Curse Crackers Review - With Curses Like These, Who Needs Friends?
Updated: Jul 7
Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils is the second game from Colorgrave, makers of Prodigal. That was a reimagining of GBC-era Zelda with modern design sensibilities and slightly more advanced graphics, and this gives the same treatment to GBC platformers like Shantae. You play as Belle, a former acrobat who can throw her friend Chime (a literal bell) to attack enemies, hit switches, and boost her own jumps. Gameplay takes place in worlds of five levels, each of which has several different types of collectibles to find and three different medals you can earn for completing challenges or going fast. As with Prodigal, most of the content is either post-game or optional. You can reach the credits with about 30% completion if you're determined to do the minimum.
Thankfully, the side content is mostly worth doing. I don't particularly care for the longshot medals, which ask you to hit the end-level target from offscreen, because most of them are trivial to get as long as you remember to do it. The target medals are much more interesting and ask you to hit five targets in order, usually after finding a room that is either hidden or slightly challenging to reach. There are also books, roses, and swords to find in hidden rooms and through extra challenging platforming sections. Sidequests round out the optional content in the regular mode. These are mostly about talking to person X, doing action Y, and then talking to X again, but some involve beating unique levels. I haven't done most of these and found one Getting Over It with Bennet Fody-esque sidequest particularly unfun, but there's undeniably a huge amount here for completionists. I'll probably come back to it to do the hidden levels and arcade mode once guides are out to cut down on the grinding for secrets.
This sort of game lives or dies on how well it controls and how long the mechanisms can stay interesting, so thankfully Curse Crackers does well on both fronts. Aside from some inconsistencies with diagonal throws, it felt consistently great to play. The regular levels do a decent job of not staying on any one type of platforming for too long, and the bosses are all completely different.
Everything else about the game is solid, but unlikely to change your opinion of it much one way or the other. It looks quite good if you enjoy GBC graphics. The music is good, but none of the tracks blew me away. The characters are individually entertaining, but I probably won't remember any of them in a month or two. I have a feeling that my opinion on some of this would be different if I had seen all the optional content at the time of writing, but I also think that what I've seen of the game so far is what most players are going to judge it on. Prodigal stood out more based on its required content than Curse Crackers does.
Still, there's a lot of room to not live up to Prodigal and still be good. Curse Crackers was always going to struggle to reach those heights since I enjoy platformers significantly less than Zelda-style games. It's a good game that, at least until I get around to the optional endgame stuff, hasn't really done anything that I'm likely to remember it for. That's enough to earn a not particularly strong recommendation.
Time to beat: 7.5 hours including doing some optional stuff.
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