Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils
Genre(s): Action, Platformer, Indie
Age Rating: N/A
Release Date: 31/08/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Cracking Jokes and Curses
Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils is a retro pixel art action-platformer. As I progressed through the story, I navigated different locales, tackling tricky stages and ultimately taking on brutal bosses. Did this adventure keep me interested throughout? Or did I force my way to the end? Find out in this Rapid Review.
As I began the game for the first time, I was shown a brief cutscene where the main character, Belle, sees her boyfriend get captured. Obviously, that was unacceptable, and I needed to go rescue him. The rest of the storyline was cute yet simple. I enjoyed seeing the brief cutscenes that appeared before and after some segments in the game.
However, despite seemingly having a lot of additional lore to explore, I never found myself getting involved with the characters. Learning that there was further lore to explore was a shock to me, as when I played the game, I did not recognize many of the characters attempting to interact with me in a meaningful way. Still, there is a chance that I accidentally skipped a trigger that would have made some of the characters more genuine. Plus, I was satisfied with the amount of story I was able to explore, even if it was nothing world-bending. Overall, the game has a lot of charm. It is funny, and the story is cute, even though I was primarily interested in the gameplay, Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils made me smile.
Girls Get it Done
Though I was not wholly invested in the story, I immediately thought the gameplay was a lot of fun. Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils is level based, with different chapters and areas to explore. I thought this made it a lot of fun. The levels were relatively simply designed. The game only uses a handful of assets. However, this did not ruin my experience. I still enjoyed going through each stage.
There were new items implemented over time. I encountered a couple of new enemies, new hazards, and even occasionally powerups. It was interesting to learn how to leverage these items. Unfortunately, many of the new assets did not revolutionize gameplay. I did not think this was an issue, as Belle does not have an extensive move set to combat ridiculous hazards. However, I thought the powerups were underwhelming. Unlike other traditional platformers like Super Onion Boy 2, Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils only includes powerups in a handful of levels. If I wanted a power-up otherwise, I needed to preemptively purchase them from the level select screen.
I enjoyed how this gave coins a new purpose. Plus, these powerups were fun. I could float through sections or break formerly oppressive blocks. However, I rarely went out of my way to purchase them. I would have liked the levels themselves to include these powerups, even if I still had to buy them, as it would be easier to justify purchasing them. The developers did include a similar feature in the arcade mode, giving me the option to buy power-ups in between stages without going out of my way on the level select screen. Still, I would have liked to see levels built around mastering these powerups. They are a lot of fun, and I was disappointed by how infrequently I used them.
Despite only implementing minor innovations with new powerups and enemies, the levels are a blast to explore. They are made so I could go through them quickly. Nearly every part, from jumping on enemies to evading obstacles is incredibly rewarding. This is reinforced by different objectives in the game. In some levels, I needed to reach the goal from a long distance. In others, I needed to collect targets in order. Regardless of what the medal was, the exploration and logical thinking it required helped keep me interested in the stages. Additionally, there are other secrets and roses hidden throughout the levels. These further incentivized me to spend time exploring the world around me, keeping me interested throughout my playthrough. I thought the exploration-focused level design was a lot of fun.
Still, the game is not easy. Many of the bonus levels and even some of the regular levels closer to the end of the game are incredibly difficult. I often found myself inching closer to the edge to make a jump and closely analyzing each pixel to make sure I could land safely on the other side. During the main campaign, this only happened sparingly, so it never frustrated me. However, some segments seemed unusually challenging. Despite that, I enjoyed the stages featured in Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils.
Another thing I greatly appreciated in this game is that there are boss fights every two or three levels. These bosses were excellent. They each had different patterns and different ways to exploit a boss’s weakness. I thought these were an incredible strength, supporting the level design but never frustratingly challenging.
Sliding Through Stages
Moreover, as if the bosses were not encouraging enough, Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils is an excellent game to run through quickly. It features an in-game timer, the stages are brief, and there are plenty of ways to optimize the movement over the traditionally considered path. For example, Belle has three moves that largely facilitate this advanced movement. She can build speed by sliding, she can do a long jump that increases speed when performed, and she can bounce atop her living bell companion to reach new heights. Mastering these mechanics was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed how they could be implemented in every level to find an alternative or faster route.
Unfortunately, I did think that the controls were a bit finicky sometimes. The long jump was performed by pressing diagonally down and then jumping. However, there is another jump performed by just holding down. This meant that I would often intend for one and get the other, which made them frustrating in high-pressure scenarios. Regardless, I found these abilities incredibly fun and a huge asset to my arsenal.
Carol of the Bells
Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils also has a lively and invigorating chip-tune soundtrack. It kept me interested in the world, and I was excited that each area had its own music too. It came together wonderfully. Even the sound effects were good. I enjoyed playing this game with the volume on high.
The visuals were also stunning. The sprites are distinct, memorable, and adorable. I thought the visual style brought a lot to the game and enjoyed the more unique muted pastel colour palate. Occasionally, some of the pixels would glitch, and the background would look mildly different, especially when I was moving quickly through stages. However, this never severely hindered my experience.
Overall, Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils is an excellent game. The plethora of hidden secrets and roses to collect brings a lot of value to the game, and I easily see myself returning soon to complete some of the levels I did not get a perfect score on. While there is not much variety, the rewarding and cohesive movement, and level designs make up for it, making Curse Crackers: For Whom the Belle Toils an easy game to recommend.
4 out of 5
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.