Presentation is important. It can be the difference between a mediocre game and a good game on occasion. However, I am conflicted when playing Deep Silver’s “Cursed Mountain” for the Wii. The game releases tomorrow for all of you survival horror nerds and I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time today with the schizophrenic title. I say that as both a compliment and a jab in this case because while the title presents a good atmosphere it also disrupts that atmosphere at nearly every turn. I’ve spent a couple hours with the title and though I’m intrigued by where the story is headed and am enjoying myself enough to continue I keep shaking my head and thinking, it wouldn’t have been that hard to make this so much better with just a little tweaking.
As these are impressions of my first play time with the title and not a full review there’s not much to say just yet. The graphics are top notch for the Wii. Probably some of the best you’ll find from a third party, in fact. It’s not incredibly pretty and I swear some PS2 games looked nicer, but it features solid animation and appropriate effects. The sound effects and music, so far, steal the show. Hearing every footstep is an important thing to me in a survival horror title. Each one carries an appropriate weight which seems to reflect the burdened nature of the character as he runs down empty hallways in a small mountain town searching for answers. The music itself isn’t catchy, but it fits the mood perfectly. It’s very low key, reminding me of Silent Hill 1’s soundtrack (which was less impressive than the music in its sequels but really let you hear that unnerving “silence” a bit more).
And yet, just as I’m getting into the game I am taken right back out of it. I understand that tutorial text pop ups are a common part of games nowadays (and not necessarily a bad one) but when my character doesn’t even know there are ghosts in town yet you shouldn’t, when telling me that the Z button will make my character run, tell me to be careful not to attract ghosts. Furthermore, why are all of these journals and notes I get to read found in jars I break with my ice axe? Some of them have been on tables, sure, but shouldn’t they ALL be? Pots? Really? This isn’t Zelda.
I’m hoping that once I get through the game’s birth pangs I’ll get to play what I hope is a diamond in the rough. The opening prologue showed lots of promise, with actual mountain climbing with a partner communicating with you over the wiimote’s speaker (like a radio, get it?) when you couldn’t see him. If they explore that concept some more as the game progresses there will be a lot for the survival horror fan to appreciate here. The story itself is about one character searching for another (in this case a man searching for his brother), a typical survival horror scenario. Yet it is improved upon with the idea of the mountain this brother went to climb having never been summited before and the player being left with an ominous idea of why. Throw in the possibility of ghosts as being hallucinations due to altitude sickness (a very real thing) and some Buddhist type notes to get your fear of foreigners pumping and there is definitely some potential here.
But then the game throws me a note saying, “We Sherpas were worried about Bennett’s expedition from the start.” We Sherpas… Now all I can do is think of them as munchkins and I’m taken right back out of the game again. Presentation means everything.
Though with so little play time I can still see that one thing about this game is quite clear. This is survival horror through and through. This isn’t RE action horror, I’m talking lots of time spent exploring and not fighting anything. Don’t even consider the game unless you’re into the genre.