Dungeon Crawling on Your Alexa Device: A Review of “The Cursed Painting”
Ever since the first Amazon Echo came on the scene, gaming has been a popular feature. The first games were simple trivia or quiz games, but they have become more and more advanced as time has passed. One of the newest on the platform is “The Cursed Painting” by Wanderword.
In “The Cursed Painting,” you play as one of three characters who is tasked to venture into a dungeon near a town and retrieve a legendary painting that is tied to a curse causing undead monsters to invade. You open the game by saying “Alexa: Open The Cursed Painting.”
Once you open the skill, you will hear a short introduction and then get to pick your character. My adventure as a thief started with my character’s hanging being interrupted by a group of undead invading the town. Taking advantage of the opportunity, my character ran off and took cover in what fortunately turned out to be a weapon shop. After taking a sword and fighting an undead that wandered in, I was escorted to the mayor who offered to spare me in exchange for completing the dungeon and retrieving the painting. After equipping myself at the shops around town, it was off to the dungeon.
Note: You can explore the town and hunt for monsters in the forest for free, but entering the dungeon will require a $3.99 monthly subscription. The developers plan to release new episodes monthly which will be covered by the subscription.
Since the game is on a smart speaker, the gameplay controls are somewhat limited. You will hear a section of story, and then be given a selection of choices. For example, in town you will be given the choice to go to the shop, the pub, the town hall, or the forest. To travel somewhere you would then say “the shop,” for example. This form of interaction persists throughout the game. Combat works similarly. Each round you are given the choice to attack, drink a healing potion, or escape. Once you make a choice, you will hear the next section of story, or the result of your attack.
Mechanics and Stats
You have three stats: power, agility, and toughness. Power determines how hard you hit when attacking, agility influences how hard it is to hit you, and toughness determines your health. You gain experience as you explore rooms and defeat enemies. Each time you level up, you gain one point to put into any stat. Each of the three levels of a stat gives you a bonus, such as regeneration at “3” toughness. The game uses a dice system similar to “Dungeons & Dragons” to calculate various things in the game such as whether you hit or miss your opponent, dodge an attack, or other various skill checks throughout your adventure. You will know when a check has been done as you’ll hear a dice roll followed by a success or failure sound.
The game is well done. Each area has its own sounds and music, and there are sound effects for most actions in the game. Since most modern Echo devices have the ability to plug in headphones or stereo speakers, it would be nice if the sounds and music were in stereo rather than mono as they are now. Voices seem to be largely synthesized, with some human voice work. While the story, so far, isn’t particularly deep or involved, there is enough there to keep you going.
I enjoy the “Dungeons & Dragons” style dice system, but the stats geek in me wants to know all the numbers whenever I hear that dice roll. For most skill checks, you don’t get any numbers, just the dice sound and then the success or failure. Maybe a mode could be added that tells you when there is a skill check, the number needed, any modifiers, and the number you actually rolled. Similarly, in combat there is no indication which weapon is better, or any way to tell the relative strength of the enemy. Being able to request statistics when beginning combat would be quite useful. Also, even if the developers don’t want to reveal the exact health of the enemy, or other particular numbers, having descriptions or sound effects that convey this info would be a nice touch.
The three different characters, as well as what appear like there may be multiple paths through the dungeon, indicate that the game will have decent replay value. I will be interested to see how other characters and weapons change the gameplay in future adventures.
Wanderword did a nice job with this game. It’s easy to pick up when you have a few minutes, go through a few rooms, and then stop and pick it up at a later time. The straightforward interactions and mechanics make it so that just about anyone can play with minimal difficulty. While there are a few tweaks and changes I’d like to see, they do little to detract from the overall fun and enjoyable experience.