Preview: Past Cure

At E3 a few months ago, we had a chance to try out a sample build of Past Cure, an upcoming title from German indie group Phantom 8 Studio. What we saw during that time was a bit rough, but still showed some promise…at least, enough for us to keep an eye on the game.

This past week, we got the opportunity to try out a new preview build of the game. Rather than just a couple of random levels like the E3 demo, this version included the opening hours of the game, letting us see the various themes and mechanics presented in the form of the game’s intended experience.

First off, this build was still a rough beta; Past Cure was recently announced for full release in February 2018, so the final version is still a ways off.

The game starts off with the same portion I went hands on with at E3, following main character Ian as he navigates a maze-like building, with doors turning into portals releasing glowing white mannequin-like creatures. This time, however, we have some context: this sequence is a recurring nightmare that Ian suffers nightly.

Completing this portion moved me into a brand new part of the game, where I learned more of the narrative of Past Cure. As it turns out, Ian is some kind of spy or secret agent with a touch of amnesia, being unable to remember a recent chunk of his life. Moving through his house and interacting with objects promps some exposition from Ian, as he waxes nostalgic on various memories that he still has.

I also quickly learned that two more things about our main character: he has some kind of medical condition that causes him to hallucinate the mannequin creatures from his dreams, and that he’s mysteriously gained psychic powers allowing him to slow his perception of time and induce out-of-body experiences. None of this seems to slow Ian down, though, as he’s quickly thrust into a new mission – one that goes mostly unexplained.

After a painfully long tutorial segment on Ian’s powers, I entered the first level of the game proper. This area turned out to be the same segment I observed the game’s developers play at E3, making my way through a parking garage littered with enemy agents. While the game seems to encourage playing stealthily, I often found this difficult to do. There was no real way to gauge enemy lines-of-sight, and they occasionally spotted me through the cover I was hiding behind. Thus, I ended up mostly relying on gunplay to get through. Luckily, the gunplay is still solid, and having access to Ian’s time-slowing skill made taking everyone down a relative breeze.

After completing a little over half of the level, the preview then moved me to a sequence from later in the game. This part showcased more of the Silent Hill-inspired horror the devs mentioned during my meeting with them. Ian is forced to navigate a dark prison-like environment to find keys and solve a quick puzzle, while avoiding much more intense mannequin creatures. The atmosphere here stood in stark contrast to the rest of the demo, and I quite liked this change of pace, but the demo unfortunately ended after only about fifteeen minutes here.

Overall, I came away from this newest build with a much more solid feel for the game…but also some remaining hesitancies. Some of the dialogue was awkward, with Ian’s constant internal exposition becoming somewhat annoying. The tutorial portion, like I mentioned earlier, was overly long, often forcing me to slowly walk though sterile environments while voice clips played in the background.

However, this demo was much more reflective of the visual style that so attracted me in the game’s trailers. The various dream sequences, and especially the horror-esque segment, made great use of simple yet effective designs. Using Ian’s various powers was a fun subtle twist on the stealh formula as well.

I’m still keeping a hesitant eye on Past Cure. Again, this demo was still of an early build, and there’s plenty of time for the rough edges to be honed down. There’s quite a bit of potential here, and I’m looking forward to seeing if the game achieves it.

Preview build provided by Phantom 8 Studio. Screenshots taken by author.