The spook train does not stop this month, and I'm determined to keep digging up as many spooky, scary games as I can get my hands on. The thing is, after a head-scratching puzzler like last week's featured game, I'm more in the mood for something a bit less pensive and a bit more smack-a-ghost-in-the-face. Enter Candies n' Curses, a sugary cute arcade rogue-lite with all the Halloween flare required for playability this month.
Candies n' Curses opens on a party full of kids playing truth or dare. Molli Pop is one tough cookie, and she would never choose truth like a pansy, so her friends dare her to go into the town's haunted mansion. Full of the adrenaline and stupidity that only comes with youth, she agrees and bikes down the road to the terribly imposing house of horrors. It's much scarier than she expected, and once she's through the front door, a sinister breeze blows it closed. Now, she's officially trapped. Oh, the horror!
So Molli's trapped in the haunted mansion. Now what? It's swarming with ghosts, and she's only got a flashlight to defend herself. Luckily, the light from her beam is just enough to take out the ghosts that come into contact with its rays, as a friendly ghost butler kindly informs you.
Now you're introduced to the gameplay, which is challenging, often infuriating, and strangely addictive. Levels of the mansion are made up of 3 floors presented on a 2D plane, which Molli jumps up and down between with a swipe of your finger. Molli also automatically runs to the left or right until you swipe in the opposite direction to turn her around, while all manner of baddies continuously spawn on each of the three floors.
Molli can take out ghosts just by running into them with her flashlight, but there's a lot of finesse with how you approach them. If you jump up to the next floor at the wrong time and Molli's head runs into a ghost instead of the beam of her flashlight, she'll take damage. If you're on the bottom floor and you don't see a fireball coming your way until it's too late, she takes damage. And as you progress in any given level, more and more enemies will spawn until the screen is an absolute cluster of things that go bump in the night.
Amid all this chaos, you may notice that you're wracking up chains of kills based on how fast and how many enemies you destroy within a certain time period. Higher chains obviously lead to higher scores at the end of each level, and higher scores net you more souls and ectoplasm, which you'll desperately need to purchase upgrades for Molli.
This is where the rogue-lite aspects of the game really start to come, as Candies n' Curses fully expects you to die a lot. Each time Molli dies, she becomes a disembodied spirit, and you're booted out of the mansion and into a menu where you can manage your loadout, daily challenges, achievements, outfits, and charms. You'll use the souls and ectoplasm you earn with each run to purchase new weapons like better flashlights, lanterns, and even swords, all of which can be equipped with charms.
Charms all do something a little different, but they're all buffs for Molli and can give her more health, add poison effects to her weapons, make her faster, grant an extra life, and many other useful perks. Charms and new weapons, plus upgrades for them, all require a mix of souls and ectoplasm to purchase, so you either need to save up to buy fancier items, or you can take a shortcut and purchase ectoplasm or souls through in-app purchases.
Speaking of monetization, this is, unfortunately, the most glaring issue that I've had with the game. In Candies n' Curses' defense, the base game is 100% free. However, the free version of the game is absolutely crawling with long ads. You get one extra life in each run, but you have to watch an ad to use that life. Then, when you inevitably die again during the run, you have to watch another ad before you get back to the equipment hub. THEN, you also have to watch yet another ad if you want to optionally double the earnings you gained from the run you just died in. These ads are a full 30 seconds, and given how they tend to happen in such close succession to each other, they become very painful very quickly.
This is an intended effect, I'm sure, as an ad-free version of the game can is available for purchase. I'm quite tempted to fork over the cash in exchange for a reprieve from these ads, but it's worth mentioning that Candies n' Curses has a premium price tag of $19.99 for the full, ad-free game. That's a pretty huge chunk of change, even among other premium games out there. However, the game should still be 50% off as of this article's posting. Please note, the sale ends on Saturday, October 9th, so if you're going to buy the full game, you better hurry up and do it now. It also just got a meaty DLC update, so if you previously played the game, consider revisiting it for the new content.
The ads are just about the only thing I've found to dislike about Candies n' Curses. The excellent design aesthetic and soundtrack perfectly fit the Halloween theme, the pixelated character designs are well-crafted and full of personality, and the gameplay itself is very fun. Yes, it's also infuriatingly difficult at times, but very fun if you're in the mood for some punishment. If any of this sounds appealing to you, please Candies n' Curses a try. It's a wonderfully made game that has the potential to keep you entertained for hours on end.
I've got a sweet tooth...for PAIN
Is it even October if your weapon isn't a flashlight?
2D arcade action with a delicious rogue-lite icing on top, all molded into the shape of Halloween. What more could you ask for?
A lifelong gamer, Mogan has had a controller in hand since the PlayStation 1 ruled the world and Neopets seemed eternal. She loves to play new and old games alike, especially if it's something weird and charming. Puzzlers, JRPGs, adventure, and rhythm games are her favorites.