The Curse of Issyos is a free 2D platformer by Locomalito, based on Greek mythology and with direct inspirations from retro classics such as Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden, as well as the movies of Ray Harryhausen.
Released: 15 December 2015
Available on: GameJolt, Developer Website
Engine: Game Maker
While on a fishing expedition, Defkalion heard the voice of the Goddess Athena, telling him to return to the Isle of Issyos as it has been cursed by the gods of Olympus. Fearing for his daughter, he returns to the isle to save his daughter from the terrible creatures attacking the land!
The Curse of Issyos’s gameplay is functionally like the early Castlevania games with small alterations. Defkalion starts out with a sword which he can use to beat various hellspawn mooks and gigantic beasts senseless, and through pickups he can swap the blade with a longer reaching but slower. He can also shoot arrows by pressing Up and Fire, allowing him to dispatch enemies from further away. Armor upgrades allow him to resist damage and block projectiles from some foes by ducking.
After the first level, the game quickly picks up in difficulty approaching that of its NES ancestors, although with less bottomless pits in the early levels. Not only do enemies have their own maneuvers and quirks, but they’re also placed strategically to effectively hurt you; for example, armed skeletons have a charge attack and they’re often paired right next to swarms of other enemies. All in all, to even have a chance at beating the game using the provided four continues (let alone on one continue), your wits and reactions will be tested.
Fortunately, The Curse of Issysos seems a lot fairer than its inspirations. Bottomless pits are recognizable form their containing of water or lava, there are plenty of opportunities to heal, you can frequently find shops to spend gold on ammo and health, and stairs are absent (thank god). Just try not to die, unless for whatever reason you want to get rid of your armor.
Artstyle and Audio
The Curse of Issyos adopts an 8-bit artstyle highly like Castlevania’s, down to even elements of the interface such as the player and boss health – although the artstyle doesn’t mimic a specific retro system. Where the games diverge is the heavy emphasis on ancient Greek imagery. The game tends to be colorful and varied with its level themes, which succeeds at getting the mythical feeling of the game. Although the game has an interlacing filter turned on by default, you can turn it off to view the game in all its pixelated glory.
The chiptune music (composed by Gryzor87 using PX Tone) is extremely varied and always fits the current situation. For example, the first level has a sense of dread intermixed with the “going on an adventure” vibe typical of platformer games, and the second level has a moody and oppressive track to compliment being lost in a complex cave ruin.
The Curse of Issyos skillfully blends hard-as-nails retro gems with Greek myths and legends in a finely crafted package available for free. Although the game is hard, you can quickly learn from your mistakes and adapt. Within an hour of constant practice, you can reach level V on one continue, and maybe even clear the game with minimal deaths in a few days. To top it all off, you can download a bunch of goodies from the developer’s website for free, including the manual, DVD case and disc cover, as well as the soundtrack!
There are plenty of other difficult games you can play. Check out Batman for the SMS, Celeste, Sine Mora EX, VVVVVV and Super Hexagon!