What is it?
is not a conventional adventure game. In fact, in the early stages of
playing the game, I almost sent it back, with the line, "What choo talkin'
WillisBecky," quivering at the tip of my tongue. But I
played on and came to the realisation that even a top-down block puzzle
game can land on an adventure game reviewer's list when it has many
adventure features, as this one does.
The developers of MacGuffin's Curse are Brawsome, an
independent Australian outfit that specialises (according to their website
FAQ) in point and click adventures. If this is so, then MacGuffin's
Curse is something of a departure for them, as the game is keyboard
controlled for the most part, and feels very much like it could be ported
to a console or touch-screen tablet/phone medium with relatively little
change to the gaming experience. I think this marks Brawsome out as a
bunch of smart cookies!
As for distribution, the game is available on Steam, along
with the usual infrastructure of achievements and community support.
One thing, though - the word 'maguffin' or 'macguffin' does
seem to be the gaming word of the moment. What's with that, people?
Is there a plot?
Now here's where we get to see if this game really does
qualify as an adventure game (believe me, it is so not a Darkside
is full of plot. There's the overall plot that covers Lucas MacGuffin's
search for a way to free himself of the curse, and there are many, many
sub-quests for things like evidence of corruption in town, or getting a
petition signed by the right people, or finding a particular book in the
Restricted Section of the town library, or finding and scaring all the
members of a biker gang who're scattered around town. There are many more.
Some quests form part of the overall search for release from the curse,
and others are just for completeness (buying everything from the
shop, for example). By the way, there are so many of these sub-plots that
I don't feel that what I've just written spoils the rest of the game.
How do you play?
The main game-play elements of MacGuffin's Curse are
the maze-like nature of the game world, and the moving blocks puzzles. The
town of Feyre is a carnival city under curfew - something of a
contradiction. It is a complex maze of houses, town hall, library, junk
heap, park, shops, and more.
Each location is a 10x10 square room containing all sorts
of objects and obstacles. Lucas MacGuffin can interact with most objects,
some of which contain clues, and others that just tell parts of the story
- but his main objective in most rooms is to solve the moving block
puzzle. When you enter a room, there is usually one or more exit that is
locked, or a safe that is not immediately reachable. Your job is to move
the power source (battery) to its socket in the room, and/or gain access
to the safe. However, there are obstacles in the room (walls, water, force
fields, doors, trapdoors, etc.) that make it a puzzle as to how to achieve
the goal. Some rooms are easy, some more complex - there were two or three
rooms that completely defeated me. It seems that there are in excess of
150 (one hundred and fifty!) puzzle rooms - two or three failures isn't
bad then, even if I do say so myself.
Moving Lucas around is achieved with the cursor keys, or W,
A, S, D keys. There are several other hot keys, like Q for your quest log,
Z for radioing P. I. Strump, R for resetting a puzzle room, or for notes
from the developer on screens where you've solved the puzzle. The Escape
key takes you to the menu, from whence you can find all the comic pieces
you've collected, your inventory of items (also reachable from the quest
log), the options menu, the save & quit button, and the quick travel map.
As the game progresses, the quick travel map becomes a sanity saver!
And whilst we're talking about saving things, the game
automatically saves your progress every time you leave a location, so you
can't lose more than a single room solution even if the game crashes,
which it never did whilst I was playing it. The only control you have over
the save games is that you have three profiles from which you can choose.
There's one really significant part of the game experience
I've not covered yet, and that's the fact that Lucas is a werewolf; he can
transform himself between human and wolf forms in any location that has
moonlight cast on the ground. This is important because Lucas' human and
wolf forms have different abilities and limitations, so that solving most
rooms becomes in part a realisation of which form Lucas needs to be in to
perform each stage of the solution. Most of the solutions are not very
complex, but some of them can have many steps to them, so expect some
Speaking of frustration, there's a three-stage hint system
for every room, in the form of P.I. Strump, one of the non-player
characters you'll meet in the game. He can give you a hint as to how to
solve a room, more explicit instructions on how to solve it, or actually
allow you to skip the room altogether. This last option only works on
rooms with locked doors; it doesn't get you access to any safes. Most of
the safes contain treasure, many contain comic strip sections (one of the
main side quests), and some contain items for other quests, so getting at
the safes is pretty important.
The graphical appearance of the game is a top-down view of
the rooms, with clear, high quality, colourful, hand-drawn graphics and
animations throughout. The various different parts of the town of Feyre
have distinct colour palettes and styles - which aids in navigation. Some
are 'indoor', some 'outdoor'.
The soundtrack for MacGuffin's Curse consists of
various sound effects and chimes, and a distinctive music track for each
zone of the town - the central square, the junk heap, the museum, etc.
These tracks are all good, except for the town hall one, which I found
really irritating. The variety is interesting, and rounds out the
environments well. It is curious that a game with so much dialog has no
voice-overs at all. (With one exception: Lucas' wolf form has an awesome
roar!) Perhaps it comes down to the fact that there is simply too much
dialog for an independent developer to resource the effort, and to justify
the cost in terms of download size - this is a Steam game after all, and
every gigabyte counts when you're distributing online.
Okay, so this whole game is a bit of an oddity if you look
at it from a purist adventure game player's perspective. But, according to
my Steam Library, I've played MacGuffin's Curse for 12 hours over
the last couple of weeks. I've completed the main story and reached 96%
complete on one profile, and have started to replay on a second profile.
There are still achievements I have not unlocked, and I still want to go
back for them. This has been a fun experience (except for the town hall)
and I'd thoroughly recommend it to any gamer who's not put off by a bit of
hybrid action. (I swore to myself I wasn't going to use the 'h' word and
there I went using it anyway. D'oh!)
So to summarize: I've thoroughly enjoyed MacGuffin's
Curse's puzzles and graphics and environments.
The game is one giant maze, but it is navigable with the
help of the map. There are no timed puzzles, nor sound- or
colour-distinguishing puzzles. This is a bright, colourful, moving block
puzzle game on a large scale with lots of fun dialog and story elements.
What do you need to play it?
OS: Windows XP, OS X version Leopard
10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later.
Memory:256 MB RAM
DirectX®:9.0c (Windows only)
Hard Drive:415 MB HD space (250MB
OS: Windows 7, OS X version Leopard
10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later.
Memory:500 MB RAM
Graphics:512MB VRAM (256MB MacOSX)
DirectX®:9.0c (Windows only)
Hard Drive:415 MB HD space
(I used a custom built 64-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 PC
running on an AMD Athlon 64 X2 Dual 5200+, with 6 GB RAM, and a Sapphire
Radeon HD4670 512MB video card with mother-board sound card)
MacGuffin’s Curse can be purchase via download from the
Brawsome website or from
GameBoomers Review Guidelines