Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Toils Review (PC)

Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Toils Review: Run and Jump In a Beautifully Retro World

 

Curse Crackers | Featured

People like to talk a lot of trash about Twitter, sometimes rightfully so. But if it weren’t for Twitter, I would have never discovered Colorgrave’s latest game, Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Toils. Delightful subtitle aside, it’s a colorful nod to retro games of the past that reminded me of a mix between Wario Land, Shovel Knight and even Donkey Kong Country. Despite those inspirations, it very much feels like its own adventure, and it quickly made me a fan. Keep reading our Curse Crackers review to see why this is an adventure you should definitely check out.

A Magically Wonderful World

 

Curse Crackers | Lore 1

It all starts with a creation myth, explaining how the world of the game came to exist. It involves a god-like masked dragon, magical scales, and war that breaks out between the dragon’s children. She’s forced to intervene, and destroy one of those very children to save the rest. Afterward, it seems like peace and calm are inevitable, but history has a tendency to repeat itself.

Curse Crackers | Lore 2

I really enjoyed this lore, and found it piqued my interest early. It was a bit frustrating, then, that the game seems to push it all to the side to focus on the present-day adventures set in that same world. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like the focus on Belle, Chime, and rival Bonnie. It’s just hard to follow up such a strong start with a much less dramatic adventure. Thankfully, while the writer in me was irritated by the narrative shift, the gamer in me appreciated how Curse Crackers plays.

Bonnie, Clyde, and Belle

 

Curse Crackers | Rivalry

The main focus of Curse Crackers revolves around Belle and her companion, Chime, trying to save Clyde from Bonnie. Apparently, Belle and Bonnie were in a carnival together, and now instead of friendship, a bitter rivalry exists between them, at least for Bonnie. Belle is pretty good-natured, but she’s also not willing to let harm come to those she cares about. So once Clyde gets kidnapped, she sets out on a journey to rescue him. Things get way more complicated over the course of the game, and eventually, the stakes get much higher.

 

Acrobatic Feats

 

Curse Crackers | Swing

While Belle is very capable of running and jumping around like an acrobat, her buddy Chime is where most of the mechanics come into play. Belle can hurl Chime forward as a projectile in any direction, and once he hits a surface, he’ll bounce. If left to his own devices, he’ll bounce around endlessly, but thankfully Belle can whistle to summon him back. If Chime is underneath Belle, she can bounce off him, gaining additional height.

Curse Crackers | Fiery Chime

You’ll often use Chime to hit distant enemies, as well as switches. Sometimes you’ll need to keep him inside a lock switch to unlock gates, and you can even find special food to feed Chime to give him temporary new abilities. These include him puffing up like a balloon while you hang on, going ablaze to break particular blocks, and more. Even without Chime, Belle is very capable of getting around. She can dash, slide, crawl, and even high jump. But they’re much better together, and I even found some neat ways to use Chime to get additional air time. The platforming mechanics are all very solid, and as a fan of the genre, I felt Curse Crackers was very tight and enjoyable to play.

 

Secrets In Every Nook and Cranny

 

Curse Crackers | Map

Most areas in the game are comprised of a handful of levels and a boss battle. You’ll walk across a pretty extensive world map over the course of the game. I appreciated the visual style, though I did have some minor complaints. One is that every time you start up the game, Belle will be located at her house, which is at the far left side of the world map, and everything else is farther and farther to the right. I would have loved some form of fast travel to mitigate this. Also, while I had no issues finding where to go early in the game, in the last part, you have to wander around the world map a bit aimlessly. On that note, I didn’t realize until the very end of the game that there are optional areas you can visit on the map, shops, and various ruins. Most of these are to fulfill various side quests, which the game is jam-packed with. I just wished that these locations were marked a bit more clearly.

Curse Crackers | Ardel Roses

Every level has items you can find called Ardel Roses. Each one has 3 squirreled away, and they often require platforming feats to reach. Sometimes you’ll have to also discover hidden paths to nab them. I didn’t realize there was any use for the Roses, I just felt the game wanted me to collect them. Luckily I did, since the last part of the game requires a good amount of Ardel Roses to unlock it. This made me grateful that once you grab a Rose, you’ll keep it even if you die (which happened a lot). You’ll also find various tokens in stages and very well-hidden relics. I appreciated all this incentive to explore, and it definitely helps pad out how long you’ll be playing the game. While I managed to beat it in around 4 hours, finding all the hidden content would easily take double that amount of time, if not more.

 

Big, Bad Boneheads

 

Curse Crackers | Monolith Boss

Pretty much all of Bonnie’s minions are types of skeletons, though the bosses can vary. While there are several skeletal bosses (my favorite being a hard-rocking bonehead), there are also some unexpected ones. A noteworthy boss is a stone golem of sorts that tries to smash you with his hands, and then you have to jump inside him, jump through a gauntlet and smack his crystal. These early game bosses are all pretty simple affairs, only taking a few hits before they go kaput. Later in the game, the bosses get much harder, and feature complex attack patterns they’ll quickly switch between. I honestly had a harder time with them, but was eventually able to beat them all.

 

Gorgeously Retro

 

Curse Crackers | Graffiti Dungeon

Visually, I really was drawn in by the style of Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Toils. It looks a lot like something from the Game Boy Advance era, with large pixel art and bold colors. I especially adored the static panels used for the cutscenes. As for the foes Belle faces, you already know they’re pretty much all skeletons, but there’s a wide range. They start out as shambling varieties, some have armor or helmets. There’s even one foe that’s constantly on fire, and daintily sneezes fireballs at you. There are also mummies (technically a skeleton, I suppose), cherubic skeletons, and more besides. As for the sound design, that’s pretty fantastic as well. It’s punctuated with catchy tunes that have a distinct beat to them, and the music gets exceptionally dramatic and rocks out in the final stage. Overall, the style of Curse Crackers is pretty amazing.

 

Nearly Perfect

 

Curse Crackers | Fiery Skeletons

Though I very much enjoyed my time with Curse Crackers, I’d be lying to say it did everything right. One minor niggle I had late game was when circumstances takes Chime away from you, and then forces you to beat a couple levels with just Belle’s abilities. I had totally forgotten by then that Belle could run and, as such, had a very hard time getting through the level until the developer kindly reminded me. While I can chalk that up to my own memory, I can’t say the same for the next issue.

Curse Crackers | Secrets

It’ll take some sleuthing to find areas like this.

Put simply, the default window for the game is pretty small. In fairness, you have a lot of control over that. But I had a lot of issues once I made the game full screen, mostly screen tearing. Then I somehow made the window so small I could barely see a thing. As for adjusting the sound, that’s a bit awkward as well. I love the music in the game, but by default, it plays pretty quietly. I turned the in-game volume settings way up, only to realize it muted the SFX. I spent a good while tinkering until I got the settings where I wanted. While many PC gamers may be fine with that sort of thing, I play mostly on consoles. As such, it would have been nice if the default settings had been a bit more finely tuned. Thankfully my complaints with the game are pretty minor in the larger picture.

 

Carnival of Delights

 

Honestly, Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Toils really took me by surprise. Not only is it jam-packed with content, including an Arcade mode, but the base experience is a ton of fun, with just the right amount of challenge. If you enjoy retro-inspired games or just like platforming, this is the game for you.


Final Verdict: 4/5

Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Colorgrave; Developer: Colorgrave; Players: 1; Released: August 30th, 2022; MSRP: $14.99

Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.

Josh Speer
Got my start in the industry at oprainfall, but been a game fanatic since I was young. Indie / niche advocate and fan of classics like Mega Man, Castlevania and Super Metroid. Enjoys many genres, including platformers, turn based / tactical RPGs, rhythm and much more. Champion of PAX West and Knight of E3.

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