It all starts off with a museum heist gone wrong, a cursed medallion, and one man’s effort to feed and clothe his destitute family. While that sounds like the setup for some desperate Leonardo di Caprio crime drama, it’s actually the backdrop for MacGuffin’s Curse, a thoroughly upbeat, and sometimes silly puzzle game. While it shares some elements with the graphic adventure genre, including conversation trees, a cohesive storyline, and recurring characters, at its heart MacGuffin’s Curse is a fairly straightforward, room-by-room puzzler.
“Straightforward” shouldn’t be confused with “simple,” though. MacGuffin’s Curse begins with a pretty easy level of difficulty, but gets increasingly dastardly pretty quickly. Essentially, you’re presented with a single room at a time, and usually have to unlock a door so you can progress (a la Portal). Sceneries change from museums to junkyards to everything in between, but the basic challenge will remain the same. MacGuffin’s Curse relies on the titular “curse” for most of its puzzles: early in the game the main character will put on an amulet that allows him to shapeshift into a huge werewolf when standing in specific, “moonlight” squares. Not much of a curse when you can do it essentially at will, but the upshot is that as a human you have dexterous fingers to work control panels and such, and can fit through narrow gaps. As a werewolf, you’re strong enough to push heavy objects, and scary enough to intimidate guards, opening up new pathways.
You’ll need to shapeshift your way through a variety of puzzles, making sure that you don’t get caught up by trapping yourself somewhere as a human when you’ll need werewolf strength to get out, or vice versa (you can always restart a room with the click of a button). As you progress MacGuffin’s Curse cleverly and rationally builds challenges based on what you’ve already learned to overcome. You’ll encounter steel boxes, for example, that even the werewolf isn’t strong enough to pull, and can only be pushed; or moats of water that the wolf form can’t traverse, but the human form can easily swim through. As the types of puzzle elements increase, the complexity of each puzzle room does, too. By the end of the game, you’ll be facing some real head scratchers, although you can call a mysterious detective pal for hints (or even skip rooms entirely if you’re really stuck).
The truth is, though, you don’t need hints if you’re willing to put in some trial-and-error time. While the puzzles in MacGuffin’s Curse can be extremely clever and intricate, the single-room nature of most of them means that you’re pretty much assured of figuring them out eventually if you try enough stuff. There’s only so many buttons to push and batteries to drag into sockets, after all. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, brute force has its uses, but it does take away some of the sense of challenge and it gives the gameplay a grinding feel after a while, without enough reward at the end.
Although speaking of rewards, MacGuffin’s Curse does offer you plenty of bells and whistles around the puzzles themselves, including an extensive mini-game in which you’ll search for hidden treasures in puzzle rooms. These treasures can then be used to purchase amenities for your poor-as-dirt family – there’s nothing quite like seeing your little red-headed daughter’s eyes light up when you’re finally able to afford a ratty kitchen table for her to eat on. You’ll also get plenty of interesting third-parties (sometimes helpful, sometimes not) to interact with, and an occasional funny one-liners (plenty of groaners, too) really flesh these interactions out. These “extras” placed around the main puzzle element do wonders to keep you emotionally invested in what’s going on, and help elevate MacGuffin’s Curse above a basic point-and-click experience. One thing you don’t get much of is music, though. MacGuffin’s Curse’s soundtrack is understated to say the least, so make sure to dust off your CD collection if you want some auditory diversion. IGN Ratings for MacGuffin’s Curse (PC)Presentation
MacGuffin’s Curse does a good job of building a story and setting around its otherwise conventional puzzle elements.Graphics
Graphically this isn’t one to write home about. It’s strictly 2D, and the art, especially the sparse animation, is far from museum quality.Sound
There’s not much music here, but the sound effects aren’t terrible, and they logically cue you as to what effect you’ve just had on the puzzle screen you’re on.Gameplay
Some very cleverly laid out puzzles in here, although the game tends to use a couple of core mechanics as a crutch.Lasting Appeal
This is a game best played in short bursts, and there’s a lot of it.