Modern Review: Mamorukun Curse (PS3)

Mamorukun-CurseIf you’re a fan of old-school shoot-em-ups, then chances are you remember the hard-as-nails Treasure title Ikaruga – a fast and frantic forerunner of the “bullet hell” genre. Well, some of Ikaruga’s former developers have recently unleashed their newest work upon unsuspecting PS3 owners – and it is glorious.

As any seasoned shooter veteran will tell you, bullet hell is all about repetition. These titles may seem completely inaccessible to beginners or casual gamers, but with a great deal of memorisation it is possible to carve a path through the carnage. Achieving victory from overwhelming odds is part of the thrill, and Mamorukun Curse knows this well. It is technically a top-down shooter - and although the stages are presented as such, the player has the freedom to choose a route through each of them via intersections in the stages’ paths. Unlike most shooters, the screen here doesn’t scroll automatically. Instead, the player’s advancement does the work – in turn making the game almost feel like it belongs in another genre altogether.

Although the main menu doesn’t really tell you what the differences are - Mamorukun Curse offers players three distinct game modes from the outset; Netherworld Adventures, Arcade Mode and Story Mode.

Netherworld Adventures offers a unique line-up of courses to play through (one course at a time, chosen from the menu. This is the mode designed for high-score junkies and bullet hell aficionados, and offers quick access to each stage), with a plethora of difficulty options from beginners to advanced players (beginners are pretty much never catered for in this particular sub-genre, so this will come as a pleasant surprise to many). This mode has you choose a team of three cheeky anime girls to guide through the stages, and each has their own play-style (which we’ll get to in a bit) – however each character has just a single life each. The main difference here is that the stages are timed, meaning that players will have to find a path through them as efficiently as possible – and not kill everything in sight. For the most part this isn’t an issue, but when things start to heat up and the screen is crawling with enemies and projectiles the last thing on you need is a time limit. Larger enemies will on occasion drop time-extending items, but these offer only a couple of seconds extra. This never really comes into play in Netherworld Adventures, as the stages are played singularly – the only thing time really affects here is your and-of-stage bonus.

Arcade Mode is the standard shooter-type variation, tasking you with defeating all of the game’s stages in a row (it tends to go slightly easier on the player than Story Mode, and is a great place to get accustomed to the game’s stages and characters’ abilities). You will choose a single character to battle with and (following an oddly short Prologue stage) can select from five stages to attempt. These range from a cherry blossom coated village to a sky garden, and each offer wonderfully colourful backdrops for your suitably cutesy characters to blast through. In this mode you are given just five minutes to complete all five stages, resulting in a frantic dash through the stage. The time-extend pickups really come into their own here, gifting players a very small amount of breathing space as their overall timer is frozen for a moment. You have just one life (but three hit points) in this mode, making it all the more frenzied.

Story Mode offers players a pre-determined selection of stages to traverse, and accompanies it with a gloriously bonkers story. It makes literally no sense, but that doesn’t matter as it seems to serve mostly as a template for the stage order (and stories that are borderline incomprehensible are often the most entertaining – this one is insane). You get to choose all five of the main characters in this mode (including one that appears to be a pink squirrel), and determine in which order they will appear. The difference is that this mode gives you five lives (one per character) and no time limit. You can feel free to administer hot, fiery deathbullets to just about everything you come across, and it feels great.

Mamorukun Curse is a fine example of pick-up-and-play. It’s hard as nails, but still manages to retain that accessibility that alienates so many gamers from the genre. The control schemes are adjustable (we favoured the twin-stick approach – one for movement one for directing fire – but there are enough other options that you will find something comfortable without much issue) and there is a play style for every level of gamer, and it’s these touches that show just how on the ball developers G Rev are. Being the lovechild of such experienced shooter developers is always going to be a good thing, and the addition of the “curse” mechanic here is what makes the title stand out. Players can activate this ability at any time with the appropriate button – a tap creates a coloured circle that grants enhanced attack power to the player for a short time, while a long press will yield a much larger one that actually damages enemies. This creates some much appreciated depth to the game as it is from using the curse ability that the highest bonuses can be attained. Indeed if you are looking for leaderboard domination then you will quickly become quite curse-happy. Don’t get me wrong – Mamorukun Curse is not without its flaws (the backgrounds can get a bit distracting at times; one level in particular has cherry blossoms blow across the screen which become hard to distinguish from bullets), and we did experience a fair bit of slow-down in some areas – but it’s just so colourfully fun that you can easily forgive these minor nit-picks.

If you’re a fan of tough shooters then give it a shot. If you’ve never played one, then Mamorukun Curse may well be the one that draws you in. If you have a PS3 then you really should see what the fuss is about.

Wonderful stuff.

Mamorukun Curse (PS3) Gameplay

Last Updated ( 31 August 2013 )  

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