Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Experience Tibetan Terror in Wii's Cursed Mountain


With computer technology's relentless advancement in the area of graphics, both in terms of complexity and depth, I find myself more and more amazed at how vividly some video games can create a virtual environment--so vividly that you can almost feel it as if it were a real thing. Such a feeling enhances a gaming experience considerably, since it's much easier to empathize with the game's characters and situations if you're engrossed in the atmosphere of the world they inhabit.


Such is the case of Cursed Mountain, a survival horror game that was released for the Wii back in 2009. Cursed Mountain takes place in the Himalayan mountains during the late 1980s, and the game's rendering of the many environments you encounter during the game is nothing short of breathtaking. Read on for my complete review of this immersive horror chiller.

In Cursed Mountain, you play as Eric Simmons, a mountain climber who is looking for his younger brother Frank after he disappeared during a climbing expedition in Tibet. Frank was climbing a mountain called Chomolonzo, which is regarded as sacred by the locals, and Frank's ascent of Chomolonzo set forth a deadly curse that plagues the surrounding communities. As Eric, you seek to find Frank and put an end to the curse that has claimed countless lives and appears to have no end in sight.


The curse that's depicted in Cursed Mountain is linked to Buddhism, which contributes a layer of eerie mysticism to the game's proceedings. While the story itself reminded me somewhat of the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, it's a retelling of this myth that relies heavily on Buddhist ideas and symbolism.

I cannot say for sure how accurate this game is in its depiction of Buddhism and Buddhist beliefs and practices that are specific to Tibet; nevertheless, Cursed Mountain takes full advantage of the imagery and concepts that Buddhism provides. Its depictions of Buddhist relics, temples and monasteries are meticulously detailed, as are the surrounding villages and landscapes. As you continue to ascend the mountain, the increasingly harsh landscape is effectively portrayed through the sounds of icy winds and the appearance of sudden whiteouts, almost to the point of feeling a few chills of your own. I'm still amazed at how much detail is in this game, and I can only imagine how much research the game's developers had to do to ensure a faithful reproduction of the Tibetan culture and environment.


Of course, with Cursed Mountain being a survival horror game, all of the locations are abandoned and you have to look through them to find clues about the location of Frank, the events that led up to his disappearance and how his disappearance is linked to the curse. The detailed environments emphasize the mood of isolation and desolation that pervade the game, and it puts the player's central focus on Eric's internal monologue about his tumultuous relationship with his headstrong brother. Even though the conclusion of Cursed Mountain doesn't have the same heartbreaking impact as the end of Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, it's a poignant drama in its own right about jealousy, forgiveness and letting go, compellingly told in the context of a ghost story.

One of the common complaints that I've read about Cursed Mountain is how the Wii's motion controls are not always responsive to the sometimes complex series of motions you have to perform during combat with ghosts and demons. I did notice this problem at times during the game, but it wasn't enough to ruin the gaming experience for me. The problem I did have was with the "Third Eye" system of combat. During the game, you have to use the Third Eye--a sort of spiritual means of vision--to see your opponents' weaknesses and use your sacred weapons to their fullest extent. However, while you are in the Third Eye mode, you are stuck in one place and cannot walk forward, backward, left or right; you can pivot and aim your weapons at targets all around you, but that's the only movement of which you are capable while using the Third Eye. This makes you a sitting target whenever you are ambushed by ghosts and demons, and you will be ambushed many, many times throughout the game.


Cursed Mountain is a remarkable gaming experience, one of the best horror titles available for any game console. Its unique approach to horror survival game play, its detailed environments and its absorbing story make it a welcome addition to any horror gamer's library.





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