In 2009 I began working with Mrs B on her website www.femalegamers.co.uk reviewing the latest console games. Sadly, our other commitments meant the website couldn’t continue and we brought it to an end early in 2010. I’ll be using this blog to review all the games, recent and not so recent, that I encounter. With Mrs B’s kind permission, I’ll also be posting some of the reviews I previously worked on, so don’t panic if they refer to previous years and months.
Cursed Mountain (Wii)
Cursed Mountain is a survival horror full of eerie ghosts and malevolent spirits that plays out against the backdrop of the Himalayas and is based around fascinating Tibetan Buddhism.
Acclaimed climbers, Frank Simmons and Paul Ward, are sent on an expedition by Edward Bennett to scale the formidable Chomolonzo (“Sacred One”) and retrieve the Terma – an elusive and archaic relic. Shortly after finding the Terma, Frank and Paul have an argument with the latter descending the mountain while Frank disappears. It is down to Frank’s older brother, Eric Simmons, to make his way deep into the mountains and bring his sibling back dead or alive.
Eric’s journey begins in Lhando, the highest city in the world, but one that has been abandoned by the resident monks known as Sherpas. Chomolonzo, the mountain that forms the centrepiece of the game, is sacred to the monks and a goddess is believed to watch over the uncompromising peak. Eric’s arrival in Lhando plunges the player into the main strength of Cursed Mountain – the atmosphere. As you wander the city there is an immediate sense of unease as you head down abandoned streets and inspect vacant houses. The sudden appearance of ghosts that plague the city only adds to the nail-biting tension. As you continue your ascent of Chomolonzo you will be faced with such locations as a village more akin to a graveyard, terrain with low hanging mist, a pristine but treacherous monastery where evil lies in wait for the unwary, before your path continues into the heights of Chomolonzo. The landscapes are simply breathtaking at times and will leave you stopping to admire the view on many an occasion. The more coldly atmospheric locations will instil the need to move on very quickly! As Eric traces clues to his brother’s whereabouts you will encounter a small group of individuals that will guide you on your path, including a monk and shaman that are well versed in Buddhist tradition and ritual, and will require you to engage in similar acts in order to continue.
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Cursed Mountain veers between solving puzzles and combating ghosts. Important objectives will be shown on screen and in the menu so you are always clear about your next destination. Fighting takes on three forms. The Melee Attack is based around the simple swinging of an ice axe to damage the ghosts; this requires careful timing to ensure you are not left exposed to a counterattack. Early in the game Eric is taught about the use of the Third Eye, which allows him to perform a Spiritual Attack whereby energy is fired at ghosts or used to unlock sealed doorways and passages. The third option is the Compassion Ritual which can only be used when a ghost’s health is low and requires you to enter a series of commands to defeat your opponent and absorb some of their health to augment your own. Your health level is displayed on screen and, aside from the Compassion Ritual, can be restored via the acquisition of incense sticks to burn at shrines. As well as the combat and puzzles you can obtain letters, diaries and notes from Frank and the inhabitants of the now desolate villages and monasteries that offer further insight into what is a compelling story.
The disappointment with Cursed Mountain is that the positives are counterbalanced by the unforgiving controls. You will need both the Wii Remote and Nunchuck, which are fine for moving around but become unfortunately troublesome during combat. Shooting at ghosts requires you to aim a small target at them, which can be tricky when your enemies are quickly closing on you. When using the Third Eye mode you will have to perform a series of movements with the controllers (known as ripping) to defeat ghosts and unlock doorways or disable statues. Though the commands are visible on screen I found the Wii Remote and Nunchuck often didn’t respond. On many occasions you will run out of time trying to activate these commands, forcing you to start from scratch. Being killed in Cursed Mountain will happen regularly and this will often come down to the controls.
As a survival horror, Cursed Mountain works very well. It is genuinely unnerving, set amongst some fantastically chilling surroundings, while the unravelling of the story behind Frank’s disappearance maintains the interest. Despite the unfortunate controls this is worth a look but probably not for the faint hearted.
Final Score: 77%
* Originally published on www.femalegamers.co.uk