Great fun for both your inner child and your actual children
On the day of the arranged marriage of their daughter, the princess of the Crescent Isle, to the prince of the Northern Isle, a warlock swoops in and turns all islanders into hideous monsters. Now it is up to the king and queen of the Crescent Isle to return peace and prosperity to their plagued people, but not without a little help from said accursed subjects.
I love cutesy sidescrolling jump’n’runs and have been looking for a good one akin to the 16-bit and 32-bit classics from the late 1990s and early 2000s on PC for quite a bit. Sadly, most of the platformers I’ve found are aimed at hardcore gamers. With The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX (2015), I finally ran into what I was looking for and it’s amazing … for the most part.
The game is a remake of The Curse of the Crescent Isle (2010) that was released for Xbox Live and is still available on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Now in The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX, the graphics have been vamped up and players can choose between playing as the queen or the king and either venture into the perilous kingdom by themselves or with a friend via local co-op. Way too few games currently offer this option and any product that does should be hailed for having it. What’s even better is that this indie game can not only be played with a keyboard, but also automatically recognizes one’s controller without issues. However, co-op buddies should keep in mind that the camera follows player 1 and does not prevent player 2 from wandering off-screen. It goes without saying that though this is not ideal, it should also not be too hard to avoid. It’s even possible to do a two controller one player run, which I attempted using the keyboard and must say that it was quite a delight. The controls are very crisp, completely rebindable, and for the most part, deaths don’t feel like the game’s fault, but rather that the player messed up.
But it isn’t just the controls that make a good game; no jump’n’run would be complete without great enemy designs, and The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX has some very creative ideas at hand. Jumping on monsters won’t kill them, but instead, players can ride and pick them up; similar to how enemies were handled in Doki Doki Panic (1987) or Super Mario Bros. 2/U.S.A. (1988). The twist this time around is that, after the introduction stage, the whimsy monarchs can use the monsters’ abilities by holding on to them. Some creatures will let the protagonists smash rocks, others freeze water, then again others will let them walk on ceilings, or turn other enemies big.
Since most of the monsters, save for the boss enemies, are citizens of the Crescent Isle, throwing them against one another won’t kill, but merely stun them. The bosses, however can be beaten and each one of them takes just the right amount of analytical thought to figure out how to defeat them. I really miss having to think in video games and sometimes it took a bit for me to realize how to approach a situation properly. During the first boss battle, for example, against a monster called Grondor of the Forgotten Mines, who is a big stone wall, I even spent probably a minute looking for the boss while he was right in front of me the whole time. After that, I knew from what angle the game was coming from and truly enjoyed advancing through the rest of the battles. I also believe that younger audiences playing the game would also love it.
Since The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX is an independent production made by a small team and with all programming done by one man, Adam Mowery, it is only natural to have some charming flaws. I played this on an old toaster (32-bit, Windows Vista Home Premium, Intel Core 2 CPU, Nvidia GeForce 9500 GT, 3070 MB RAM, DirectX 11) and had an overall great experience with some minor issues here and there, but generally nothing that I hadn’t seen on old Nintendo machines either.
When carrying the icicle shaped enemy on one’s head and falling into water, players should be pushed above the water surface, but it did happen twice that the game thought that I was still underwater, despite standing on ice, which caused the character to die from drowning. During one occasion, I threw a stalactite shaped enemy at a bunch of rocks, and upon its return, it catapulted me back into the ground at the beginning of the stage, which also caused the character to die. Then, at one point, I encountered an amusing error. During co-op play, both players were playing as the king, when instead one should be the king, the other the queen. Finally, I suggest playing in the game in fullscreen, as I had some screen tearing and missing frames in windowed mode. Despite these smaller bugs, I had a great time playing.
A minor Dent
The entire game is child friendly and cutesy and if your little ones are in grade school The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX will be just the right balance between tricky/challenging, fun, and length. In short: They’ll have a great time with this game. Still, as The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX comes with achievements, there is one thing that puts a minor dent into things, at least for me. The “Give it Up – Find one of the special messages in the password screen” requires* players to enter one out of a selection of four letter words, many of which are cusswords, to acquire it. Now, I don’t mind cussing in video games or movies, even PG-13 movies allow room for one swear, and the game reprimands players after the word has been entered, but it is still a minor nuisance that an otherwise family oriented game requires one to do this to get an achievement.
*EDIT: I originally wrote that “[it] requires players to enter the F-word on the screen to acquire it”, but thankfully have been since corrected by Adam Mowery. Truth be told, after having read his response to my review, I immediately booted up the game and tried to think of as many four letter swearwords as I could, which made me giggle like a little kid who gets to say a “bad word”; the game’s hilarious admonitions made me smile even moreso and that is not okay. Because now my inner child is totally fine with trying out as many four letter expletives as possible while the outer adult thinks that the inner child should stand in a corner and be ashamed.
The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX is a refreshing sight in the indie game market. It is still a bit unpolished around the edges, but wow, it’s a great game. Just a few tweaks and it’d be perfect. I am 100% certain that, save for that minor dent with the cussword and the occasional bug, families and jump’n’run enthusiasts throughout will enjoy this game. It took me around three hours (taking it a bit slow) to beat the game and I have since replayed it multiple times already. I truly enjoyed exploring the stages, looking for hidden coins and seeing the cutesy enemies. Mr. Mowery and associates, bring out a sequel, if you find the time.
The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX gets an 8 hidden crocodiles out of 10 childhood memories
Where to Get
The Curse of the Crescent Isle DX is available as digital download on Steam for $4.99 USD or your regional equivalent or for $5.00 USD on itch.io. The original The Curse of the Crescent Isle can be accessed on the Xbox Live Marketplace for $1.00 USD or your regional equivalent.
The review already ended up there
As with all other posts, if you feel like it, please feel free to leave a comment. The comment section is completely open and does not need anyone to register or log-in. All screenshots presented here were taken by me during my gameplay and you can also follow my curation on Steam by clicking on this link here: http://steamcommunity.com/groups/gaoscorner#curation