The author of robohack also offers a novel little 3D zombie apocalypse adventure for the console, and has dubbed it with the exceptional name of “Curses of the Undead.”
Or at least I think that’s the name. The title screen has a slightly different one: “Plague of the Undead.”
Not that it matters much, since I’m a fan of just about any game that lets me whack a zombie in the head with a shovel. I know, my standards are low. 😐
‘curses works by navigating a city a block at a time, with arrow keys for the four cardinal directions. At each intersection there’s a chance you’ll encounter other zombie hunters, fleeing peasantry, dead bodies, obstacles, looters or … (gasp) clusters of zombies.
You can see your progress on the overhead map display, and get a feel for the environment with the 3D camera representation. You also have the option to break into buildings in search of weaponry or other toys, and to collect items from dead bodies or from uninfected passersby.
Combat is fairly simplistic, with an initiative or surprise element that determines first attacks, and animations for zombie death (re-death?) or damage to your party. The game also allows for some usable items, variable damage and a few other combat intricacies. Gather enough experience and you’ll win an ability or two, and gain a few more menu options at encounters.
I am not sure what the size of your party corresponds to in combat terms, but I also know it’s possible to kill zombies with your bare hands in ‘curses. That says to me you don’t have to worry about outfitting every member of your party, since it’s not possible to see what effects they have on battles.
curses-of-the-undead’s map is considerable in size, and it will take a little time just to work your way across it in one direction, let alone traverse every intersection. Here and there are some fun little messages too, like the light blinking over the lake that spells out “S-O-S,” or the occasional random wonderment at where Charlton Heston is. Item descriptions are also entertaining.
Among its weak points, ‘curses is written to mostly automate things like combat messages and encounter updates. That means there will be times when you can’t read everything ‘curses has to tell you, before it disappears again. Not that this ever impedes the game, but it is a little frustrating.
It also tends to slow down the game progress, where polling for a key might allow the messages to be skimmed more quickly. It also suggests the interface could be arranged differently, and devote less time to a static 3D display (which doesn’t change or move) and more to the overhead map (which does).
‘curses uses a simple list-type inventory, and doesn’t seem to make a distinction between having an item and wielding it. At the moment I have a shotgun, a WW2-era flamethrower, a large knife, a baseball bat and a chain all available to me as weapons, but in combat, I can’t tell you which I am actually using at any given time. Perhaps all of them.
Health is also oversimplified, and I don’t know what role other members of your party play in suffering damage. At one point or another, a “buddy” will fall in combat, but it doesn’t seem to be any sort of insurance to have others in your party, unless it adds to your attacks in a round.
I have yet to find any objects that actually rejuvenate your health beyond a few points. I seem to remember finding something like a motorcycle jacket that served as armor, but again, ‘curses doesn’t give me enough information to know what is beneficial and what is just for show … like the Ray-ban sunglasses. 😎
And to be honest, I still have difficulty with games that tell me zombies “surprise” me, and that goes doubly for ‘curses, since the previous screen notifies me of their presence. Perhaps at night, and perhaps when I’m wearing my Ray-ban sunglasses, but any other time … nah, I’m not buying it. 😐
Minor points, I guess, but minor points can detract from overall play. And it’s worth mentioning that I don’t think ‘curses was every really completed. The home page hints as much; some items have descriptions, others don’t. There is a paltry number of encounters as a result of breaking into buildings. You’re armed with a readable “to-do” list, but it has no apparent bearing on the game at all. There’s also the misnomer on the title page.
And since the game makes notes of experience, weather conditions, provisions and times of day, I can only expect that those factors were to be, at some point, part of game play.
As it stands, completed or not, ‘curses is a fun little ditty in the flavor of 1980s-ish 3D maze adventures, a la The Bard’s Tale, or the ultra-classic hand-held electronic games of the same era. It has nothing near the detail, action or strategy of Cataclysm, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying it out, once or twice. 😉