Year Published: 2016
Publisher: JetDogs Studios
Developer: JetDogs Studios
Cursed was an enormous step forward in graphics for developer JetDogs Studios. Seriously, there are full motion cutscenes in this game of gargantuan dragon statues coming to life that rival the best of what could be seen in the AAA titles of the time. But as a game, it's a step backwards from their earlier titles, Dracula's Legacy and Alchemy Mysteries, as it has taken the Cateia Games approach of being a hidden object game without any actual HO scenes. The problem with doing this to appease players who don't like them is that something needs to be added to replace them, otherwise we end up with a ridiculously short game (I had to play Cursed three times to get all the Steam card drops) that is little more than "Find Item/Use Item". Cursed doesn't even have very many puzzles to make up for it.
Everything beautiful about this game's graphics in one scene.
What Cursed does have is some of the most amazing graphics ever seen in a 2016 HOG. It's like they were trying to win a contest. The game mostly takes place in a dilapidated mansion and the surrounding forest area which is dying because of a demon's curse. The artwork and lighting effects somehow make the landscape's death and decay eerily beautiful. Large monsters and living dragon statues guard some of these areas until you find the items needed to dispel them. Many of them, like a creepy undead-looking octopus and an animated rotting skeletal corpse in a graveyard pit, would look at home in a Resident Evil game.
Unfortunately, neither the game nor its story lives up to the craftsmanship of the artists. Cursed begins with an unnamed female protagonist (you) trying to solve the mystery of what happened to her missing fiancee, who disappeared when he went to work for Justin Albridge, the lord of the now-rundown mansion you explore for most of the game. Albridge apparently made a deal with a demon to revive his dead wife, and the deal involved building a gate that would allow the demon's minions to enter the human world and take over. Your fiancee, Albert, was hired to construct this gate and never returned.
The boarded-up mansion and a creepy little ghost girl.
Unfortunately, anyone who's been playing hidden object games for some time has likely seen the "man makes deal with devil to revive dead wife" plot before, as well as, "demons will come through gate/portal unless it's destroyed" ordeal. What makes the latter particularly funny in Cursed is that the gate is sealed with a Sudoku puzzle. Perhaps if the demon didn't want his plan to be upended, he shouldn't have made to key to its destruction one of the most popular newspaper fad games of the time.
Further hindering Cursed's simplicity is that it tends to be laggy or buggy. It appears the developer fixed an issue with certain multi-use items disappearing after one use by having them never leave your inventory ever. The game is also weirdly inconsistent in the way zoom-in scenes will sometimes vanish after you've completed everything there is to do in them and sometimes remain accessible - leading you to wonder if there's something there you missed.
I think at least half the budget went into these guys.
Cursed often goes on sale for 99 cents or less and for that price, it's almost worth recommending just to see it, as it is gorgeous and as of writing this review in 2021, it's still impressive five years after its release. Unfortunately, every moment spent staring at its wonderfully bleak aesthetics is a moment wishing everything else was just as good.