Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart PS4 Review
Publisher: Artifex Mundi Developer: Artifex Mundi Genre: Hidden Object, Adventure
Players: 1 Age Rating: 12+ Other console/handheld formats: Xbox One
The third instalment in the Nightmare from the Deep series, The Cursed Heart follows a museum curator who is tasked with saving her daughter from a treacherous pirate corpse, who kidnaps the daughter when they accidentally awaken him before his exhibition. The corpse is that of Captain Henry Remington, a pirate whose backstory is one filled with love and tragedy. Admittedly, the plot didn’t really interest me all that much and this is down to the games poor characterisation. Only a handful of characters are memorable, including Captain Remington himself and members of his mummified pirate crew. They are the ones that give the story any personality, overshadowing the two main heroes of the story – the museum curator and her daughter.
Both mother and daughter aren’t fleshed out very well with very basic personalities and because of this, when the daughter is kidnapped, it is difficult to feel any sense of urgency to save her. Their characterisation isn’t helped by the fact that the voice acting is also very wooden. The story is centered around the Captain and his backstory, so the mother and daughters lack of character can be forgiven, though I feel some sense of connection was needed in order to feel any urgency to save the daughter. The story itself I also found to be quite shallow and predictable. There are the usual notes and diaries that can be found that add a bit of depth, though for the most part, you can tell where the story is heading.
Despite it’s shallowness, the way in which the story is presented is novel. As well as the aforementioned diaries and notes that give you some added details about what actually happened to the Captain, in order to watch any cutscenes you’ll need to find 12 doubloons hidden throughout the game. They are a necessity to the plot so you will never miss one, though once you have found one, you need to hand it over to a mummified pirate corpse that is guarding a sacred treasure chest. A scene will then start playing, narrated by the pirate corpse, revealing to you a part of the story. The cutscenes are nicely presented in a sepia-tone colour reflecting the memory of the event.
The Cursed Heart, first and foremost, is a Hidden Object game. If you don’t know what a hidden object game is, the goal is to clear a list of items by searching through a pile of objects and clicking on them to clear them. Here, sometimes you’ll also click on an item and pick it up, you then needing to find and use it with another item in order to successfully clear it from your list. I must admit that, overall, The Cursed Heart was very easy for me to complete. The game can be completed in around 6 hours, though I managed to complete the entire game, including a bonus story, in less than 4 and this is because there are certain aspects of the game that can be taken advantage of, such as using a hint button and skipping puzzles. During Hidden Object games, I found that you can spam the interact button to find many of the hidden objects within seconds, without needing to closely look for them and without any sort of penalty. This diminishes any sense of challenge the game could have offered, giving players an easy ride. Curiously, you can even choose to skip Hidden Object puzzles altogether and instead play a game of Mahjong; this was probably included for those who dislike searching for minutes at a time for items, though it’s a strange inclusion considering the type of game this has been sold as. Throughout the entire game, there is no challenge as obstacles can be so easily overcome and some kind of consequence for your actions would have been very welcome, adding some much needed tension to the gameplay.
As well as Hidden Object games, there are other puzzles and the variation is very pleasing. Some puzzles are more imaginative than others with differing levels of difficulty. The more interesting puzzles include you needing to create a special potion to reverse time on a corpse in order to access an item, you’ll be finding yourself making other recipes, guiding a fish – that you have to catch first – through a maze to retrieve an item. There’s a section in which four items are used in an environment in order to make the aforementioned potion – the one thing the game does very well is the way in which it connects each puzzle, and you’ll find yourself having to solve at least one puzzle at all times, items you find in one puzzle then needing to be used in another to access an item that will then be used elsewhere, and so fourth. Both puzzles and hidden object games have been incorporated into the game very well, with hidden object games made to look like part of the scenery. Still, it doesn’t take much finding them as when it comes time to play one, the area they are located sparkles, letting you know you need to click there, and this does negate any need to explore for such a hidden object games. However, puzzles are much more melded into the games environments and it does take some looking around to find these.
The Cursed Heart can, in some ways, feel very linear; it gives you the illusion that you have the freedom to explore wherever you want to, though I found that you do have to find objects and solve puzzles in succession in order to progress. The game also suffers from a bit of backtracking and sometimes you’ll be very far into an area only to find that you need to click back several times in order to get to where you need to be next. Later on you’ll also find yourself exploring and then re-exploring many empty rooms, trying to find where you need to be, leading to some frustration, though this will only be experienced by those who can resist the urge to use the hint button.
The graphics in the game are one of the highlights, giving the game some added atmosphere and mystery, though some of the animations are questionable. At times when the characters are talking, their mouths move in the same manner as a ventriloquists doll, with intermittent blinking, making the characters come across as wooden as the voice acting. There are very few CG cutscenes, though one of a pirate ship smashing into the museum is a highlight. Overall, the animation is very basic at times, and can even be unintentionally amusing, breaking any immersion. But for the most part the graphics really are top notch.
Upon completing the main game, there is also a bonus story which sees the museum curator and her daughter trying to escape Skull Island, not King Kong’s habitat, but the island the daughter is taken to by Captain Remington at the start of the game. This offers some extra longevity and adds some more details about Davy Jones, who does make a brief appearance in the main story. Unfortunately upon completing both stories, there really isn’t much to go back for; there are the usual PlayStation Trophies for you to go back and collect if you are a true completionist, though for others this game will only be worthy of one playthrough, with no other extras and the only option there being for you to start a new game, which won’t be needed as you’ll have seen everything first time round.
Overall, Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart is a decent game, with a great variety of puzzles and excellent graphics. Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of experience with Hidden Object games and I found this one to be very easy to complete, completing everything in one sitting. The game sorely needed some kind of penalty for your actions in order to keep you from overusing the help available, and the story also needed some added tension to up the ante; most of the time it is only telling you about what happened and, besides the Captain, lacks any sort of character development. Played properly, I am sure the game will more than likely feel a lot more rewarding for those who can resist using any of the help available, upping the challenge factor and making for an all round more worthy achievement upon completion. Otherwise, it feels like a very basic, but well presented, Hidden Object game.