Brutal. The only word that best describes Tribute Games’ beat ’em up Curses ‘N Chaos. Behind the brutality is a wonderful game that will kick your teeth in and make you beg for more.
Our heroes Lea and Leo have been cursed by the evil Wizard King and the only way to lift the curse is to create the Elixir of Life. This elixir requires ingredients that are only found from the corpses of the enemies you’ll be facing and it won’t be an easy task to get hold of these items.
Curses ‘N Chaos is a throwback to the 8-bit era (graphics included) with 3 lives per stage and a game over that means you have to start that stage all over again. On the surface, this screams frustration, but it serves as a successful learning tool to navigate through the 10 waves per stage (that includes a boss fight). There are four basic moves that you will be very familiar with: regular punch, uppercut, charged punch and a flying kick. In order to be successful you’ll need to use all of these moves to stay alive and to build up combos and points. In addition to your fists and feet, there are random weapon drops that are one use and one carry only. These weapons range from a cross bow to bombs and can really save your ass when things get hairy.
The key to survival is repetition and just a bit of good luck. Every wave has a pattern to it and it can be used to your advantage – so dying isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Each wave eases you in and then it gets a bit crazy towards the end. You can fight at your own pace, but keep in mind that the horde will be absolutely be unmanageable if you do not get rid of the enemies when you see them. To add to the misery, each wave is 60 seconds long and when the time is up, the Grim Reaper comes for your life and one hit will kill you (including the boss fights!!). As you progress through the game, more monsters will appear and these won’t be as easy to defeat as they were when you started the level.
If the challenge is too much for you, there’s also a multiplayer mode that is cross play with the PS4 version. During release week, it took a while to get a game going, but when it did, it was complete fun. You might think that it’s a cheesy way to play but fret not, both players share the same 3 lives so it can get a bit nerve racking towards the final waves of the stage.
Graphically, Curses ‘N Chaos is your average 8-bit pixel game which seems to be the art of choice nowadays. It’s not particularly a bright looking game but it fits the theme quite nicely. The enemies vary from birds to annoying frogs and are not too detailed but it interesting to note that most of them end up being re-skinned and given more health to be “different” which really fits in with the 8-bit art choice. Also what gets lost in the shuffle is that when you get hit or switch out weapons, the “invincibility flicker” tends to muddle things up and it’s hard to see where you and the items are which can mess up your rhythm, especially on a small screen like the Vita. I found this particularly annoying and everything usually went downhill after that.
The soundtrack is probably the best feature of the game. Keeping with its retro theme, the audio took me back to the NES/SNES days with catchy tunes and great sound effects. The sound really complements the graphics and art direction and really makes it that much better to replay the same stages all the time.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am absolutely terrible at this game. I’ve been at it for hours and hours and I’ll make it to the boss only to crap all over myself and lose all my lives on the final wave. But for some reason (insanity?) I’m always coming back for more only to get my teeth kicked in and be begging for more. As someone who loves and is really good at the notoriously hard Souls games, Curses ‘N Chaos puts their difficulty to shame and that’s not a bad thing. It’s highly addictive and is a must play for anyone who wants a great challenge on the go.