Think about Buddhists and what springs to mind may well be a bunch of slapheads in robes sitting around chanting 'om' all day. You certainly don't associate them with religious curses, turning into ghosts and scaring the bejesus out of plucky young mountaineers.
That's the fate awaiting Eric Simmons, who's attempting to climb Mount Chomolonzo in the Himalayas in search of his missing brother. This being a horror game, though, surviving in the great outdoors isn't quite as easy as Bear Grylls makes out on the telly. Before long you're being plagued by strange flashbacks to your bro's disappearance as well as spooky sights and sounds. Oh, and pretty much every villager, mountaineer and Buddhist monk that ever died in the vicinity has come back to haunt you and hinder your progress.
Despite the hokeyness of it all, Cursed Mountain is a game that takes scaring you very seriously. There are a handful of proper drop-the-Remote shocks where someone or something suddenly appears on-screen accompanied by a loud noise, and a few mild flutters where a door bangs or some half-seen figure moves into view.
The game is actually at its best in the quieter moments when very little is happening and you're just walking along a long empty corridor or through a deserted cavern. The tension is expertly cranked up, and it's all about the dread and anticipation that something horrible is about to happen. Sometimes there's a payoff and sometimes there isn't, but it's how you get there that's truly terrifying.
The mountain itself is the game's real star. After any number of haunted towns, houses, schools and hospitals, it's nice to get your horror kicks in such an original setting. (We'll forgive it the occasional bit of cheating when Eric takes a detour into a spooky town.) The sound is excellent too, with the howling wind a constant reminder of how isolated you are and how you're at the mercy of the elements. The fact you're always able to see how far you've come and how much of the mountain you've got left to climb gives events an added sense of purpose that's missing from other survival horror games, where the levels often feel too self-contained and unrelated.
Eric's one defence against the mountain spooks is his trusty ice axe, which you're told early on has 'mystical powers'. A magic ice axe? Told you this was hokey. By combining it with different relics that you find on your journey, the axe does much more than simply bash a ghost's head in; it fires a burst of energy that weakens an enemy to the point where you can finish it off with a gesture-based prayer move.
Yes, a prayer move. See, Eric has the ability to look through a Third Eye and enter a higher consciousness. Shame he couldn't foresee all the trouble he'd encounter on the mountain. Anyway, in this state you can fire those beams of energy and then use the Remote to lock onto
a symbol that appears on the weakened enemy's body. A series of gestures for the Remote and Nunchuk appear on screen, and if you perform them correctly the ghost is vanquished from Bardo (the Tibetan version of limbo). These moves are also used to unlock doors and uncover secret areas, where you'll find a range of unusual things such as diary entries that fill in the background story. It's worth seeking these out because the story can get pretty confusing, and the thick accents make many of the characters difficult to understand.
A couple of other niggles also make Cursed Mountain a frustrating experience at times: the camera and controls don't hold up so well when you're facing multiple enemies, and without the aid of a 180-degree spin move it's easy to find yourself surrounded. Not being able to skip the cutscenes quickly becomes pretty annoying too. Still, you can forgive the game these flaws because they're never enough to take you out of its chilling atmosphere. If you want a survival horror game that's a little bit different, Cursed Mountain delivers scares and surprises in spades.