Cursed Desires Review

Title: Cursed Desires
Release date: 2005-08-26
Developer & publisher: Vonwert

Vonwert is a mysterious game developer that worked with RPG Maker 1 & 3 back in 2002-2006 and pretty much disappeared after that. His best known game to the VN community is probably his remake of the legendary "Nocturnal Illusion" for PlayStation 1 system, however he also made a few other games, both for PS1 and PS2.

Today we will talk about "Cursed Desires", Vonwert's puzzle-centric adventure game, focused on pirate lore. The game itself has some visual novel elements, especially during the story-telling sequences, but it relies too much on adventure elements to be a proper VN.

Just like "Dark Illusions", the game comes on multiple GME cards that supplant the memory cards of a PS1 emulator. I really recommend ePSXe to play all GME games, as that emulator makes the whole endeavour nearly painless. The process is similar to the one described in my review for "Dark Desires", so check it out if you have problems figuring out what to do.
Maybe you should have stayed in Bahamas, Lex.
Once we start the game, we enter the shoes of a guy named Lex Johnson. Now, it bears to mention, that Vonwert names all his game protagonists Lex Johnson - that doesn't mean they are the same person, it's just that the developer has a strange fetish for that particular name. So, Mr. Johnson somehow manages to become a millionaire overnight, by inheriting the vast fortune of some recluse, whose funeral he accidentally attended... Please, don't question the game logic, rather imagine a hypothetical scenario, about what would you do if you have a million or two to spare... Of course, you would throw your time and effort into finding the hidden pirate treasures!

Apparently, pirates were a life-long interest of the deceased recluse, but he had a particular nerd-boner for Anne Bonny, one of the most famous female pirates. Anne Bonny's real historical fate is unknown, so that leaves a lot of leeway for a video game creator to fictionalize her adventures. In this case it revolves around a few cursed treasures, which Bonny supposedly found and subsequently hid, in order to protect the world. Lex decides to continue his late benefactor's legacy by following the clues presented in Bonny's diary, which he also inherited, in order to find those treasures, though a case can be made regarding the fact, that with such an irresponsible behaviour he is putting lots of people in danger. After all, those treasures were hidden for a reason.
Blood to the Blood God!
Anyway, it's pretty clear that Vonwert himself is not a great storyteller, which wasn't so clear in "Dark Illusions", because there he just copied the script verbatim from the original VN. "Cursed Desires" is rife with spelling and grammar errors, which really detract from the story, and the story itself is not that great. It's very episodic with a "monster of the week" feel to it, or rather in this case a "treasure of the episode" feel. Lex follows clues to a certain treasure, only to destroy or hide it again, in order to protect humanity. The second half of the game tries to liven things a little by including a love interest in the form of Iara, but the supposed romance is barely touched upon and there is no genuine affection felt between those two people.

"Cursed Desires" is rated E (for Everyone) on RPGMMag, but Vonwert managed to squeeze a genuinely nice text only sex scene into it - a shame it's with a throwaway character we never see again. The dev missed moments that just begged for some steamy additions to liven the game. Iara never gets as much as a "fade to black" and she is supposed to be Lex's lover. Not to mention that our protagonist also inherited a living breathing maid from the previous owner! And what do you do, when you own an actual maid?! If we go by this game, she makes you a breakfast... I don't know what world Vonwert is living in, but that almost breaks the suspension of disbelief.
Riddles everywhere.
Puzzle elements are the strongest part of the game and one that is actually done right. There is a huge variety of obstacles in your path, ranging from riddles to mazes, to tile puzzles, to various switch based designs, to mathematical problems, and so on. Almost all of them can be solved with a little time and a sheet of paper, and there are no totally "out there" questions, like that problem in "Dark Desires" that required you to know an obscure band. However, there is one mathematical problem that is very unfair and literally stopped me from playing for a few hours, until I googled the problem and it became apparent that the developer directly lifted it from a page about mind benders.

Considering the game is made on a PlayStation 1 based RPG Maker, there is no way to import many original assets into it, so the only original elements in "Cursed Desires" are the script and some sprites. Everything else is built using the base resources, which means that pretty much all the games developed using this tool look the same. If you played a few RPG Maker 1 games, you have played them all, as you wouldn't be able to tell them apart by looks alone. That does get a bit boring, especially if you play a few such games in a row, which is way the story and the gameplay are so important.
To arms, men!
That said, while there is not much to say about the plot of the game, I genuinely enjoyed the gameplay, because it was very solid as a puzzler and I do not regret spending 6 or so hours needed to finish the game. Unlike "Dark Illusions", "Cursed Desires" is absolutely linear and has no apparent secrets or hidden paths, which is actually a plus. DI had some very nasty bugs due to it's non-linearity, which is not a problem with CD. The worst bug I encountered while playing this game was my character walking right through the table, which is kinda funny in hindsight. Another funny thing is that some puzzles are solved not by our protagonist, but by his trusted pet crow Marco, which is good and all for obstacle courses, but becomes a head-scratcher, when you try to imagine how a creature with no opposable thumbs or vocal chords manages to solve riddles... :-)

"Cursed Desires" ends with a sequel hook, as apparently some of the curses still manage to flee into the world and start menacing the population, but the sequel was never made, as Vonwert went on make a few horror adventure games on PS2 and then vanished from the face of the Earth.

Links of Interest

PavilionBoards thread for the game
RPGMMag page for the game
Cursed Desires walkthrough

Final Verdict: 71%

1 comment:

  1. Hey, is it possible I could request you to review a game? I love your reviews!