Review: Wolfskin’s Curse

Review: Wolfskin’s Curse

Made for Spooktober Jam 2021, Tamafry brings us the paranormal horror romance Wolfskin’s Curse. Stopping in a walled town with your traveling companion, escaping from a mysterious past, you find that all is not neat and tidy in the town of Belorov, either. On the night of All Hallows Eve, a murder breaks the peace of the night, and it’s your cursed companion who takes the blame. With an execution planned for sundown the next day, can you prove his innocence in time?

A recommendation to review this game was made via social media.

The sprite art is lovely. It has a very soft, painterly quality. And while it’s not strong, I do get a slight art nouveau feel from the extra-thick outermost lines and the general composition of the characters. It’s a large cast, but the designs are very distinct from one another while still feeling like they generally fit in the same setting. There’s even some hints of cultural diversity in the costuming design. The backgrounds have some of these same qualities. There’s a little more inconsistency as far as the rendering. You can definitely see some of the backgrounds were approached a little differently, but it’s such a minor difference that it doesn’t really detract. I feel like there aren’t a lot of expressions in the talking sprites, so some of the longer conversations can feel a little stagnant. But there’s a lot of use of visual effects and cut-ins that breaks them up effectively. There’re also some very exquisite CGs.

The overall narrative is fine. It’s a solid mystery arc. It has a very large cast, so it is a little hard to get to know everyone in the short space of the game. They do have strong enough personalities, though, that you still get a feel for them. You’re dropped into the story very quickly. The worldbuilding is very swift. It’s also very dialogue-heavy to really take advantage of its full voice cast. The game is able to move along pretty well with very little non-dialogue narration. I can feel an audio drama influence there in that regard, whether intentional or not. That being said, what little narration there is is pretty bland. It’s very matter-of-fact. Not that they should have had more of it, but I think there’s a middle ground to make it just more interesting to read and play better with the tone of the dialogue.

It also strikes me as a game that didn’t quite know which story it wanted to tell. There’s the love story between the two romantic leads. Then there’s the noble political intrigue story. There’s just not enough of either, and they don’t blend as well as they probably could. The two romantic leads don’t spend a lot of time together after the introduction, so their arc feels extremely weak. Yet there’s an implication that theirs is supposed to be the main story. It’s like it conflicts with itself a little bit with two ideas that just didn’t really intertwine the way they wanted them to.

This is definitely part of the two really big pervasive stylistic problems with the game. It’s very slow. The overall narrative as far as moving from plot point to plot point is generally fine for the length of the story. The actual lines of dialogue, however, are all fairly long. The game is highly dialogue oriented, so there’s a long time between conversational breaths and not enough extra stuff around them to keep them interesting. The physical vocal performances are incredibly slow paced. They’re good performances, as a whole, and the actors really do a phenomenal job with individual pieces of dialogue. However, it feels like the overall performance approach they were brought to drags through the text. There’s a distinct presentational and melodramatic quality to it. The text itself can also read just a little stilted in some of the longer expository sections. The consequence of this combination ends up creating very inorganic-sounding dialogue sometimes, despite the actors coming through with solid performances.

But I also don’t think any of these things would be so evident if the game had a little more personal identity, which is the other major problem. It doesn’t really have a strong overall creative voice. It does some cute and clever things and it’s a competent, well-constructed game, but there’s a sort of flatness to everything. I find myself left with very few strong opinions or emotional attachments despite recognizing what kinds of emotions the writing was intending to convey. There’s something about the way it’s structured that just never quite gets there, for me. It sets up a few arcs that it feels like it never really finishes, so ending the game isn’t very fulfilling. To me, it strikes like a team that wanted to make a very big, broad game, and in doing so failed to drill down enough into the nuances of the central relationships and emotional arcs of the game.

Wolfskin’s Curse is a well-constructed game from a technical perspective. It has all the makings of a potentially popular game. However, it was maybe shooting a little too big or a little too high-concept for the amount of time available to the team for development, and, in the process, never quite nailed down exactly what it was trying to do. That being said, it’s still a nice little experience that’s easy to enjoy in a passive way.

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