Curse of the Crescent Isle

Do you know what the key to critical acclaim is on Xbox Live Indie Games?  No, it’s not having a good game.  Don’t be silly.  It’s having a retro-style graphics and gameplay that borrows mechanics from a popular 80s NES hit.  If you have that, you have a game that will have more praise dumped on it than a parrot that sings Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.  Which is ironic given that most of these new-retro titles just poorly mimic the classics the same way a parrot mimics a song.  Sometimes praise is deserved.  Stuff like Escape Goat or Aesop’s Garden comes to mind.  Most of the time, the end result is cute and charming but ultimately just kind of exists as a weird novelty.

Take today’s Katch-Up game, Curse of the Crescent Isle.  It has pretty good NES style graphics without the slightest taint of anything modern to ruin the effect.  The story is appropriately insane.  You take the role of a King who has to save the people of his land from a, um, something or another that has turned them into, some.. things.  Honestly, I’m not sure what the fuck happened, but who cares?  I couldn’t figure out why anything happened to anyone in any 8-bit game, so why should I expect to start now?  It’s all about the gameplay, which is modeled after the platforming and lifting mechanics of Super Mario Bros. 2.  Only here, the enemies you pick up can be used as tools.  It’s a sensible evolution on the established concept.

It’s hard to lift with your knees when all you have is a beet-red anus for legs.

Here’s the problem: the game sucks.  Allow me to elaborate.  Super Mario 2 overall controlled decently, as long as you picked the right character.  I never used Mario, because his jumping was too weak.  I stuck with Luigi, who wasn’t quite as pitifully slow as the Princess, but could also jump higher and further than her.  In a game that is all about jumping, it made sense to me.  Unfortunately, Crescent Isle is all about jumping too, but you’re stuck with someone who controls like Mario did.  Oddly enough, the gravity feels strong, but the controls overall feel way too loose.  I can’t tell you how many times I would jump for a vine, grab it, but then coast straight off the side of it.  It was like the King lubed his hands up with Vaseline before jumping.

The biggest issue with Crescent Isle is how badly implemented the mechanics are.  The control scheme is very clunky.  You pick up enemies with the X, but you also use X to switch between lifting them over your head or putting them below your feet.  You jump with A and throw with B.  It’s messy and never feels intuitive.  There’s also problems with the physics of lifting and throwing.  Enemies can’t really die.  If you throw them into each-other, it just knocks one out.  Once they hit each-other, they ricochet back and typically cause damage if they float anywhere close to you.

The only thing Crescent Isle does well is puzzles.  There are some clever ones that make neat use of the enemies’ skills.  Sadly, the impact of those puzzles is lost due to the lack of check-points combined with the horrible play control.  And that’s not even taking into account when the game glitches out on you.  During the second stage, there are puzzles that require you to use an ice monster to freeze fireballs shot out of a pipe, then use them as stepping-stones.  It was clever the first time they used it.  After a dozen times, it was tedious and lame.  Especially since the fireballs sometimes would just go away instead of staying in place as a block.  Or there was the time that I froze a fireball, it disappeared, and the pipe never spit out another one.  I was stuck there, and that fucking sucks.  Sure, you can pause the game and restart the level, but it had taken me around ten minutes to get to that point.  And that was just that one attempt, not counting all the lives I lost trying to get there before that.  The puzzles lose their zing when the game’s lack of debugging causes you to replay them over and over again.  Hell, I lost count of how many times an enemy pushed me through a solid wall and to my death.  No wait, I didn’t.  It was ELEVEN FUCKING TIMES!

Why does the King always look like he’s constipated?

Ultimately, Curse of the Crescent Isle just isn’t that fun.  The controls are bad, the levels are too sprawling, and the concept is just kind of boring.  Of course, Crescent Isle has 8-bit style graphics and is almost kind of like Super Mario 2, so it got critical acclaim.  When I read how this was received by other critics, I was kind of flabbergasted.  You know, there was another 8-bit clone of Super Mario 2 once upon a time.  It was called Bible Adventures.  I never played it, but I certainly know of its reputation.  I have a theory that if that game came out today and was on Xbox Live Indie Games, it would be considered really good.  Why?  Because it meets all the criteria for critical acclaim on the platform.  8-bit?  Check.  Clone of a flagship title?  Check.  Actually fun?  Who cares?  Oh, don’t scoff!  You know I’m right.

Curse of the Crescent Isle was developed by Adam the Otaku

80 Microsoft Points never played Duck Tales on the NES so I can’t accurately compare this to that in the making of this review.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

3 Responses to Curse of the Crescent Isle

  1. Love the evolution of SMB2’s lifting mechanic (where different enemies have different mechanics)…will have to give the demo a go but yeah, even in the trailer the jumping momentum looks questionable 😦

  2. I’m with you on the praise thing. An 8-bit homage and a unique take on Mario 2 (fun, but my least favorite of the series) is a sound idea in concept, but man, your mechanics have got to be the priority. Make all the >< faces you want, no one wants to play a game with bad control. Also, fun required. Long, glitchy levels with no checkpoints do not a fun game make. I'll probably check out the demo myself, but it doesn't sound promising.

  3. GaTechGrad says:

    I just played the demo, and I had fun with it. The controls were fine to me, and having the B button to throw really didn’t bother me. I wasn’t able to figure out how to use the special powers of some of the enemies I picked up, or if those had any special powers available at all in the first place. The enemies that did have special powers seemed to be well done (the Scrooge McDuck pogo stick was a nice touch). The ricochet effect when you throw an enemy did seem like it needed to be toned down a bit. My only problem with the game was the huge jump in difficulty after you enter the caste and try to solve the puzzle where you have to collect the four items. This made the more difficult levels in Metroid and MegaMan seem like a cakewalk. People who are experts at platformers should not be allowed to do level design for a platformer. For a stage that early in the game, they should have limited the number of enemies shooting at you as well as decreasing the number and speed of projectiles. The slower than molasses scrolling title screen that can’t be skipped was also a pain. I usually get aggravated if I’m not playing within 7 seconds of the game launching.

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