Coral's Curse

Help Coral in her quest to break the spell that has transformed her into a frightening new form. Use your tail to slither to high ledges and solve unique puzzles. Cast spells like fireball and frostbolt, or use your tail to defeat various enemies. Collect resources to improve your abilities and become even more powerful. Coral's Curse is a platformer unlike anything you've seen before!

ICARUS FIGHTS MEDUSA ANGELS. No codes are needed to give the player unlimited lives in Coral's Curse, a unique adventure platformer from Abnormal Software. Coral isn't a gorgon like Medusa but simply a mage in training whose spell has backfired, giving her a serpent tail and making her an ideal mate for Golobulus. Now she must scour the land searching for the "ten golden amulets from the Sylvan Dreamworld" in order to relieve her of this curse. Coral's Curse is primarily a treasure hunting exploration game, and the plot is limited to a few lines which give some background for the action. The story is never furthered upon, even at the game's end, and though that in itself is disappointing, thankfully the game remains a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Despite the platform genre label, Coral's Curse isn't about jumping or navigating platform-based obstacles. Coral herself can't jump but instead slithers about over ground and floating blocks and pegs, the only thing stopping her progress being if she physically cannot reach some object or if the way is sealed off by a door. The player uses the left analog stick to move Coral about, and she controls well for the most part. Sometimes Coral will find herself in a cramped area, forcing the player to move her tail with the right analog stick to let her advance. Coral's tail can be a nuisance at times seeing as it can inadvertently form a wall to impede her movements, but by and large the tail proves clunky but useful, providing stability for leaning over platforms, hooking on moving elements, and acting as a shield to deflect enemies and their attacks. While the game controls well enough to allow players to advance through the game, I believe it needs some shortcuts and could be made most useful -- I'm thinking about Dragon Breed and how players could double tap down to have the dragon's tail wrap around the player to act as a shield. Coral's serpent tail gives the game a unique look and means of play, but the gameplay could definitely be improved upon as Coral's Curse feels a bit much like a physics simulation in which Abnormal Software attached a big lumpy ragdoll mass to a moving body and sought to develop a game around it.

Given Abnormal Software's two prior Xbox Indie releases, Plasma Spheres and its sequel, it should be little surprise that Coral's Curse is heavily dependent upon its physics engine. In fact, the game borrows from Plasma Spheres 2's diggable ground as sections will require Coral to burrow into the dirt to seek out treasure and form passages to reach new destinations. Floating vine tracks and underwater tunnels also allow Coral to transport her about the world without having the weight of her tail dragging her down. The only element she struggles with is lava, and though players can try to dash across the game's lava pools, the heat takes a toll on Coral's health and will more than likely kill her. The player can seek out six hidden red orbs to extend Coral's life meter, allowing her to take more damage before falling, and hearts which refill one depleted orb when found. Mana orbs can be had as well which allow Coral to toss out more fireballs and frostballs to dispatch her enemies, and her tail can be upgraded as well. Keys when found will allow access to their corresponding doors, which 200 seemingly useless coins available for collecting and needless power-ups which can grant Coral a spiky tail among other powers. Coral's Curse is not a difficult game, but the pacing is excellent and exploration engaging with a perfect amount of save points spread throughout the map.

The artwork is excellent, dominated by a beautiful background and excellent animation on Coral's tail. Coral herself, however, is lacking, just a static busty sprite to slam against walls and drag along the ground marking the "head" of the snake. It's mildly disappointing that the developer didn't bother to give Coral a convincing response when the player attacks, her fire and ice based shots launching from her head with a delayed raise of her arm like some mystical Milli Vanilli. Coral's Curse looks gorgeous and is a definite step up for Abnormal Software, but the visual improvements demand more attention to feel whole, with shortcuts such as the bland balls of grass dotting the ground and flat, static water cheapening the more impressive effects. I love the way Coral's scales on her tail appear to glimmer as they move, and the lighting effects on her magic are excellent, illuminating their surroundings as they bounce around the screen. The game also employs a day and night cycle which feels frivolous but gives the game a welcomed atmosphere, highlighting the always drifting otherworldly light particles. Finally, while the game has enough enemy variety with its urchins, butterflies, cannons, and other threats, none of them beyond the butterflies feel endemic to the world, and none of them pose any great threat against the player (it doesn't help when Coral's the largest thing on screen by a good margin at any point in time).

Aside from the extremely disappointing ending, Coral's Curse is a wonderful game that's a joy to explore. The game may not possess perfect controls and has a couple of rough spots, but the unique premise and excellent level design more than make up for those shortcomings. With a quest about a couple of hours long and offering quite a bit to collect for the completionist, Coral's Curse is an impressive release and deserves to be experienced for its creative play and mostly excellent presentation.

★★★★☆
October 10, 2010
October 4, 2010 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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