Curses ‘N Chaos is the latest title from Tribute Games that brought us Mercenary Kings back in 2013. Mercenary Kings was a side-scrolling shooter, which clearly took inspiration from games like Metal Slug. This time with Curses ‘N Chaos you play in a very different way, with static environments and it doesn’t focus on heavy weaponry.
The premise of the game is fairly simple as you play as two bounty hunters known as Leo and Lea. The game has co-op gameplay if you wish, both locally and online. The game sees you fighting oncoming waves of enemies from both sides of the screen. You must defeat all of the enemies and collect the loot that they drop. The gameplay all takes place on a single static screen and the controls are also pretty simple. Compared to Mercenary Kings this feels a lot more stripped back and simplified. Your main attack functions are basically punches, uppercuts, kicking and melee attacks. Attacks can be more powerful and effective if you learn to use your character’s momentum to take on enemies. You can also get better by stringing attack combos together and focus on specific enemy types. Each of the enemies have varied amounts of hits they can take before dying, with bosses having around 6.
The game takes practice and time to learn the different types of enemies and their attack patterns. It becomes a case of trial and error and learning how the creatures move throughout the stage. You will encounter things like giant frogs that leap across the screen, and flying bugs that weave up and down. Each type of monster follows specific movement and attack routines. The key to winning is to learn the patterns, hone your battle skill reactions, and take any lucky item drops that come your way. The game may look pretty simple in terms of pacing and presentation, but this is one of the more challenging games that I have played recently. The only way you will make any progress in the game is to simply play multiple times until you begin to grasp and learn the mechanics within each stage. This may sound frustrating but it actually feels very satisfying once you master each area.
Each stage throws ten waves of creatures to you, which you must kill. Once you have beaten the 10 waves you will face a larger boss battle that takes multiple hits. Each wave lasts for a minute, which is very challenging, and if that wasn’t hard enough at the end of the time period a grim reaper appears and also attacks you. You start out with 3 lives and 5 hearts. You can replenish your health by picking up potions and food that is are dropped by various enemies. It becomes essential that you keep an eye on your health and often prioritise collecting items that are scattered throughout the stage.
The game also has elements of alchemy and preparation which sees you collecting ingredients. Just before you enter each stage you have the chance to visit the alchemist to spend money that you have gathered throughout previous levels. This is why it becomes vital that you collect as much loot as possible. You can purchase weapons, food or even mix items in the chance of creating something better. The shop offers some very helpful items and plenty of weapons. You can even sell weapons back if you wish to do so. During gameplay you can only hold one weapon at a time. If you walk across a weapon you will automatically drop what you’re carrying and pick up something new. This is where I found the game frustrating at times. It would have been nice to either having the option to pick up an object or have some sort of inventory that allows you to switch between weapons.
Much like Mercenary Kings the presentation and visual style is great. It has a retro, pixel art style that works really well with the straightforward gameplay. The character designs and enemy types are varied and interesting. I also appreciated the range of enemies and the different movements and attacks they possessed. Each stage plays out on a static screen, which is a shame as I preferred the side-scrolling style of their previous game. I can understand why the game was designed in this way, but for me it felt a bit claustrophobic. The sound design works well with an upbeat soundtrack that makes the gameplay feel frantic and chaotic.
Overall I enjoyed this game, but not as much as Mercenary Kings. The game is well designed and has a beautiful but simplistic art style. The game may look simple but the gameplay is certainly hard and becomes extremely challenging as you progress. I would have liked to have seen the option to swap weapons during gameplay manually but overall it feels satisfying. It’s a good game that could have been better with a few additions or tweaks.
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