by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
MacGuffin’s Curse starts simply enough with poor Lucas MacGuffin visiting a museum to procure a sacred amulet. Whilst there, he picks up the amulet from the exhibit and, rather than carrying it, decides to place it around his neck. Unfortunately, when he does so, it has the unusual effect of turning him into a werewolf whenever he is in the moonlight. As a werewolf, Lucas has tremendous strength, enabling the former weakling to smash and move large objects. However, in his brutish form, he is unable to scramble into confined spaces such as through windows and cannot operate computer equipment with his paws. It is these conundrums that form the basis of MacGuffin’s Curse.
MacGuffin’s Curse is a primarily a puzzle game, somewhat reminiscent of one of those slider puzzles where you need to move pieces around to form a desired picture. It also requires gamers to combine Lucas’ two forms in order to solve puzzles and move through to the next phase of the story. With the ‘theft’ of the amulet, the town has gone into lockdown and each ‘level’ requires Lucas to make his way through the security. Sounds simple, but shutting down the security system for each door he needs to pass through can be quite a task. As mentioned previously, Lucas must use his werewolf form to move heavy objects about the location. These heavy objects can be used to trigger weight pads and heavy battery packs must be placed on a deactivation plate, effectively short circuiting the security system and allowing Lucas to pass through the security door.
But it is not just the security system that Lucas has to contend with. In many of the areas, Lucas has a distinct lack of space to move the heavy objects around in. There are obstacles such as walls, water hazards (the werewolf form doesn’t like travelling through water) and electric fences that Lucas must find a way to overcome. The tight confines of the areas mean that Lucas has to be careful in the way in which he moves the objects around the zone.
The early levels certainly give the gamer a taste of how the basic mechanics work, but the tight confines of the locations and the introduction of new obstacles mean that MacGuffin’s Curse gets progressively tougher as you progress through the puzzles. The shallow learning curve and the simple controls mean that gamers from all ages will be able to get into the game. And if you ever get stuck you can ask the grumpy private investigator for some tips. He’ll definitely help you, but also insult you in the process. Also, if you find you’ve made an error during the level, you can always press restart and try again.
The story in the game progresses mostly via dialogue between Lucas and the non-playing characters. The dialogue is all textual, but there is some great humour in the writing and it definitely pays to read through it all. The characters each have their own style, from the gruff ex-cop Roger Strump to the inquisitive Judy to the beautiful and mysterious Gypsy. It also pays to inspect absolutely everything in each of the locations for a couple of reasons. Firstly, some of the descriptions of the items are hilarious, and secondly because loot can be found hidden behind various obstacles. The pop culture references scattered throughout the game are also quite funny, although I only stumbled upon some by accident.
The retro feeling of the gameplay extends to the visuals. The top-down view is reminiscent of the mid-period Ultima (VI and VII) titles and would certainly have a nostalgic feel for fans of those games. The cartoon style of the characters in dialogue mode is pretty cool and the in-game characterisation completes the retro feel with an oversized pixel design. The locations are varied enough to keep things interesting despite the need to go back and forth between certain locations upon completing quests for various local inhabitants. Although there is a distinct lack of vibrancy in the colour scheme, it certainly suits the nature of the werewolf theme despite the humorous dialogue. The screen layout is clear and all the information that you require can be ascertained quite easily.
Simple yet addictive
MacGuffin’s Curse isn’t an overly difficult puzzler, but it combines the slide puzzle element with the dual personas and abilities of Lucas wonderfully. Add to that the comical dialogue and the creepy background music and you’ve got yourself a fun, somewhat addictive indie title. The handy, yet insulting help system works well too, so you never get totally frustrated with a puzzle. And with over 150 levels, MacGuffin’s Curse will have you playing for hours making it well worth the small outlay. The team at Brawsome have definitely aimed for the retro feel especially with the top-down pseudo-isometric view, reminiscent of the middle-era Ultima titles. The simple gameplay and controls make this a game that anyone can play in short bursts or for extended periods, and with the addictive nature of the puzzles be prepared to look at the clock and wonder where the time has gone.
Shallow learning curve. Some great dialogue.
All the dialogue is textual.