+Extremely well-designed sound effects and music tracks
+Controls are intuitively designed for players of all ages
+Extremely well-done atmospherics
-Voice acting has a lot of room for improvement across the board
-Controller feedback options such as vibration are non-existent
-An extremely convoluted story that really needs some strong editing
-Struggles to find a tone that the game should have throughout its duration
Ever since the release of Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, all eyes have been on the possibility of a triple-A indie game future. Since Germany-based indie team Phantom 8 Studios’ announcement of Past Cure, I felt my attention continually draw towards the game since its reveal.
With some of the best-looking trailers out there, Past Cure appeared to be a game that would draw in fans of major franchises such as Max Payne, The Evil Within, and even Silent Hill, however, much of that changed within the opening moments of the game. But were these changes good enough to keep it alive or do they make the game a hard pass? Let’s take a look.In Phantom 8 Studios’ Past Cure, players take the role of Ian, a former member of the armed forces has been put through a mysterious set of human trials that have left him with horrific side-effects. With a three-year gap in his memory, a variety of unique psychic abilities, and an insurmountable amount of horrific nightmares to suffer through.
Even with all of his unique abilities and loss of memories, Ian isn’t the happiest man on Earth. Due to the tests, Ian is haunted by what has happened to him due to his haunting dreams and as so, Ian has set out to discover what has happened to him, what the shadowy men who exploited him wanted, and what they were attempting to achieve.
While the plot itself shows some attention to detail and potential, it’s one that finds itself caught up in its super-serious tone, one that feels like a slog from the moment it begins and becomes insufferably hard to endure throughout the course of the game. While the story itself is hard to suffer through, the overall problem isn’t just its story, but even its graphics. While the game does use Unreal Engine 4, making the graphics within the game questionable from time to time.With frequent framerate issues, bland set designs, and a horrific problem with reduced resolution and on-screen pop-in’s, the trailers and even promotional shots make the game feel as if it all had been taken pre-rendered at higher resolutions. Toss in the fact that outside of a single well-placed piece of public domain classical music, the soundtrack is all-but-forgettable outside of its trailer score. While the world in Past Cure certainly hasn’t scratched its surface by any means, it doesn’t mean this one doesn’t suffer and can easily get away from it.
But how can you review a game in such a questionable position in any form? Well the truth is, it’s a bag of mixed tricks that don’t quite come together as Phantom 8 Studios would have anticipated, but not in a bad way nor a good way, but one of those ways that should be considered a lesson to learn from when it comes to being a newly formed team. Unfortunately for Phantom 8 Studios, the lesson is going to be a giant pill to swallow.
First off, let’s talk gameplay as a whole. With the many games that Past Cure is inspired by, it’s hard to understand what design decision came from where and how the team decided to go about it. Starting off, Past Cure takes a drastic spin into a Max Payne meets The Suffering spin, one where players are tossed into one of Ian’s nightmares from the start. In this nightmare, we get a glimpse of one of the many settings we’ll become accustomed to; a dark house-like structure that’s disorganized, broken, and turned upside down.
In this house, players will find several things become a returning repetition throughout the game. Moments in combat are often highlighted by doors closing, locking players into designated zones of where combat will occur. In these rooms, enemies will appear in a rather traditional way with a single sound that indicates their arrival before they come trudging forth. These faceless enemies within this world, as creepy as they are, are just as threatening, single shotting a player in one fell swoop, leaving them to start over from the very last checkpoint made.While in this tutorial zone, it’s already noticeable how poorly designed this game actually is. Gunplay is lacking in many ways, it feels almost unresponsive as players pelt their foes with what few bullets they are given throughout the game. Unfortunately, those who may not be able to aim headshots may find themselves starting the prologue over a time or two causing some player to steer away before they even get into the core game itself.
If you’ve made it this far, things don’t exactly begin to get anything better after this arduous tutorial that players will ever experience. From here, things don’t improve by any means as players will feel as if they are knee deep in a pool of molasses. From here, you learn how to use many of the games other systems while in Ian’s brother’s beach house where he’s been given a chance to collect himself. Players will familiarize themselves with many of the game’s systems including aiming, shooting, and a really annoying melee combat.
Toss in the fact that Ian droves on through an over-reliance of arduous tutorials and laborious story scenes, and a problem is already becoming a bigger one. As the story gets underway, it’s hard to pay attention to what’s going on since the story scenes take place with disconnected voices, ones that carry on about story elements that will make little sense to those who give the game a chance till much later in.
And that’s the major problem, the entire game feels disconnected in many ways. The game attempts to infuse creative uses of astral projection and Ian’s ability to slow down time, something reminiscent to that of Max Payne’s bullet time events. Within an hour or so, Past Cure takes a bit of a different turn, forcing players to learn the games use of stealth mechanics. At one point, forcing players to eliminate the enemy through close-quarters combat and stealth kill related mechanics.
Some of these mechanics include players using Ian’s psychic abilities, allowing players to give themselves an advantage over their AI foes. The downside about Past Cure and stealth is that it follows the tedious dialogue of get spotted or don’t. While stealth itself is indeed fun, don’t expect it to become a mainstay portion of the game, a good chunk of the time, bullets will be flying in every other direction.
While gunplay itself does have moments of enjoyability, the action of shooting Ian’s gun still doesn’t feel as if it matters. While it’s nice to see enemies fell by a single shot. Even as nice as having the ability to aim sounds, Ian doesn’t even respond to the action of scoping in but rather keeps the gun at a semi-chest high position versus eye-level shooting. While this is just a minor oversight, it still leads to a bigger problem, which is the overall quality of the game itself.
One of the worst issues this game has is collision detection. One enemy took five shots to the head, before the sixth shot finally counted, sending my enemy to the floor and ragdolling about. Toss in the fact games since the beginning of the Xbox 360 era solved this problem, it makes you wonder what had happened and if Phantom 8 Studio will be working on this problem. Toss in the fact the AI struggles to outwit the player in every way possible but fails to do so is frustrating, it’s boring and most of all: there’s no challenge.
Other issues such as poor checkpoint placements come out as poorly designed as well, which often sees to players tossed to a previous point quite a ways prior to where they were for a single mistake, sometimes being simply because bullets didn’t register as they should. Another issue the game has is pinpointing where objectives are. One case had me running around Ian’s beachside home for around 15 minutes trying to find out where I needed to go or what I needed to do.Truth is? I didn’t know how to get to his private office. The game didn’t indicate or convey my objective by any means. There wasn’t a single onscreen indicator to highlight the direction I needed to go or anything of the sort. It didn’t even just happen at Ian’s house, it even happened during a late-game mission where I had to sneak about a multi-tiered building eliminating any enemies in my way before being able to move on with the story.
While such shortcomings could be forgiven through the inclusion of gameplay that seemed inspired and filled with passion, I could forgive such flaws within a game, but as it stands, Past Cure is a painful endeavor. Even with the use of things such as Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven, a possible nod towards Resident Evil and an inspiration from the movie Inception, Phantom 8 Studios has a bit of a problem on their hands.
Past Cure – PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed) and Xbox One
Developer: Phantom 8 Studio
Publisher: Phantom 8 Studio
Release Date: Available Now
While Past Cure has a chance through a series of updates to become the game the studio hoped it would; Past Cure isn’t a game I can recommend. It’s one that could very well have spent a bit more time in development in order to improve upon these shortcomings through extensive closed-testing and some strong Q&A. Even with my newfound appreciation for indie games int he past few years, I’m having a hard time cutting Phantom 8 Studio any slack on their low-budget title.
However, if you do see yourself potentially playing this game, I do urge you to proceed with caution and wait to see what kind of improvements Phantom 8 Studio has planned for their game. At this time, however, it may be best advised to wait until the team manages to kink out all the bugs in their game.
Our review is based on a retail version that was provided to us by the publisher of the game. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
Final Score: 5 out of 10
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPGs, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.