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Video Game / Curses

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Curses is a 1993 Interactive Fiction game by Graham Nelson.

You play as a member of an old aristocratic family, the Meldrews, who are currently packing for a trip to Paris. You start off in the attic of your family's mansion. Your task is to find that old tourist map that should be somewhere around here... except that you keep stumbling into weird supernatural stuff and getting involved in centuries-old family business.

It is freeware, and can be downloaded here.

Contains examples of:

  • Anti-Frustration Features: The inventory system. Not only does the backpack carry everything you need, the game will (usually) detect when you need to take something out of your bag before using it, or need to put something else in your bag before picking something up, and do it for you.
  • Blatant Lies: The demon always lies when giving you answers — some times more obviously than others.
    "No, Hell itself is a marvellous place, and it has an excellent health club too."
  • Debug Room: Version 12 has an otherwise unreachable room called "Graham's Lair", allowing the developer rapid access to various parts of the game. Once the debug verbs are unlocked, 'xtravel' takes the player there.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: Sleeping in the servant's bedroom gives you a vision of the Dark Ages. Which you later visit in person, in the Master Game.
  • Dumbwaiter Ride: Some parts of the house must be reached via the dumbwaiter. It leads from the attic to the cellar, and a passageway halfway up the shaft leads to the garden.
  • Epigraph: The game begins by quoting Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra.
  • Female Angel, Male Demon: The angel is female and the demon male.
  • Fission Mailed: Putting the Grim Reaper, Drowned Sailor or Fool tarot cards in the slide projector and trying to enter the resulting image gives the standard ***You have died*** message, followed by:
    Or have you? No... this isn't quite the end. You see an intense blue-white light at the end of what seems a tunnel, and drift toward it until you realise that you are staring, dazed, into the light of the slide projector, and have not moved at all.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: The heavenly place. It's in the clouds, which are solid enough to walk on, and there are singing cherubs.
  • Ghostly Chill: There's a chill in the area where Sir Joshua's ghost manifests.
  • The Hedge of Thorns: There's a wall of thorns in Ancient Greece that blocks you from reaching the temple.
  • Hereditary Curse: A curse placed upon the family prevents them from finishing tasks.
  • Hint System: The demon and angel, who can tell you about various subjects or about objects in your possession.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: There's no limit to what the backpack can hold.
  • Hypothetical Casting. In-universe. Examining the demon and angel tells you that if you were to cast a film of your adventures so far, you would hire Donald Sutherland to play the demon and Judi Dench to play the angel.
  • Impoverished Patrician: Downplayed. The modern-day Meldrews are doing okay for themselves, but their days of wealth are long gone, and much of their property has fallen into disrepair.
  • Inventory Management Puzzle: Averted for the most part. You find a backpack early on with unlimited carrying capacity, and the game will automatically shuffle items between your hands and the pack when needed.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: There's a kraken in ancient Greece.
  • Magic Wand: Ten of them throughout the game, each with a different effect.
  • Portal Book: Examining the book of Twenties poetry transports you to Unreal City, where you can find Madame Sosostris, the famous clairvoyante; graffiti on a wall reading "Shantih Shantih Shantih"; and a river-boat called the Phlebas, helmed by a hollow man who will repeatedly say, "Hurry up please it's time!"
  • Portal Network: Your dream in the servant's bedroom teaches you a magic word, which allows you to teleport between the various artworks you encounter in the game.
  • Portal Picture: Almost any image projected by the slide projector is one.
  • Press Start to Game Over: You can lose the game on the first turn by exiting the attic.
    Yes, probably just as well to give up looking, and heaven knows there's enough packing to do, what with the rest of the family in uproar. Oh well.

    *** You have missed the point entirely ***
  • Rule of Three: The demon and angel allow you three hints each. Of course, you can get as many as you like by using the 'undo' command.
  • Significant Anagram: One character uses a pseudonym that's an anagram of their real name.
  • Tarot Troubles: Your first tarot reading will turn up Death, The Fool, and The Drowned Sailor; the fortune-teller will be terribly frightened by this, though subsequent readings with the exact same results will only get you mutterings of "Another nobody."
  • Wham Episode: The Master Game, which reveals the true significance of what seems like an initial Excuse Plot: the entire Meldrew family was cursed long ago, forcing every single member to embark on a frustrating and futile quest of some kind, and the only way to break the curse is for any of them to succeed in their quest. Your own curse-quest is the search for the tourist map, which means that obtaining it breaks the curse and saves your family from further frustration and ignominy.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Swearing causes your movement to be temporarily restricted. A bar of soap appears in your inventory, and you can't move until you ingest it.
  • Wire Dilemma: There's a bomb puzzle with four wires you can unplug.
  • You Can't Get Ye Flask: The solution to the robot mouse puzzle, in which you need to command the mouse while it's not in the room with you, is to address your commands to the hole that the mouse went through. Good luck figuring that out without resorting to hints.