by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
I do enjoy a good mystery, and psychological horror coupled with that is a really interesting concept. Phantom 8’s Past Cure has a lot of very ambitious ideas and I sincerely enjoy the concept of the game. However, there are some hurdles to cross, and they are not always worth leaping over. I had some really serious issues getting this started, but I do not know if everyone will. It’s worth a mention though. The game defaulted the camera rotation to 0, so I could not aim or look around and my first probably 20-30 minutes were spent wondering why every pistol shot made me look higher and higher and I could not aim. This meant I died seven or eight times to the second enemy in the game. I couldn’t melee them either, much to my chagrin. Once they get close to you, an event triggers and they kill you. I spent a lot of time trying to figure this out but I could not. This is mostly for the start of the game mind. You get really cool melee combos and finishers after the initial area.
Past Cure has us playing as Ian, a former military badass that now lives on a beach in a truly extravagant house. He has these horrific nightmares and takes blue pills to recover his sanity. It’s kind of a catch-22, because he gains powers from these pills as far as I understand, but now takes them to keep from going insane. This game poses a lot of mysteries though: Who is the woman? What does she mean to Ian? Why did his dad make him play chess for cookies? I really like that the game is mysterious, but the plot is just so disjointed and hard to keep up with. Between unanswered questions and things that simply do not make sense, I like the idea, but it’s just not working. Everything about it felt . . . monotone. The acting seldom draws me in to leave me wanting more. The level design, while not terrible, feels very linear. It’s either linear or a maze of rooms that just look the same, like in the tutorial. I do wish the tutorial was not as long as it was. Third person shooters are not all that uncommon, after all. I was far more interested in learning about Ian’s powers.
The big stand-out for me is the superpowers that Ian’s medication give him. You can astral project, and use it to press buttons and get a look around you, solve puzzles and get a leg up on your enemies. It doesn’t feel like enough was done with this, and it was shoehorned into the game to make the plot more psychological or supernatural. I found myself popping shots into people more than anything. There are concepts that are introduced and never seen again, which really disappointed me. I wanted more of those horrific mannequins/dolls to show up as my sanity meter waned, but alas, they did not. Past Cure is a game with potential, a game that had some really terrific ideas. There are definitely things I like though. The camera work is solid, and the atmosphere of the game is appropriately mysterious and haunting. The horror/nightmare sections of the game are just wonderful. I also love where your sanity meter starts to drop and the screen gets all shaky and trembles as if he starts to lose his mind in some kind of seizure or is beginning to hallucinate again.
Sure, in the tutorial it’s very clear to see where the horror dolls are coming from (red lights under the doors), but the whole setting is just wonderful. I feel like perhaps they tried to do too much with the character. Did he have to be a rich, badass, smart, Batman-but-former-military character? Kind of took me out of the story, if I’m being honest. I enjoyed the graphics for the most part. Some of the animations feel wonky, but for what they have produced, I have no complaints about how it looks and feels. Phantom 8 has nothing to be ashamed of on that point. The story is intriguing, and if so many things weren’t introduced then forgotten about, I’d probably love it. Combat was very good, as well. You have buttons that work nicely, the animations for the melee combat were pretty awesome, and I will say, once I fixed my aiming issues, they never came back again.
Who’s Cure Is This Anyway? 2.5/5
Despite the many flaws that Past Cure presents, I sincerely enjoyed the concept. Some of the areas felt very bland and empty, some of the characters did not seem interested in delivering their lines with any kind of emotion, and there are many unanswered questions. I do feel like 30 bucks might be a high asking price for a game that needed some more TLC in the bug-fixing process, and for such a short game. But I don’t want Phantom 8 to be discouraged as an indie stream because they have some very intriguing ideas that I would love to see more of in future games. I like the world they are putting together and I want to see more of it. There are some sincerely frustrating moments, and while I was let down by the presentation, I do still find myself wanting to know more. This is a story that could probably make a terrific psychological horror book too, now that I think about it. I in no way think this is a terrible game, but I do feel it lets the player down in quite a few places. I think perhaps fans of this genre might get more out of it than I did, but I think if it were 20 dollars or so, it might be a bit more palatable in terms of its length and difficulty. What Past Cure needs is some direction. There are simply too many things jumbled together. Too many genres are happening at once. With a bit of guidance and narrowing what the story is trying to do just a little bit, it would be leaps and bounds better.