Curse of Issyos
Locomalito, developer behind free retro-inspired classics like Matilda Castilla and Gaurodan, has done it again. The newly released Curse of Issyos is yet another challenging 8-bit chiptuned platforming adventure, this time taking the front to ancient greece, which takes cues from, among other things, the first Castlevania. A greciavania, if you will.
As the story unfolds, you are Defkalion, a hapless but brave fisherman warned by his old pal and fulltime Godess Athena that something foul is afoot back home. Naturally, you
bugger off and sail away forever rush back to find his daugther, only to find the island covered with fishmen, reanimated skeletons and harpies, much like a typical carinvale weekend but without the booze.
As always with Locomaltio’s games, the game is colourful, fluid, and easy to pick up and play. A few quick slashes of your handy sword is usually enough to dispatch your foes, but you can also swap this for a slower but much longer spear. Holding up + attack is your secondary attack that launches an arrow from your bow (so long as you have some arrows). The bow is weaker than the melee weapons, but indispensible for dealing with many of the more annoying enemies. The level designs do much to evoke the classic NES feel, and here a mixture of linear and open exploration levels are to be found with a few requiring you to root around to find 3 keys before moving forward. There are even a couple of very short optional areas, including a couple of NPC areas with shops of sorts, which sell powerups that may just help you to delay that inevitable game over. Overall, Issyos plays its cards pretty straight, being a pretty traditional platform-arcade style romp. There is still only one main path through the game, which will see you facing off against a cadre of classic mythological bosses including the cyclops, minotaur, and more.
Issyos’ most notable source of inspiration is probably the original Castlevania/Vampire Killer game, with not only the gameplay but visual elements such as the health bar, to the enemies to the jumping animation feeling very nostalgic indeed. However the indie developer has noted that the game is not a direct homage to any one game, but rather takes a mixture of influences. I can certainly feel a bit of Ghouls n Ghosts n Goblins in there, and within that, the same kind of spirit and design philosophy that helped to build his earlier effort Castilla Matilda. Despite being derivative, Issyos does mix up its influences just enough to feel like its own game, like some kind of lost NES cart you find under your old bed that was somehow missed all those years ago.
All in all, Issyos probably won’t take you too long to complete; my first play through took about an hour. However, I was unable to find the extra keys hidden throghout the game so naturally doomed my daughter to an eternity in Hades. I’m a great dad like that. In true Locomaltio style there is more to the game than just rushing to the final boss, and finding a way to get the good ending is a part of the true challenge. Speaking of that, the biggest challenge with Locomalito’s games is well, just that: the challenge. True to their 8bit inspirations of choice, these offerings are generally on the harder side, and Curse of Issyos is no execption. You have one shot, one opportunity, with limited lives, limited continues and no save function to help you out. Enemies and platforms are usually carefully placed for maximum
annoyance challenge, and as must be with most ancient greek fishermen, Defkalion has a crippling fear of the ocean, meaning a quick dip in any water will instantly send you to an watery grave. Locomalito’s games are earnestly here for those who savour the challenge, and don’t need no stinkin’ IAPs to power through. Having said that, though, from completing the game I’d say it is probably his gentlest offering so far – the first two levels in particular are pretty friendly (relatively, speaking) , and even when the difficulty ramps up, it didn’t feel quite as tough as his past games. It’s still no walk in the park though – and only those who really persist and focus will see its ending (unless you count the game over screen as an ending, of course).
Even if you aren’t able to beat it, though, Issyos is absolutely worth taking for a spin. It’s highly polished effort, and a lot of fun to play while it lasts. And, of course, it’s free.
Curse of Issyos | Download