Past Cure is a bizarre mishmash of a game. It’s part psychological thriller, part shooter and part puzzler too. It doesn’t really know what it is or what it wants to be, which is evident in the fact that each chapter feels like a different game from the last.
Things start off when our protagonist Ian appears in a frightening dream world which takes the form of a dark corridor of sorts. Wandering along you come across a gun, which you pick up, before being confronted with what I can only describe as a Terminator 2 style enemy (picture T-1000 and you won’t be far off). While there are likely scarier enemies you could think off, this was almost enough to make me switch off because that guy always freaks me out. Luckily, coupled with the fact that Ian sounds like Arnold Schwarzenegger and your ability to slow time, the enemies are pretty easy to take down. Unluckily, these guys appear at various stages throughout the entire game, and as you would expect get even more annoying to deal with.
The first chapter really is an odd one. Enemies don’t just appear, instead, you’ll be given a warning by each door flashing red, accompanied by a loud warning sound. At first, you’ll only have to deal with a few of them but by the end of the dream sequence, they are coming from everywhere. It’s an odd start to the game, but it only gets more bizarre from then on out.
Over the next few chapters, you’ll go through all sorts of situations you likely never expected. In chapter two you hang around at home, before talking to your brother Markus on the phone and learn that Ian seems to be suffering from some psychological problems. To aid this he has a blue pill which helps keep him sane. You’ll also learn that ex-Elite Soldier Ian didn’t always use to be this way and that it was only after he went missing the problems with his mental health started.
While at home you’ll head down to the basement where you will find a boxing ring and a firing range. The latter comes in especially handy a few chapters down the line, although before that you’ll be heading back to the world of make-believe.
After a few chapters you’ll likely think that you have seen it all, but as Ian settles down into bed and gets set for another dream, you’ll soon discover that’s far from the case. This dream is even more bizarre than the last and involves a chessboard and the introduction of yet more powers. We already know Ian can slow down time, however, we soon discover he can manipulate it too, allowing him to use his mind to disable cameras and flick switches in order to progress within the game.
As you move further on things take an even more unexpected turn, one that reminded me very much of Quantum Break. You see in a later chapter you end up in a never-ending car park full of enemies (trust me, it all gets a bit groundhog day) and to be honest this is where the game takes a turn for the better in my opinion. While, as alluded to, it does get repetitive, you can see that there’s a really good idea in here trying to break out. Sure the presentation and enemy AI isn’t the greatest, but when you are being shot at from various directions and use your powers to slow down time, there’s a real satisfaction when you clear the room of enemies against all odds. Since stealth also comes into play later in the game, your powers also come in handy when it comes to sneaking around and taking out enemies from behind and especially handy when trying to escape from the T-1000-like enemies, who are constantly making an appearance throughout (who for some reason you can’t punch; so much for all that practice in the boxing ring).
Other mechanics also come into play later in the game, allowing you to take control of people’s minds or even look within them.
On the gameplay side, I have to say I’m not really a big fan of the gun mechanics. To me, they make the game feel like too much of a chore. There were numerous times I just couldn’t hit my target and ran out of bullets, only to have to restart from the last checkpoint all over again. It was certainly a frustrating experience and despite fiddling around with the sensitivity within the main menu I could never really get it to feel right.
As you progress through the game, there are so many twists and turns in Past Cure that you never really know what’s going to happen next. It’s also fair to say some of these twists and the settings they are based within, are a lot better than others. Past Cure has some fantastic ideas, although it’s almost as if developer Phantom 8 Studio is trying to settle on a genre it feels most comfortable with so has used Past Cure as a way to throw a whole load of them into one game and see which it likes best. If some of the gameplay mechanics which stand out here, such as the time manipulation, make up the majority of its next, hopefully, higher budget game, then I for one will certainly be keen to know more.
*Code was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes*