Cursed Mountain Wii
Let’s all join hands and say a prayer for survival horror. It’s a genre that’s been receiving a bit of a kicking over the last few years. Silent Hill has become what many fans consider a sad parody of the series’ heyday, while the likes of Dead Space and Resident Evil 5 – as great as they are – are going down a much more action-heavy route. Add to this the fact that the upcoming Saw game looks to be little more than QTE-driven violence-porn, and things are starting to look pretty rough indeed. And it’s into this dreary situation that Cursed Mountain slips, instantly causing eyebrows to raise purely because it’s a PEGI 15-rated survival horror title on the most family-focused console ever invented in the history of time. I know we should all be past that ‘hey guys, the Wii can do grown-up games too!’ thing. But we’re not, are we?
Cursed Mountain has you playing as Eric Simmons, a mountain climber whose younger brother Frank has gone AWOL up Chomolonzo Mountain in Tibet (apparently, the mountain is fictional but based on real-life topography data. Figure that one out.) Of course, the mountaineers among you shouldn’t get yourselves too excited – while Eric does carry an ice-axe, its main uses are smashing open pots and shooting bolts of MAGIC at GHOSTS. Which reminds me – why aren’t there any decent mountaineering games? Anyway, you go looking for your brother, and it quickly becomes apparent that something is wrong – the first town you arrive at is almost entirely deserted, the residents replaced with a load of ghosts who like to run behind corners as soon as you see them, then occasionally jump out and shout “BOO!”. I’m being pretty unfair there, mind you – the atmosphere conjured by the game’s environments (and sound design in particular) is really impressive. The reliance on jack-in-the-box scares is a shame, but the overall sense of just wanting to run the hell away and leave your stupid brother to his fate is definitely there.
On top of the whole mountain-climbing thing, Cursed Mountain also reckons it knows a thing or two about Buddhism. In fact, this is apparently the reason the game ended up on the Wii – after the devs did some research into the religion (technically a philosophy, I know. But Tibetan Buddhism definitely covers the more ‘religious’ side of things) they got interested in its gesture-based rituals. So, you can see how the Wii seemed like an appropriate fit. Sadly, the ways in which this has influenced the gameplay are a bit wonky at best. Early on, the game teaches you how to use your ‘third eye’, an ability that lets you see ghosts properly and, uh, shoot magic at them. From your ice-axe. Furthermore, it lets you see magical seals, which you can lock onto and ‘rip’ off by swiping the Wii remote. This is used to unlock doors and finish off enemies (shooting them enough times reveals their seal; tear it off and you’re done), and leads to a lot of pointless spamming of the third-eye button when you’re wandering around, just in case you miss something. What also doesn’t help is the way this mechanic is introduced – you pretty much just bump into a monk who tells you that we all have a third-eye that we never use but it’s totally rad and you should check it out. Then the ‘PRESS Z TO ACTIVATE THIRD-EYE’ prompt appears, and you’re away. And it’s a shame, because up until that point the game has a fairly matter-of-fact tone that makes it seem quite believeable, and it’s all the more spooky for it. Then they throw in a poorly-explained magic trick, and you remember that you’re playing a video game.
So, despite Cursed Mountain‘s interesting themes, after a while you can’t fight the sensation that you’ve seen it all before. It’s not a terrible game by any means, but it’s not in the least bit inspiring either. Wandering around triggering cutscenes, finding keys for doors, and engaging in combat that would feel exactly like Resident Evil 4‘s if it was actually any fun. The story isn’t awful, but it’s also not compelling enough to drag you through the game if you weren’t already enjoying it purely on gameplay terms.
Of course, you might argue that your average Wii owner won’t necessarily have played many survival horror titles, in which case Cursed Mountain might not seem so terrible. But then, if you’re one of those average Wii owners, you can get the mighty Wii edition of Resident Evil 4 for less money instead, and have a lot more fun. Meanwhile, everyone who’s already played Resi 4 can see that Cursed Mountain is, without a shadow of a doubt, a bit pants.