Cursed Mountain Updated Impressions
We brave the toughest terrain on Earth to look at this new game from Deep Silver.
If there's one genre where the Wii is sorely lacking, it's survival horror games set in the Himalayas. Austrian developer Deep Silver (formerly Rockstar Vienna) is looking to fill that gap next year with the release of Cursed Mountain, a game in which you play a backpacker on a quest to save his brother from a mysterious Tibetan curse. Deep Silver was eager to show off some of the game's early concept art back in August at the Leipzig Games Convention, but it was only a few weeks ago that we saw the game up and running for the first time.
Portraying an authentic representation of Buddhism and Tibetan folklore is a primary area of focus for Deep Silver, given the game's heavy reliance of mythology. That attention to detail begins before the game even starts. The backstory tells you about Frank's brother, a climber who failed to make the ritual offering to the mountain known as "The Sacred One" before attempting to scale its peaks. Whether he's angered the mountain's spirits or just fallen into the preying hands of an angry yeti is uncertain, but he's disappeared, and that's enough to send Frank on a search to find him.
Because mountains are such a big theme in the game, the idea of verticality is very important to the gameplay. At any moment in the game, you need only look up to see the summit of the Sacred One. That summit is your ultimate goal, which means you're never at a loss to know where to go--just go up and you'll be fine. However, this ease of navigation comes at a price. The effects of altitude wreak havoc on Frank's senses; he has to be very deliberate with his movements and often can't differentiate reality from oxygen-deprived illusions.
This fog of death plays a large role in the game's psychological horror aspects. Battles often suck you into a shadow world where spirits of long-dead climbers and monks who have become stuck in limbo rather than reincarnation or nirvana seek to take their aggressions out on you. In these situations, you'll need to perform what Deep Silver calls ritual hand gestures to defeat these spirits and free them from eternal limbo. This often boils down to searching the ghost for a gesture and mimicking it with the Wii Remote to send it away. At this early stage, the mechanics seem a bit simple, but the scary look of the ghosts does help to add a layer of fright to the action.
Besides motion control, Cursed Mountain will employ the use of a few other features unique to the Wii. At one point, Frank falls into an icy crevasse and finds a walkie-talkie on a dead climber. Though the corpse suggests he's been gone for a long time, the radio is mysteriously functional. You'll actually hear voices guiding you through the Wii Remote's speakers--not the television--to free you from this ice maze. We're told this strange voice at the other end of the walkie-talkie is one of the many shadowy characters you'll meet in the game, all helping you to unravel the mystery of your missing brother in their own odd ways.
Visually, it's hard to form a solid opinion of Cursed Mountain given how early the build was that we were shown. "Rough around the edges" would be a polite way of putting it, but even at this stage in development, we can see a few of Deep Silver's artistic ambitions coming to fruition. One of them is to provide you with an unceasing sense of scale by constantly keeping every distant monastery, village, and icy peak in your view no matter how far you've progressed through the game. In one situation, we were shown an authentic-looking Himalayan monastery complete with dizzying stairways and ornate architecture, but we were soon taken back to a save several hours prior to that where the monastery was just a tiny building in the far-off distance.
Cursed Mountain is currently scheduled for release sometime in 2009. We'll keep you updated on the game's progress.
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