Though Capcom's Resident Evil series achieved legendary status by the late 1990s, both it and the survival horror boom that it spawned haven't been quite as popular in the past couple of years. However, Asylum Entertainment is not following the prevailing trends. The small British developer, best known for a handful of kid-friendly PlayStation games like Powerpuff Girls: Chemical Xtraction and Teletubbies: Play With the Teletubbies, has just released a very adult survival horror game for the Xbox called Curse: The Eye of Isis. Despite the company's lack of experience with this sort of game-making, and a few noteworthy miscues, the designers have traced the footsteps of Resident Evil as carefully as a chiropodist. This leaves the end result without even the tiniest smidgen of originality, though it is a convincing memorial to a classic genre.
Curse veers outside the lines just enough to stave off Raccoon City dÃ©jÃ© vu. Stereotypes--like genetic experimentation gone wrong--have been exchanged for an Egyptian theme that combines a Victorian penny dreadful with The Mummy series of movies (the ones starring Brendan Fraser). The year is 1890, the place is the Museum of Great Britain, and the mystery involves a gang of thugs who are out to steal a statue called the Eye of Isis. You play as Darien Dane and Victoria Sutton, who are childhood friends that met in the land of the pharaohs while their parents were supervising archaeological digs. Just before a reunion takes place during a private showing of the Eye, something strange happens involving the relic and the death of a custodian. As a result, Darien then sneaks into the locked museum and begins to investigate.
Unfortunately, what initially seems like a fresh take on an old standard goes nowhere new. This may be the first use of Egypt as a survival horror plot device, but the cursed Eye of Isis is best at--wait for it--animating zombies. And mummies that act like zombies in rags. You spend the entire adventure shooting, beating, and flamethrowing the undead back to the grave, looking for keys to locked doors, and grabbing health power-ups. What few puzzles have to be solved are simplified by a gleam that spotlights important objects. If you've got the gray matter needed to use a controller to play this game, you can effortlessly solve the puzzles.
The only significant change to the Resident Evil formula is an Indiana Jones-style chase that leads from the museum to the London sewers to a train station to a cargo ship headed to Egypt. Fittingly, the finale takes you to a pyramid. Since all the locales you visit later are explored in the same fashion as the initial museum, there isn't anything that really stands out, aside from some slightly different enemies and some slightly different gloomy backdrops. At least everything moves along at a quick pace, so it's hard to get bored.
There are a few issues with mechanics. Asylum has mirrored the clunky Resident Evil camera system. Viewing angles are more about being cinematic rather than easy-to-use. You typically face the camera, with no idea what's in front of you, and you often run into unseen enemies when the viewing angle suddenly changes. At least the gamepad has been tweaked to compensate for these abrupt switches. If the camera in front of you suddenly moves to your rear, for instance, you don't have to immediately change how you're pressing down on the D pad. As long as you don't pause, you can just keep going. This eliminates one of the central problems with this dramatic style of presentation--constantly running into walls.