Since first hearing of Past Cure and seeing some of it in action, my interest was piqued and I wanted to know more. It has been this way for a while now and here we go as Phantom 8 Studio has finally finished it off and placed it out there for us to play. It has seemed hard to peg down what genre Past Cure is actually in as it looks to have stealth elements, action elements, and supernatural all mixed in. Other titles have done this as well, of course, but usually, it has been a very straightforward idea behind it that we could all grasp onto. Enough of all the pandering though, as we have had a chance to play the game and see just what it is all about. Here is our review of just how the game handles and what you can expect.
Ian has little to idea what has happened to him as three years of his life flew by without his knowledge. All he knows now is that he has "come to" and has been found by his brother. That and the fact that he has some new sensory alteration powers at his disposal. Powers that also seem to be draining his sanity and can only be put in check by some special blue pills out there. I guess it is a good thing that Ian was once a soldier and is kind of trained for this kind of thing. Somewhat, for now…
Right off the bat here for Past Cure, I am going to have to dig in on the repetitive and lackluster level designs that we have to go through. Be it bland hallways in an office/doctor's building or repetitive parking garage floors that make it feel like the world's longest garage; there was just nothing to grab your attention and keep you fully engaged. Sure, there were stealth options and not-so-stealth options to be had in the levels, but it almost felt like it was the same one over and over with very little variation at all. There could have been a great story element to it all to help explain all of that, but sadly this all boiled down to very basic gameplay and design. Almost something one would have expected in a prototype phase of things.
Next, we have the combat and shooting of Past Cure that did not help with things as well. The CQC never really seemed to work for me as Ian would freeze in place when starting a combo string and the enemies would keep moving. That and the UI to give you the option to block/dodge a hit or perform a finishing move always seemed to come up too late or not at all. If the actions were not tied to the UI it would be placed on the player side of things, but they are all time-delayed options that need to be pressed when the icon pops up. This led me to go the shooting gallery way of things more in Past Cure, which made it easier, but not by much as the hitboxes and actual kills never seemed to line up at all. Like I would get the blood spray and animation of headshots that would randomly choose if the enemy was actually dead or not. The spray and pray method just always seemed the way you had to go. Not great when trying to sneak.
This is where you would think that the supernatural abilities of Past Cure could come in handy and turn the tides. While they had some high points, in general, there was little to no risk/reward with them. This all comes in the way of the sanity meter that drives the duration of said abilities and the lower it became the "crazier" Ian would become. Sadly, the story portion of it was all that came to be as it was more of a mana-bar that would even refill a bit after being depleted with the "crazy" having a haze cast over the screen for a few moments. I was expecting a few things like those that we get during the cutscenes where the Porcelain Men would randomly appear and disappear. Nothing like that at all. Just a mechanic to allow you to slow down time, look ahead a bit, and turn off camera was all it really was.
Gameplay and mechanics aside, I was hoping that the story of Past Cure that Phantom 8 Studio had put together would make up for all of that. There were some intriguing aspects and some things I loved, see below, but the delivery was not done to a level that we could have expected. The voice over work was very dry and bland with little emotion behind any of it. Even during scenes where the character should have had some kind of emotion to them, Ian sounded like he was a new voice option for an automated system. Something that could have been remedied with some extra story elements built in, but in the end left Past Cure's story easier to take in with just subtitles turned on and the audio off. I was able to read the voice better than the actual deliver here.
My hopes were placed on high with Past Cure with the Nightmare elements that Ian and the player have to overcome. The very start and tutorial sections of the game placed us in a very dark and twisted looking place that actually put all kinds of excitement out there. Between getting surrounded by Porcelain Men in a time-ravaged building or trying to figure out how to get past them without any weapons and not dying, it felt like the tone of the game was going to be set here. I looked forward to each, even when they were not more than new puzzles on how to use our powers. They were always fun and engaging and it felt like there was a lot of time placed for these along the way in the game.
I also loved in Past Cure when the elements of Ian's sanity were being driven home with hallucinations that just randomly spawned. They were only very specific scenes and did not seem tied into the gameplay at all, as I mentioned above, but they were jarring enough to show that Phantom 8 Studio had a great idea boiling here and were using it to the advantage. It almost always caught me off guard when one of them would pop up for no reason in these scenes and was an element I wish was further developed in the game. It was a nice balance of psychological and horror that could have carried the game. If only there was more of it.
After sitting back and thinking about it, Past Cure had a lot of great ideas and the starting of some great mechanics, but never really blended together just right. There were the great elements that showed Ian losing his mind, but never actually tied into the gameplay or mechanics as the story dictated it should be. This led to a repetitive shooting gallery of waves of enemies or stealth missions that placed us in very bland and constant levels. It is really hard to try to recommend Past Cure given all of that. There are some great ideas, or the starting of them, but they all fall flat for the most part and make me wish that the team would have taken a bit more time to let everything congeal into a fully fleshed out thing. Not the hodgepodge of ideas that we did end up getting.
I give Past Cure 23 Shattered Porcelain People on the Shattered Porcelain People scale.
Past Cure — Launch Trailer