Past Cure tells the story of an ex-soldier named Ian who is suffering from a bout of amnesia pertaining to a three year period in his life, after which he wound up with some extraordinary abilities. He, naturally, wants to know what happened to him in that time and why he can now do things that mere mortal men cannot, and with the help of his brother Marcus, sets off on a quest to discover the truth about his gift, and the meaning behind a series of vivid nightmares he's experienced since the event.
The story starts slowly but gets pretty intriguing the further you get through the game. Unfortunately – and doubly so, since the narrative is one of the strongest elements of the game – it can't stick the landing, and the answers you'll likely be craving will almost certainly fail to leave you satiated once they (kind of) arrive. If the story managed to knock it out of the park it might be worth persevering with some of the game's more tedious design choices, but as it is, it's simply not worth the slog.
And what a slog it is. If Past Cure were half as long as it is it'd probably still be twice as long as it needs to be. The eight hour running time is broken up into a half dozen chapters, and basically every time the chapter changes, so does the gameplay. Changing up the genres between levels could be a good idea in theory, since variety is the spice of life and all that, but none of the gameplay styles present are particularly deftly handled, which leaves the whole thing feeling somewhat shambolic. It's a jack of all trades but a master of none.
What's evident from fairly early on playing Past Cure is that the small studio behind the game, Phantom 8, has simply bitten off more than they can chew here. The game looks pretty good, and could almost pass for a AAA game if you squint your eyes a little, which is a phenomenal achievement for an indie project such as this, but in most other areas the cracks begin to show from the word go.
The game begins as a fairly rudimentary third-person shooter, but then quickly you're solving some basic puzzles using supernatural abilities and negotiating mazes that transform around you as you move. There's a stealth section which is a mildly entertaining diversion for about five minutes, but it quickly becomes tiresome once it degenerates into an exercise in trial and error thanks to the crummy enemy AI and a lack of information on the HUD. There's some more clumsily implemented gunplay that almost immediately outstays its welcome, and later, a horror section that pays more than a passing nod to about three different Silent Hill games in one sitting. All it needs is a kart racer.
None of the different gameplay elements here are strong enough to justify how much time is spent using them. If the shooting sections lasted a couple of minutes like the ones in the criminally underplayed Blues & Bullets, they'd be fine, perhaps even welcome distractions from all of the walking and talking. But when you're trapped battling wave after wave of moronic enemies for what feels like four days, it completely derails the pacing of the story, destroying any momentum that the marginally compelling narrative has managed to conjure.
The enemy AI during the shooting levels is utterly hopeless, the cover system is wonky, and the guns are finicky and unsatisfying to use. Ian can slow down time and perform astral projection to aid him in battle, both of which can only be used sparingly as they're tied to a 'sanity' meter. This could be awesome if, say, depleting the sanity meter caused Ian to binge on Toblerone and drive barefoot to Dundee, but all that happens here is the screen wobbles a bit and then the meter fills itself back up. It's another half-baked system that either needs more work, or shouldn't be in the game.
The voice acting is a bit mixed. Ian and Marcus are both fairly believable, but many of the secondary characters fare quite poorly by comparison. Enemy agents deliver garden variety dialogue in a manner one is usually accustomed to hearing coming from an older model Sat Nav, and the lead baddie is only an evil laugh and a "We're not so different you and I" away from being a walking cliché. The sound design is quite well done in parts, particularly in the horror chapter, which is suitably tense in all of the right ways before clunky gameplay mechanics ruin the moment.
Animations are often janky, enemy AI is frequently appalling across all gameplay styles, and there's numerous times when it's not actually clear what you're even supposed to be doing. There's an investigation part late in the game in which you're told to open a safe, and then once you've done it your next objective is to open a suitcase. What the game doesn't tell you is that said suitcase is in another safe, and so we spent an age frantically hammering the action button while rubbing up against every suitcase in three different hotel rooms like a weirdo with a luggage fetish.
Past Cure is a bad game. It's bad bad. But it's also the best kind of bad game, in that it's not for a lack of effort or that the team were bereft of ideas that the finished product doesn't come together. If anything, the game is too ambitious, with too many ideas, and it inevitably crumbles under the weight of numerous poorly implemented gameplay styles and a total lack of a cohesive identity. It's a bit like when your mum tries making Baked Alaska for the first time – sure, the end result is a sloppy mess, but you've got to applaud the audacity to try it in the first place.