A Disappointing, Convoluted Mess
Past Cure presents itself as an intense, story-driven psychological thriller. Not only does Past Cure fail to offer up any long-lasting thrills, it’s not particularly intense or competent in its mission to present a story-driven game. With clunky, awkward controls, contrived gameplay mechanics and an incoherent, clumsy narrative, Past Cure is a very early contender for one of the worst games of 2018.
The game begins with a man named Ian awakening inside a dimly lit, strange, grey house stalked by murderous porcelain figures. After awakening from this nightmare we learn Ian needs to infiltrate a government building to learn more about his past. As the story progresses we learn Ian has psychic powers, John-Wick like proficiency with weapons and hand to hand combat as well as a distinct fear of ventilation shafts. Whilst the plot does pick up toward the end and builds sufficiently toward a climactic finish, the distinct lack of atmosphere and any meaningful fun makes it a real challenge to reach this point in the 6 hour long experience. There’s an awkwardness in the presentation of Past Cure’s story as it contemplates whether to be a game or an experience akin to Heavy Rain and in doing so, lacks substance in both areas.
There are frequent cut scenes but the plot is, for the most part, confusing and lacklustre
Presented in a third person over-the-shoulder view, the beginning 30 minutes of Past Cure are used as a platform to become accustomed to the gameplay mechanics which includes opening doors, shooting and navigating a labyrinth of familiar looking, visually dull corridors and rooms. After the opening chapter, what follows are a series of distinctly different and awkwardly presented chapters that change up the gameplay between puzzles, stealth and action with little care or thought as you sporadically jump between each. Whilst some of these ideas do a good job of mixing up the gameplay, especially the puzzles, they also unwittingly highlight some of the inherent flaws with the AI which is sadly lacking, even on the higher difficulty levels.
The opening level does well to establish a tone but it’s quickly downhill from here
The lack of explanation for anything happening in the story leaves constant question marks around just why we should care about this character and more importantly, why anyone should continue through the lacklustre gameplay that does a poor job stitching together the incoherent plot. To make matters worse, Past Cure constantly turns the mechanics on its head in an effort to inject some surprises but the result is questionable at best. Ian suddenly becomes a psychic master, then proficient with a gun and late on is even able to control people’s minds leaving serious question marks around why these weren’t all showcased during the game’s opening level. What’s worse, Past Cure incredibly gives and takes away abilities on the fly depending on what part of the game you’re playing. Some parts of the game allow Ian to sprint through the levels, others allow the ability to stealthily take out guards and avoid combat but without warning, the game frequently changes its own control scheme with no conceivable pattern. There were a few instances where we tried to stealth kill new enemies in later levels, after the mandatory level midway through forcing stealth on you, only to realize that had been turned off, inevitably dying cheaply at the hands of the gung-ho controls.
The gameplay is uninspiring and surprisingly bland
Visually, Past Cure’s aesthetic does nothing to soften this blow either. Character models are janky, haunted by stiff facial animations during cut scenes made worse by poor lip-syncing and unnatural movements. The proverbial cherry on the cake here is the voice acting which is truly woeful, even by video game standards. Some of the areas do look quite good from a distance; seeing the sun-kissed beach house as the light filters through the windows does provide some really nice graphical refuge but these moments are fleeting, too often destroyed by immersion breaking lighting effects like a clumsy flashlight and poorly implemented shadows. It’s a real shame too as there’s some obvious craftsmanship here but Past Cure lacks the finesse and polish it so desperately needs to turn this into the decent experience.
There are times where the lighting effects are genuinely good
There’s no denying that Past Cure has a lot of issues. Whether it be the clumsy, incoherent plot, the lacklustre graphics or the uninspiring gameplay, this story-driven experience is really not very good. All of this wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the price tag and length of the game which really don’t justify the asking price. Although less than a dozen people created the game which is commendable of course, expecting consumers to cough up a substantial amount of money for something that fails to deliver its promises is a tough pill to swallow. Had this been released as a budget indie title, Past Cure may well have been looked upon more favourably but as a fully fledged game, this can only be categorised as a disappointing, terrible mess.