- Pixel design
- Platformer fun factor
- Secret areas
- Confusing backstory
- Limited inventory slots
GenreAction, Adventure, Platform
File Size (Minimum)446 MB
Release Date (NA)Aug 31, 2022
Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils is a retro-design platformer that’s influenced by ‘90s NES games such as Chip-’n-Dale Rescue Rangers, Ducktales, and more. To compare a newer generation game, it’s similar to playing Shantae. More importantly, it’s the fun factor and replay value that makes this game a gem for Switch owners.
What Are We Adventuring For?
Adventure platformers are usually straightforward in their storyline. Save your beloved, stop the evil entity—that sort of thing. Curse Crackers, on the other hand, has multiple stories going on. The game starts with an ancient tale about a dragon giving power to her siblings and then taking it away when it was not handled appropriately. It’s neat but it’s pretty confusing since this prelude doesn’t transition into the game smoothly. Instead, the narrative goes in a different direction with a much simpler plot. You play as Belle, an ex-acrobat whose date was taken away by her nemesis, Bonnie. You’re traveling across the land to catch up to Bonnie to retrieve your captured date.
After finally catching up with Bonnie, Bonnie is taken away by two mysterious characters who have a connection to the prelude’s story about the dragon. While Belle does confront these mysterious characters while on her travels to find Bonnie, it feels like the game could have added more details during Belle’s rescuing mission. Admittedly, there are books in the game’s town that you can read to learn more about the history, but that only goes so far. Still, this doesn’t detract from the game’s fun factor. You will learn more as you go deeper into the game but an earlier, clearer tie between Belle and the history of the dragon would have been great.
Jump In and Go!
In Belle’s adventure, the controls are simple and fun for those who want casual play or are looking to break timed records. Belle can toss her sidekick, Chime, to take out enemies or help Belle bounce higher in the air. You can also hold down the trigger button to make Belle run. By default, the accompanying camera effects give it an offset feel when Belle runs. When she stops running, the camera shifts back into place. It’s certainly different, but the option to turn this off is available in the game’s settings.
There are levels to complete in order, but they can be replayed anytime and players will do just that. Each level has a set of items to collect: three roses and a set of emblem coins. These emblem coins are earned by discovering secret areas or by solving a puzzle which involves hitting targets in the correct ascending order. If you’ve missed something, you don’t need to worry about collecting them again since the game records what you’ve found. There’s also an additional secret area located underground where you can find remixed versions of levels. These stages are more difficult but are fun to run through. Similarly, boss fights are also more challenging than the normal level boss fights. Adding more reasons why to play Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils.
Boss fights are strategically different from each other in each area of the game. For example, one battle has you doing a guitar solo challenge. For another boss fight, you’ll encounter a ping-pong battle. Either way, they’re all fun but expect to die regularly while discovering how to win. Especially the further you get into the game.
Extra Pixel Fun
Upon doing specific tasks, you’re rewarded with the option to adjust Belle and Chime’s sprite colors (together, not individually). There are forty color options, so better get cracking! The game also offers an Arcade Mode where you are given a set of lives to try to set the highest score and see how far you can go in the game’s story. This is more of a challenge since the original playthrough gives you infinite lives.
When you do perish, the game leaves behind a floating bell, which contains some of the coins subtracted for your loss, and takes you back to the last save point. The loading time to retry is a blink of an eye and feels like you can quickly get back to your adventure. If you lose again before reaching the floating bell, those coins will disappear. These coins will help purchase items such as bakery treats to give Chime powers like invisibility where you can maneuver tough situations in a level. Additionally, saving up the coins is a wise plan for side quests.
You can purchase items at different local merchants, but with only one inventory slot, you automatically lose the item previously equipped in favor of your new purchase. This means that if you had a bakery item and then bought a key, that bakery item goes away. It seems like the game should give more slots for specific items: a spot for keys, a bakery treat, and a power-up equipment item.
Nostalgia to My Ears
The chiptune soundtrack is straight-out good. The music meshes well with the game’s pixel art and level designs, and carries various styles that makes the game more fun to explore. The only downside here is that the soundtrack is only available to purchase through the game’s page on Steam. You’ll have to go through some hoops to download it to your Steam application and find the audio files, but it’s worth owning.
A Pixel Gem
Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils is a hidden gem with a great soundtrack and simple and fun mechanics that make this platformer an entertaining adventure. The storyline may throw players off, but for how much fun you’ll have, you won’t mind. Stretch those legs and jump in!
A Nintendo Switch code provided by the developer, Colorgrave for this review and gameplay footage.