Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Tribute Games
Developer: Tribute Games
If there's one thing I've learned from playing Rare Replay, it's this: old games are seldom as good as you remember them. While we may want to pretend that those classic 8- and 16-bit games stand the tests of time, for the most part, the reality was that you spent most of your time in the vast majority of those games fighting with unfair difficulty spikes and lousy control schemes.
In this way, I guess, Curses 'N Chaos may be one of the most accurate retro homages I've ever played. The level of difficulty here is, for the most part, unfair, and not just in a brutally unforgiving, Super Crate Box/1001 Spikes/Cloudberry Kingdom kind of way, either — I mean that this game seems to pride itself on having levels that verge on being almost unwinnable.
You have to battle wave after wave of enemies in 60-second increments, but once you get past the first few levels in any stage, you'll quickly discover that 60 seconds doesn't give you nearly enough time to achieve that, which means you're not only battling enemies that attack in increasingly erratic patterns, you also end up jumping and dodging a quasi-boss until you've cleared the screen of bad guys. This, in turn, is made all the more difficult by the fact that the hit detection on all the enemies, from the lowliest goblins on up, is pretty hit-or-miss (no pun intended). With a bit of trial and error you can usually figure out the correct distance you have to be from enemies for your punches to connect, but when you factor in the variance in distances, the randomness to enemy movements, and the fact you can't walk and punch at the same time, you can see how it's all a bit much to take in.
Moreover, it doesn't help that the game doesn't actively try to help you by, say, letting you know what the controls are. They're not horribly hard to pick up, but there's still enough complexity to some aspects that it feels like they should be included in Curses 'N Chaos proper, rather than being hidden away in an instruction manual that you have to quit to the Vita menu to see.
What's disappointing about all this is that, in theory, Curses 'N Chaos seems like it should be a perfect fit for Sony's handheld. The basic controls are simple enough and each level's stages are short enough that it feels like the game could've been perfect for pick up & play gaming. Not only that, the visuals are fairly undemanding, which means the game never suffers from slowdown no matter how intense the action on the screen may be.
Unfortunately, no matter how good the core of the game may be, there's no getting around the fact that Curses 'N Chaos' execution leaves something to be desired. Its flaws aren't fatal by any means, and could probably be fixed with a patch or two…but until that actually happens, you're probably safe skipping this game.