Where many games in the Indie Marketplace mine retro rpgs for modern fun, Curse Of The Crescent Isle looks to platformers for its source material. The first game developed solely by xbox LIVE user AdamTheOtaku looks to bring the precise platforming that made Super Mario Bros successful and mash that together with an interesting power up system. The end product is a 2D game that competes with many other games on the market for a fraction of the price.
"Retro" titles can sometimes fall prey to oversimplifying gameplay, however, Crescent Isle deftly sidesteps this potential pitfall. It doesn't start out too hard, but the difficulty is quickly ratcheted up until you are navigating your way through a maze of ledges, vines, and fireballs. Although difficult, gameplay never feels overwhelming thanks to spot-on controls. If you do make friends with death the protagonist will start back at the beginning of the stage. This provides a pleasant dose of old school difficulty while not becoming overly frustrating thanks to the perfectly sized levels. In an excellent nod to the past, there isn’t an explicit save system; instead, there are level codes which you must jot down or remember. The codes are short enough that remembering them isn’t a problem, but they do add some excellent flavor that would otherwise be lacking.
It isn't all jumping and dodging on your way to break The Isle's curse, the game also includes a number of ridable monsters that can be either picked up or ridden depending on what the situation calls for. These significantly alter gameplay, giving it a puzzle aspect that would otherwise not be present. What’s more, the additional elemnts are smoothly integrated into play, making them feel natural as opposed to a gimmicky add-on. The sole problem with the implementation is that the full you are never fully aware of exactly what any one can change. This means that you’ll occasionally be scratching your head for a puzzle solution only to accidentally stumble upon the answer because of a mistake.
The gameplay can certainly stand on its own two legs, but only becomes all the better when combined with the technical excellence of the game. Your main character has believable animations and the entire world is rendered in classic 2D. Best of all though is the music, which is some of the best chiptune music I’ve heard in an indie game. The biggest knock is that, although the level design is varied, the environments don’t showcase the same uniqueness and look very similar after a while.
Small details like this don’t diminish from the overall fun of Curse Of The Crescent Isle. The game combines excellent platforming elements, varied level design, an interesting power up system, and fantastic music in a retro package that can hang with the best games on the marketplace. The fact that there are 15 levels and five bosses only adds to the longevity, making this game a must own for everyone.
[Curse Of The Crescent Isle]-80 MSP