|Adventure, Indie, Casual, Puzzle
|PC, Mac, iOS
|April 19, 2012
Why am I always offering to review puzzle games when I know that they could likely drive me to the brink of insanity? Once more I dove headfirst into the genre with the game MacGuffin’s Curse. I did this hoping all the while that my brain power would hold out and that I could get through the game with minimal difficulty, without having a fit, cursing the game, or generally feeling bad about myself for not being able to solve a puzzle. As soon as I started the game I was instantly drawn into it, which eased my fears a bit. Snarky characters, a dark setting and a wolf will do that almost every time for me.
The story of MacGuffin’s Curse follows Lucas, a one time magician and part time thief. He is currently looking for an amulet that will help him get his landlord off his back. He goes and gets himself into some trouble doing this, which is not surprising. Trying to steal things usually doesn’t go well, right? You take control, move a few screens, and come across a new character who seems pretty shady. This is Strump. You two talk a bit and he realizes that you are up to no good. Though Lucas tries acting all innocent, that doesn’t work well for him! Knowing what you are really trying to do, Strump gives you a walkie talkie so that you can keep in contact with him. Even when he is helping you he is a smart-ass. I always looked forward to hearing what types of things he would say to Lucas next.
While browsing around on someone’s property looking to steal the amulet, Lucas finds more than he bargained for. He unlocks a curse. A nasty curse that turns him into a wolf. A big gnarly looking wolf with amazing strength, but still a wolf. You thought it was bad when you got caught doing something sketchy! At least you didn’t grow a tail and an immense amount of body hair! As you trigger this curse you find a piece of a comic strip. These are a fun addition that you completionists will be able to find throughout the game. You also trigger an alarm system that becomes the premise of the gameplay and overall puzzle structure that you will be solving through the rest of the game.
The security system starts blaring and needs to be disarmed. Not only is the alarm working in your current location, but it has also taken effect for the whole town. Now almost everywhere you need to go will involve a lot more work to disarm the alarm. The system seems rather silly since it is just a battery that has been moved and will need to be placed back in the correct place in the room. Once you do this, the power will work in the room you are in and you will be able to open the doors to get to another area. Actually, I guess this isn’t too silly since mere mortals cannot move the large batteries. Since Lucas now has superhuman strength as a wolf though we are good to go.
Speaking of transforming into a wolf: this is not only a fun addition to Lucas’ looks. Lucas must change back and forth in the moonlight from human to wolf in order to complete certain tasks. Transforming is super easy to do. Stand in the moonlight in any given room and click the N key on the keyboard. As a human he can swim through water, open doors and trigger things, but as a wolf he cannot. There are some benefits of being a wolf of course. In this form he can move heavy objects around the screen, which you have to do in order to move onto the next room. However, in wolf form you lack the ability to wade through water or operate any gadgets.
The puzzles range from easy to mind-boggling. Your overall objective stays steady with you turning the alarm system off by placing the battery where it needs to be. The mind-boggling aspect comes in when you have to wade across a creek as a human to hit a switch then transform to a wolf, move a crate two spots, transform back to a human to hit another switch (on platform type things) then trigger another switch in the floor, transform again, move another crate and etc. Some crates (or boxes) can only be pushed forward, adding to the mind-boggling aspect as you have to position Lucas in the right place to be able to move this nasty crate! Some crates may be placed in the room where you only have one free spot on either side of it. When that happens you are very limited in where you can move the crate to. You will often have to move it across an entire room just to have another space where you can push it up on and then back to where you need it to be. That is the part that generally had me screaming for help- which I was able to do since Strump offers tips or will even solve a room for you. I suck at figuring things like that out, but for those of you who have brains that see the puzzle and immediately figure out what to do, you will be in heaven proving your puzzle solving prowess throughout MacGuffin’s Curse.
The boss battle that you will encounter is pretty self-explanatory, but can be quite a pain. When you walk up to the boss character he will push a crate towards you. Your plan of attack is to push it back at him. This goes on for a few screens while you figure out how to push the crates at him before you are done. If you mess something up, just make use of the reset feature and start from the beginning of the battle.
Opening new areas and discovering the world and those who dwell in it is done through fetch quests. These will have you returning to different areas looking for new clues and discovering more loot or evidence. Lucas will run into many characters he will need something from in order to continue his mission and get rid of his curse. They will of course not give him something for nothing. That would be too easy. Though I kept thinking he should just turn into a wolf and scare them until they complied, that wouldn’t have made for much of a game. Instead, each person will require you to perform a specific task before helping you. Think of it as a “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” type of deal. Sometimes you will have to find a certain item while other times you will have to talk to other NPCs in the game. One such character that you will run into is Judy. She is searching for the truth! THE TRUTH! She is obsessed with the truth of everything and enlists your help to uncover it. You find her evidence throughout the game by searching everything you come across, and in return she gives you things like keys that open doors to areas you need to be in. All of the NPCs have a different personality and offer a lot to the game.
The game’s controls are fairly simple and work really well. You use the arrow keys on the keyboard to move Lucas around. The N key is used to go through doors and windows, will trigger things (like pedestals in the puzzle rooms), and search items for loot or missing items. The M key is used once Lucas has transformed into a wolf and allows you to move objects around the screen. Escape will open your menu where you can access things like your map.
Each area of the town like the library, junkyard and museum have a style and flair that make them stand out. The dark theme of the visuals in this game vibed well with me. The basic structure of the puzzle rooms remains the same, but decorations and different puzzle sets are different enough to keep things fresh. Inside areas have pictures, lamps, desks and etc. The outside places have plenty of benches, light fixtures and garbage cans for you to search through for loot, evidence and anything else that you might need. Streams are located throughout the game, as are flowers and trees. I enjoyed the look of the game overall and was pleased to see lots of decorations thrown around the town that really make the place feel complete. The game rewards you well for paying attention to all of the details in the town, as you can find treasure all over the place and some of the things that Lucas says when he searches around are quite amusing.
The sounds found in MacGuffin’s Curse are intriguing and odd, but in a fun, dance around in your seat way. Background music plays as you are solving the puzzles, but you also have many sound effects that you can hear. The swoosh of the mechanical doors can be heard as you go in and out of rooms. When a dialog box is open you hear a sound similar to pages in a book being turned. When Lucas transforms into a wolf he sort of howls, and when he transforms back into a human he lets out an odd grunt. That is not surprising since it probably hurts to have your whole body change into something different. Placed throughout the game are boulders and piles of dirt that you can demolish as a wolf, and when you do, you hear a cool thud as his wolf paws tear through them. Outside places have owls whooing in the distance from time to time. When you trigger a switch that pops up part of a path over a stream, you hear a banging as the path pops into or out of existence. Music tracks are available at the pawn shop and you can listen to them with the radio found in Lucas’ room at home. Details like this really add to the fun of the game.
The game focuses on sidequests or fetch quests and these can be done even after you finish the NPCs’ main quests. Other additions to the game are badges, a Quest Log, and the comic strips I mentioned earlier. The Quest Log is a fantastic addition since it keeps you on track with what you need to be doing. Different things will trigger the badges, which are in-game achievements, so play around with the game and see what you can unlock. The badges can be found in the game’s menu just like the comic strips. You can save the game at any point through the menu and three save slots are available.
The game is $9.99 for PC and Mac. I didn’t keep up with the exact time I logged playing through the game, but it had to be somewhere around 10-15 hours, and there are still things in the game that I need to find. With the level of detail that was put into this game you will want to keep going back to it and discover everything it has to offer.
I am not ashamed to admit that I could be seen clapping, smiling like a fool and dancing around just a bit when I completed a puzzle that was especially challenging. If you enjoy a funky storyline with interesting characters and solving puzzles suits you, then you will find MacGuffin’s Curse an enjoyable, time-consuming game that you can really sink your teeth into.
Copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.