The title character in MacGuffin’s Curse was Lucas MacGuffin, a down on his luck thief, who scored an ancient amulet on a museum heist that turned him into a werewolf. This started him off on a madcap adventure to cure himself of his curse and possibly free his home town from oppression. He was to achieve this by talking to people, finding quest objects, and solving puzzle rooms.
While I didn’t laugh out loud, I could see that plenty of effort went into developing the cast of wacky caricatures and the town they inhabited. I encountered a grizzled detective, a loveable gran, a cute daughter, a creepy old librarian, a biker gang, a gypsy, a spineless mayor and a dastardly villain. Many of the objects in the game elicited snappy or sarcastic comments from Lucas, which differed depending on whether he was in human or wolf form.
The crux of the game involved solving puzzle rooms. Each was made up of a grid of nine by seven tiles. Items such as bookshelves, walls and trees divided the room into pathways that I had to navigate in order to progress. The objective was almost always to push a battery onto a certain tile in order to unlock a door. This feature, reminiscent of 1982 classic Sokoban, was present in at least 150 of the rooms.
The werewolf element came into play by allowing Lucas to morph between his two forms in order to perform different actions. Human Lucas could swim, open (and close) doors and operate consoles. Werewolf Lucas could push or pull crates, smash rocks, and dig soft earth. Button and console tiles could be used to toggle bridges and laser barriers. There were a few other variations, but on the whole I found the gameplay overly repetitive. Why was I always pushing a battery onto a plate? One other room had me collecting four statues and placing them in plinths or holders in order to open a door. This at least provided a modicum of variety and I would really have loved to see more of it.
I did wonder, though, if repetition was really the issue. Bejewelled and Tetris were horribly repetitive, yet they were also horribly addictive. Angry Birds really only had one basic gameplay element. Use a catapult to sling birds into stick and stone houses populated by pigs. Why was that not boring? Perhaps the core mechanic in MacGuffin’s Curse simply wasn’t as compelling.
Certain elements of the game seemed to have the opposite of the intended effect on me. The little victory dance that Lucas did just before exiting a room after solving a puzzle (which never changed, by the way) felt somewhat hollow when he ended up in yet another room with the same goal. Push a battery onto a plate.
There was a hint system that provided clues, or it could be used to simply solve the challenges outright. While this definitely helped me when I became stuck, it did not reduce the feeling of sameness I experienced.
The adventure elements of MacGuffin’s Curse were its redeeming features. There was an actual story, with characters that had their own backgrounds and motivations. Lucas could talk with a number of people and perform various fetch quests for them. The game also had a decent quest log and inventory which I thought were well laid out.
There were a number of sections in which Lucas needed to engage in conversations with other characters. Navigating dialog trees correctly was necessary to progress elements of the story and these encounters made for a nice change of pace from the regular puzzling. Lucas could also procure money and this cash could be used to furnish his dishevelled apartment. Some of these furnishings also opened up side quests, while others just provided a little eye candy. Music and artwork from the game were also on sale.
Apart from the puzzle areas, the game had that classic adventure feel. The 2D style sprites and cartoony graphics suited the quirky story elements. Some of the art was a little weird in that the presentation didn’t seem to match the gameplay. For example, there were tall stools and bookcases that blocked two vertical tiles, yet they appeared to stand on only one tile. Lucas was also able to visit locations such as a library, park, junkyard, museum, and mansion. All of these areas had their own colour schemes and atmosphere. Hand drawn comic strips could be obtained by cracking safes spread throughout the town. A little block pushing was needed to get into them, but they did provide some nice hand drawn art.
The music wasn’t too bad, but tended to cycle around too often and I found it eventually became irritating. I finished the main storyline with about 80% completion. I had the option to continue by accessing bonus rooms and solving optional quests but I’d well and truly had enough by then.
If you love your puzzles and enjoy quirky characters with a bit of adventure thrown in for good measure, you may get something out of MacGuffin’s Curse. If you do decide to pick it up, consider passing over the PC version in favour of the iPad edition, as the game is more tolerable in small doses. If, like me, you lack patience and don’t cope well with repetition, give it a miss.