Set for release on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC this February, Past Cure is new indie developer Phantom 8 Studio’s first game.
A mixture of horror, puzzles, stealth and action, it’s shaping up to be a curious title that I’ve recently been able to have a little hands-on time with. And while I’ve got mixed feelings about the half an hour or so of gameplay that I’ve played, my overall impressions err on the positive side.
Playing as a former elite soldier named Ian, the first part of the Past Cure preview build challenged me to escape from a hellish abandoned prison, though whether or not the events were actually happening or just some kind of horrifying dream was left ambiguous.
What instantly struck me about Past Cure is just how nice it looks; Ian’s character model is intricately detailed, and so too is the prison, giving the impression that this is closer to a big budget release than an indie studio’s debut title. There’s a genuine oppressive atmosphere as you figure out how to escape from the cell you’ve found yourself in and then head out to explore, quickly discovering that you might not be alone in there. Within minutes I was sucked in, absorbed, and eager to uncover Ian’s fate.
As the first part of the Past Cure preview build progressed, it increasingly reminded me of my time spent with the Silent Hill series. Logic and cryptic puzzles needed to be solved in order to gain access to new areas, a mysterious foe stood in my path that required me to employ stealth to avoid becoming its victim, and various notes and recordings were waiting for me to discover them, revealing more about the world I had stepped into. Past Cure presented me with its own twist that is hopefully used more in its final release as well; Ian is able to use the power of astral projection to remotely interact with objects and scout out new areas in safety.
As I pushed further into the prison, things became weirder and more ominous. Screams could be heard in the distance, one room was engulfed in flames for no apparent reason, and whether or not the building I was in was actually a standard prison was called into dispute. Unarmed and isolated, it had me unsettled, but upon reaching my objective – restarting a generator – my horrifying adventure was cut short. Next up was a demonstration of Past Cure‘s action.
Unfortunately, this is where the preview build took a turn for the worse. Based on what I’ve played, Past Cure‘s combat is simply perfunctory. There’s no real flair or soul to it; nothing that stirs any excitement. Tasked with fighting my way to room 1303 in what is seemingly a hotel, I found the best course of action was to employ stealth, which worked rather well. Eventually I was discovered, however, and had to resort to melee and armed combat that just doesn’t feel refined.
Melee combat is perhaps the most satisfying of the two thanks to some nice animation work, but sometimes it can feel a bit scrappy when you’re not quite lined up exactly with an enemy. With seemingly only one combo to perform, it’s quite repetitive too. Ranged combat, on the other hand, just feels way too loose. For a former elite soldier, Ian doesn’t appear to be very accurate with his shots, though my biggest gripe is that there’s no way to make him effectively use cover.
Without a cover system, Past Cure‘s third person shooting mechanics feel rather outdated. You simply edge out from behind objects and hope that you can down an enemy before they fire at you, causing you to flinch. It works in a rudimentary way, but I’d hoped for more. Admittedly, Ian has time manipulation powers to spice the action up a little (which amounted to simply slowing down time in the preview build), but they don’t elevate the action sequences to be any more than simply serviceable.
Upon reaching room 1303 the preview build ends, and while the latter, action filled portion did little to impress me, the first part had me intrigued enough to look forward to Past Cure‘s release.
Personally, I’m hoping that the final version of Past Cure has more of the engaging puzzle/horror/adventure gameplay found in the prison than the action found in the hotel. In small doses, the limited nature of the game’s gunplay doesn’t detract too much from the experience, but if it makes up half of Past Cure‘s running time then it’s going to be an issue. Regardless of the final gameplay mix, however, Past Cure looks set to be a promising start for Phantom 8 Studio.