MacGuffin's Curse

Genre:   Puzzle Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Brawsome

Released:  April 2012

PC Requirements:   See review below




by gremlin


What is it? 

MacGuffin's Curse 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' 'bout, 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 game).

MacGuffin's Curse 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.

Notable Features

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 frustration.

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.

Grade: A

What do you need to play it?

Minimum Requirements

OS: Windows XP, OS X version Leopard 10.5.8, Snow Leopard 10.6.3, or later.

Memory:256 MB RAM

Graphics:256MB VRAM

DirectX®:9.0c (Windows only)

Hard Drive:415 MB HD space (250MB Windows only)


Recommended Requirements

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 Steam.


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April 2012

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