Developer(s) Tribute Games
Released back in 2015, Curses N’ Chaos is an independently developed love letter to NES classics of the late 80s, featuring simplistic, yet addicting gameplay, as well as an expertly crafted 8-BIT style of graphics. Over the years, indie games have continued to impress me, and Curses N’ Chaos is no exception.
Graphics – 8/10
Although the game looks as great as any 8-BIT classic, the aspect in which this game’s visuals truly stand out is its diversity in conceptual design. The game is set across several different stages representing different parts of the game’s universe, including forests, castles, graveyards, docks, villages and even a ninja’s dojo. And the variety in level design also appropriates variety in enemy and boss design in turn. There are enemies exclusive to most of every stage in the game, which keeps it interesting to look at throughout, as well as keeping players on their toes and strategize accordingly. The game’s soundtrack is also exceptionally gripping as well as extremely catchy; especially where the first stage is concerned.
Gameplay – 8/10
Curses N’ Chaos is a 2D beat ‘em up set across timed stages, whereby the objective is to clear all enemies on the screen until the timer runs out, with each stage yielding 10 waves of enemies before the player is then pit against the stage’s boss. The reason why the variety in enemy design keeps players on their toes is that certain enemy types each take different amounts of damage before they are killed, and many require different strategies to take down, which provides the game with a very stern level of challenge reminiscent of many NES classics, such as Castlevania and Mega Man. The boss fights for the most also demand the same level of adaptability in order to take down, and some are among the best boss fights I’ve seen for a long time, such as the chimera in stage 2 and the robot in stage 6.
Controls – 9.5/10
For the most part, the controls are pretty much perfect in this game, which is needed in a game like this, as it relies heavily on player skill in order to finish, and is quite demanding in this respect. But players must be careful when they are pressing down in order to make the player dance while idle in order to gain more points with no enemies on-screen, as sometimes, the player can start walking after some time, even with the down button held. At first, I thought this might have been a problem with my PS4 controller, but the same thing happened to me when I played the PS Vita version as well.
Lifespan – 8/10
For a stage-based game, this title can be made to last for an exceptionally long time; at least 15-20 hours depending on player’s ability to adapt to each challenge. It goes to show to me that the lifespan of an indie game cannot necessarily be down to budget, but down to the developer’s imagination. Aside from the stages, the player can also mix together items and weapons found during battle to create better weapons or items, which also adds to the game’s longevity to an extent.
Storyline – 6.5/10
Again, reminiscent of the NES days, the game’s story is quite simplistic, with gamers having to consult other sources for further details; back then, we relied on instruction manuals, but more details can actually be found the game’s website. The story follows two fighters named Leo and Lea, who are daring to fight back against the monsters commanded by Algarr, the Wizard King. Disdained by the duo’s efforts, Algarr places upon them a curse, whereby the Grim Reaper follows them everywhere they go, and with the possibility of death constantly looming over them with swarm of monsters also stalking them. The pair then consult a rogue alchemist named Allison, who explains that the curse can only be lifted by creating the Elixir of Life, which Leo and Lea must get the ingredients for by killing monsters. Though it may not bet the most intriguing story in gaming history, it’s the game’s mythology that helps it to stand out to at least a certain extent, and although it may be simplistic, it’s much less preferable to me personally to have the focus taken way from story and put into gameplay, which is most certainly the case with this title.
Originality – 8/10
Though the conceptual design of the game is for the most part based on pre-existing mythologies and cultures, where this game truly stands out is in its simple, yet addictive style of play, as well as everything that can be done in between stages to create better weapons and items. It gives the game a lot of variety in terms of gameplay, and because of that, it is one of the most invigorating indie experiences I’ve played all year. It’s an ideal springboard for people looking to experience the days of gaming simplicity, as well as older gamers who may be looking for a strong sense of nostalgia, but at the same time wanting to try something new.
Overall, Curses N’ Chaos is a solid throwback to the NES era, as well as one of the most invigorating and challenging indie experiences on current PlayStation platforms. Those who can brave the challenges will feel and overwhelming sense of satisfaction afterwards, and after experiencing it for myself, I cant recommend it enough.