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The Curse of Life

 The Curse of Life


    The title screen.The title screen.
Developer: Tequila144
Released: 2009.03.20
Genre: Comedy
Graphics: Pixel art / 2D
Perspective: Third person
Gameplay: Point-and-Click










Note: this game can be played with ScummVM software.



The Curse of Life is an Italian adventure game, also available in English, but The Curse of Life is also the name of the film that is being made in the very game with that name. The protagonist, Cage H. Sleep, is a journalist (or at least working for the newspaper "Eye on the World"), who gets (to arrange himself) a task of getting some information about the upcoming film and writing an article about it. Obviously, the protagonist has absolutely nothing to begin with, no information, no contacts, and no money to get where he needs to go.

What then follows is a very traditional kind of quest involving loosely interpreted item ownerships, using said items following moon logic, pixel hunting, and a couple of locked doors. No mazes or deaths though. So basically, it's fan service to the fans of the genre, up to the point of the game referencing LucasArts games here and there. Nothing wrong with, quite the opposite. But the game doesn't have anything really unique in it, if someone is looking for that.

Cage H. Sleep, the protagonist, meeting people.Cage H. Sleep, the protagonist, meeting people.

So, back to the story. After the starting point there are some demonic powers and entities involved, some of which are actually shown in the prologue cutscene even before the opening credits, and from there the plot starts to bind itself together. With some random references to Mayan culture and such along the way. Most of the story is played for laughs, the actual story being so non-sensical otherwise. There is no real character development in the game, although much of the story content involves an older journalist, who the protagonist considers to be his enemy, in more ways than one. Beginning from the fact that the older journalist actually gets tasked to write the article, whereas the protagonist has to resort to trickery to get a chance to attempt the same.

While the game isn't the funniest game ever, playing it is at least reasonably amusing, as it should be. The background graphics are also very nice to look at. Whether one considers it a good or a bad thing is always debatable, but there is very little backtracking in the game. Yes, it is necessary to go from one room to another to fetch an item or perform a task, but going very long distances and repeating steps is not necessary. Some locations need to be visited only once, and require very few tasks to be completed in them. The length of the game is more on the short side of things too, but it may be extended, depending on the player, by some design choices in the game.

You need a walkthrough!You need a walkthrough!

And that means things like the previously mentioned pixel hunting. There's not a whole lot of it, but much more than some people can appreciate. And some of those pixels are really small and hard to find, in places where one doesn't expect to see them. The game has a hotspot indicator, but even so, when the very first playable room in the game requires pixel hunting, the game is not meant for adventure noobies, even some more experienced fans of the genre can spend more time on that than ideally needed. Other similar things involve finding the right book in library, or finding the correct options in a dialogue puzzle. Very traditional stuff as such, but things that some players would prefer to be in the distant past of the genre history.

There are some clumsy things in the game. First, characters and animations could be better (which is actually mentioned by one of the NPCs in a comment which breaks the fourth wall!). But especially the English translation leaves a lot to be desired, starting from the fact that there is a map of an island where all locations are in Italian, not translated at all. The actual translations have many spelling and grammatical errors, nothing that would make the gameplay impossible, but annoying all the same. Where this becomes very confusing is that the action verbs in the user interface and in the gameworld screen don't always match. For instance, the button in the user interface says "Look at" but the descriptive text says "Examine something", and the user interface says "Talk to" but the descriptive text says "Speak to someone". Easy to understand as such, but not how it should be, obviously.

Honest game characters!Honest game characters!

As always, these kind of comedy games leave a lot unanswered about character motivations and the actual logical progression of events. That's cool, but the payoff should be some good laughs. The Curse of Life doesn't quite reach that point. It certainly has many amusing situations, but nothing on the Laughing-Out-Loud level. Some of the humour is a bit rough, and extremely sensitive people might be offended by that, or a couple of bad words which are at least in the English translation, most likely in the original Italian version as well.

There is no voice acting in the game, and music and sound effects are very traditional too, nothing that would stand out, but something that one would expect to see, or hear rather, in games like these. Pointing and clicking needs no explanation for sure, but sometimes there are things which have not been properly tested by some third party that could point them out to the developers. For instance, in some cases you need to choose the action verb use and then click door to "Use door" to enter a room. But when exiting that room, it is necessary to single-click exit room hotspot, which is not always graphically highlighted in any way. Easy to go in and out, no real problems, but in good game design there should be one way to do things, whatever that may be, and no need to adapt to different working logic depending on which side of the digital door the protagonist happens to be standing.

This goes into nitpicking territory, but the developers haven't done enough background research on some things. For instance, in one conversation the game suggests that the alleged UFO crash site in Roswell later became the secret test area known as Area 51. This is completely false, because those aren't even in the same state! Roswell is in New Mexico, and Area 51 is in Nevada. While that comment has no real significance, it's one of those things that make an otherwise nice game appear less developed.

But as a short, hobbyist game The Curse of Life works very well. There are enough good things in it, that it is easy to overlook some of the worse sides of the game. It's a shame that many of those are as simple as having someone actually proof-reading the English translation once or twice to spot the most obvious mistakes. The game is probably better in the original Italian language, for those who are either native speakers or advanced enough to play adventure games in Italian. In any case, while many of the ideas are borrowed from other games, starting from the fact that the journalist thing seems very similar to the starting point of Zak McKracken, the game offers a nice mix of very traditional adventure game ideas and scenarios. Not the greatest adventure ever, but without a doubt worth playing for a few entertaining moments in the adventure world.

The door is locked.The door is locked.



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