoria
Sutton. You head down to the British Museum at night to check on
arrangements for the big opening of the new exhibit tomorrow, only
to find the place barred off and surrounded by strapping English
bobbies (ok, so I’m being sarcastic). Apparently, there’s
been a murder (or two, or twenty), and the place has been
cordoned off as a crime scene. Being the intrepid knucklehead you
are, you sneak in, and find yourself locked in with a few weirdos (a
surviving security guard or two, a mysterious Arabic assistant of
your father, who doubles as an item storage and traveling save
point), and a whole load of undead victims and mummies.
A few things you’ll find out fast: 1.
once you enter a particular wing, everything pretty much looks the
same. Trust me, this is like no museum you’ve ever set foot in.
One wonders, in fact, if anyone at Wanadoo ever did themselves. 2.
Your map is useless. Absolutely useless. In fact, in a genre that
fairly well defines inadequate maps, Curse’s map is the
piece de resistance par excellence of useless. Therefore, 3.
You’re pretty much screwed, unless you’re really, really obsessive,
and get to look forward to hours on end of annoying, wasted running
in circles. The game time, in fact, could literally be cut in half
if they had just provided adequate mapping, better clues, etc.
etc. That said, on the second go-around (more on that
later), I found myself a bit better acquainted with the place, and
did in fact cut my game time in half or better - damning by faint
One of the stranger things about the
game, as mentioned earlier, is that the save point tends to move
around. In order to save, you must find Abdul Wahid, your father’s
manservant, who also doubles as place to store unwanted items. He
tends to follow you around a bit, so returning to where you saw him
last may not be the best option – stumbling across him semi-randomly
appears to be the order of the day. In case you haven’t figure it
out, save whenever you can, regardless of how easy things
are. You never know when you’ll be able to do it next…
Although it fits, more or less
loosely, into the survival horror genre, Curse: the Eye of Isis
is not exactly a difficult game to survive. The toughest challenges
you’ll have to deal with are some rather glaring flaws in design.
An awkward combat system will have you slowly swinging at (and
knocking down) some rather un-threatening reanimated corpses with
your truncheon, only to find them magically levitated off the
ground, just so you can nail them with one last hit. Firing weapons
is even worse: your load time is rather prolonged, with rifles,
pistol and flamethrower proving slow and fairly impractical. Even
beyond the extended draw/load time, which gives foes the chance to
clear any distance between you and themselves, you’ll find yourself
waiting for slow moving dots (doubling as crosshairs) to meet before
you can take a shot. Best of all is when you go through all this,
only to find your hard-earned shot go astray, because apparently,
you fired too early. Thanks, guys. Great design work.
While Curse: the Eye of Isis
may share stationary backgrounds and camera angles with Resident
Evil, it does not, by any means, share the latter’s eye-droppingly
beautiful graphics, well-animated cutscenes or smooth animations,
substituting PC-quality blocky, choppy, at best average graphics and
(slow) motion. While I half expected this upon purchase, and thus
didn’t really mind (for what it is, it’s really not all that bad,
visually), the aesthetically obsessed need not apply.
Nonetheless, all these complaints
become relegated to the category of “minor irritation” in comparison
to Curse’s most insidious surprise. At the risk of spoiling
someone else’s innate masochism, here’s the scoop: about an hour
into the game (perhaps two, depending on how lost you got in the
museum’s distinctly samey corridors and doorways), you’ll encounter
a crotchety old coward who is apparently the museum’s chief of
security (no wonder there’s so many creeps running around the place
at night). After retrieving his glasses for him (the animation
where the glasses magically slide under the airtight door is
side-splittingly awful), he lets you into his hiding place…err,
office. And this is where you encounter, without any warning, the
moment of truth, that decides whether you’re able to continue
playing the game, or wind up forced to restart the game from
After informing you of the next spot
you need to go to in order to continue to progress in the game, this
idiot tells you he’ll have one of his people meet you there with a
key. For those of us who assume we’re to take this clown at his
word, let me formally enlighten you: the bastard is full of it.
Should you believe him, and head to that area, you will indeed
encounter said person, who will indeed offer to let you in.
Unfortunately, that person gets killed immediately thereafter. Now,
if this were any other survival horror or adventure game, you’d just
search the guy’s pocket and get the key he just showed you, rather
prominently, while attempting to open the door in question. Not in
Curse. No, the geniuses at Wanadoo saw fit to force you to
end the game right here, no further progress allowed – the guy,
despite everything you just saw and were told, has nothing on him.
That’s right, the key he just showed you, which both guards
specifically mentioned him having, is not on him.
Apparently, you were supposed, by osmosis, your highly developed
powers of mind-reading, or through your inside contact at the
developer’s office, to know that you were supposed to search the
wall safe in the chief of security’s office, after he’d already
given you something out of it, for the key in question. No,
there were no clues, no warnings, no indications that you should
re-search said safe for anything, much less the key every indicator
told you the now-dead guard would have on his person.
Now, the more practical minded among
us are doubtless thinking, why not just go back and get said key
out of said safe, now that we have this little mystery tidbit at our
disposal (thank you, VGF)? Because Wanadoo saw to it that you
can’t. Yep, you read right. Even should you return to the
old guard’s wall safe, you’ll find it and the room empty, making it
impossible to continue, in any way shape or form. Your only
recourse, unless you’ve been keeping separate saves along the way,
is to wipe out your entire game thus far and restart from scratch.
Best of all, this was apparently a known glitch on the
computer version, which was not corrected for the Xbox
version. Thanks, guys.
And did I neglect to mention that, on
your second go-around where you actually know to rifle through the
wall safe for said key, triumphant music (never heard before
or since in the course of gameplay) blares through your speakers?
So it’s like a “secret level”, only without finding the damn thing,
you can’t go any further in the game! Pure genius at work.
After playing through Curse (twice), I have no doubt how
Wanadoo’s development team will be voting this election. Like unto
like; water seeks its own level, as they say…
It's a PC port
with a $15 price point...what were you expecting?
tenth-rate combat system
- Awkward controls
- Fair, but typically stilted computer style graphics
- Poor stationary camera angles make it hard to see around corners
It’s a shame Wanadoo saw fit to
ignore some very glaring, known flaws in the original PC version of
Curse: the Eye of Isis before porting it to the Xbox. In
fact, it’s rather beyond belief, even at the notably low price
point, and demonstrates just how little they care about the game
(and the gamers who might be interested in purchasing it).
Definitely something to note for any future releases with the
Wanadoo imprint. While not quite raising the ire of a twelfth-rater
like Punch King’s Full Fat, Wanadoo has definitely earned the
designation of persona non grata around this gamer’s house,
pending the development of some future masterpiece of gaming (which
somehow, I just can’t see happening, all things considered).
The bottom line is, taking into account my warning
about the whole key thing (without which, you’re restarting this
sucker…should you be so inclined), it’s not a bad looking game, with
a bit of atmosphere carrying the game a longer way than it should
have to. In other words, survival horror junkies suffering the
pangs of withdrawal may want to give Curse: the Eye of Isis a
second glance. While not on the level of Resident Evil it’s
still enjoyable enough, if you can overlook its shortcomings. Just
keep repeating to yourself, it’s only a PC
port. It’s $15. It’s only a PC port. It’s $15…