Somewhere along the line it must have been decreed that videogames be tailored to let players of average ability win. That’s one hallowed rule Mojo Bones and Toy Studio have tossed right out the window as they unleash The Curse (Out August 23, $0.99 Release Sale) upon the App Store! Its one hundred brain-busting logic puzzles result in the genre’s most challenging entry yet, but The Curse is so well crafted in every respect it’ll make you a glutton for punishment.

As we explained in last month’s hands-on preview, The Curse challenges you to stuff a puzzle-crafting genie back in his bottle, as it were. The Mannequin holds all the keys needed to seal himself, and being the fascinating antagonist that he is, he’ll give them to you one by one as you work your way toward complete victory. There are around twenty different puzzle types to test the full range of the genre fan’s skills and then some. In short, The Curse plays like a lexicon of every logic puzzle you’ve ever seen in your gaming career. There’s the tangram; the magic square; variations on circuit tracing; logic wheels, where you have to arrange gems a certain way on a series of linked conveyor belts; “Lights Out“; the tried-and-true riddles and sliding block puzzles; various matching exercises; pattern memorization; and many more. Some puzzles let you experiment infinitely, others test your short-term memory in real time, and still others need to be solved within a time limit or a certain number of moves.

With the sheer range and number of puzzles on offer, it’s amazing that the devs never lost their inspiration when whipping these up — they’re consistently fascinating. Whether you play linearly or try your hand at the puzzles completely out of order, it’s clear the devs took great care to maintain a sense of variety by regularly stirring in new types. And while the puzzles are generally arranged in order of rising challenge, it still feels like you’re thrown a bone every once in a while so you don’t feel too bad about the long stretches of failure you’re almost sure to have.

There are a few scratches that keep this otherwise polished title from reaching its full potential. The most egregious is simply the lost opportunity to let players score hints through some kind of performance metrics; if you want a clue for a tough puzzle down the road, it’ll have to come straight out of your wallet through an IAP system as far as I’m able to tell. It’s a shame because an ability to earn and save up hints early on would keep struggling players in the game longer. The interface for domino matching puzzles is a tad finicky, with the player’s taps sometimes returning pieces to their storage area instead of flipping them around as intended. Finally, it would be lovely to have a quick reset button for all puzzles. To be sure, the ones where this is most critical have a reset button built into their game boards, but there are a few types that could definitely benefit from the same treatment — tangrams, I’m looking at you!

Aesthetic presentation often seems like a minor afterthought in the logic puzzle genre, but a sense of palpable atmosphere is central to The Curse; sheer variety aside, the attention lavished on the game’s score, lovingly hand-drawn graphics and voice acting is what sets it so far apart from other puzzle games. The orchestral soundtrack has stuck with me so much that I begrudgingly march into the tough-as-nails marble pairing game just to hear its awe-inspiring theme. The Mannequin’s face may hide behind a mask, but excellent voice acting makes him one of the most expressive and memorable villains we’ve yet seen in mobile gaming. Mojo Bones experimented with the concept of audio performance as gameplay reward in their earlier Tongue Tied, but in The Curse they bring the concept to full fruition. Now please excuse me while I try figuring out more of these puzzles in hopes of seeing another cutscene.

Verdict

Just as rewarding as it is tough, The Curse is a title you simply must not miss if you’re a logic puzzle fan, and the attractive presentation makes it a great introduction to the genre for novices who have the guts to tackle it.