First posted on 07 June 2013. Last updated on 08 June 2013.
The game is available at GamersGate.
A moody atmospheric survival horror game with slow controls but fast enemies is perhaps the simplest way to describe what Cursed Mountain is. Yet, to fully understand the experience that the game's creator is trying to deliver, you must be willing to look deeper into what is among the most unique horror stories to be ever put in an adventure game. Originally developed as an exclusive for the Nintendo Wii, Cursed Mountain has since been ported to the PC and released only a year after its console version.
In Cursed Mountain, you take the role of an experienced mountain climber named Eric Simmons. Eric has travelled to the Himalaya Mountains in search for his younger brother Frank, who has mysteriously disappeared whilst attempting to retrieve an important artifact from the crown of the Chomolonzo Mountain. Following his brother's footsteps, Eric sets out on his own to scale the same hazardous terrain, hoping to find out any leads that may help him to locate his brother. However, it is not long before Eric notices that it is not just Frank who is missing but also all of the inhabitants in the region. Not surprisingly, it is up to Eric to investigate their disappearances and to save his brother from falling into oblivion.
For the most part, the story in Cursed Mountain holds up very well. This is because much of it borrows ideas that are heavily influenced by real Buddhist folklores. In fact, some of the story elements in this game are told in such depth that it is easy to lose your way in the otherwise fictional narrative. Gamers who are easily unsettled by stories that mix fact with fiction may find the storytelling in this game problematic and confusing to follow.
Visually, Cursed Mountain looks pretty good. The graphical details in the PC version seem to have been scaled up ever so slightly from those in the console version. The color palette also appears to be less muted, giving a bit extra character to the game's overall visuals. The graphics are far from perfect, however. The game suffers from a number of ugly textures, especially when looking up close at the reflections in the water or at the walls of some of the buildings, all of which make it more apparent that the game is a console port. Even so, the character textures and lighting effects look generally very good, and the atmospheric fog and snow effects feel as though they are slowly eating away at the screen. Unfortunately, except for screen resolution, there is no ability for you to change the graphical settings in the game to better suit your system's hardware or to adjust the game's performance.
Aurally, Cursed Mountain is extremely creepy and atmospheric. Rather than ramping up to an epic tune during a boss battle so to make you feel invincible, the game instead attempts to keep you on edge by keeping the sounds to a minimum. Every now and again, faint whispers are heard whilst exploring the terrains or fighting the ghosts, as if these voices are stemming from inside Eric's mind so to make you question his sanity. Sound effects are realistic, from the whirling of the icy winds to the panning of Eric's heavy breathing. The voice acting is also well done, without being too cheesy or overdramatic.
Gameplay in Cursed Mountain is pretty much what you can expect from a survival horror game, at least early on. Slow movements and sluggish controls will constantly keep you paranoid about falling prey to sudden attacks. Where Cursed Mountain differs dramatically from other games in this subgenre is how the developer has cleverly implemented a most unique way to take down enemies. At first, you are given only a regular pickaxe which you can swing to attack. Later on, you get hold of some interesting artifacts that will enable you to use energy strikes and even a special ability called the third eye to attack the ghosts. The third eye allows you to send bolts of energy to the ghosts, either killing them outright or pulling them towards you so that you may utilize other melee weapons, such as the pickaxe, to attack them. However, using the third eye also requires you to draw specific patterns on screen with the mouse, which then determines the effectiveness of your attack.
Unfortunately, Curse Mountain is significantly let down by the fact that the game is very linear. Invisible walls litter many of your paths that otherwise look explorable. Unlike other survival horror games, there is no replay value once the game is completed. Without any alternative endings or secret and special items to collect, there is a good chance that you will not be visiting these high mountains again after the game credits have rolled.
Overall, despite its shortcomings, Cursed Mountain is a very respectable presentation that tries hard to be different from the common rabble of survival horror games. The story is superb, and the combat is refreshing. However, I just feel that many gamers may not fully appreciate the deeper spiritual experience that the game's creator seeks to deliver. Nonetheless, for fans of survival horror who are looking for a slightly different adventure, Cursed Mountain is still a worthy summit to try to tackle and conquer.