Crescent Moon Games has been around for what must be close to a decade now, and around TouchArcade their brand is more or less synonymous with good games that are almost always worth checking out. Candies ‘n Curses (Free) falls perfectly in line with that, and while the core gameplay is super fun, they threw nearly very freemium shenanigan into the mix- A sad necessity of releasing a mobile game in 2018, it would seem (with rare exception).
Candies ‘n Curses kicks off with an oddly long intro segment which sets the scene for the game: You play as a character named Molli who accepted a dare to check out a nearby haunted mansion, which just so happens to be packed to the brim with ghosts. You fight these ghosts (initially) with your flashlight by running into them kinda sorta like Slayin ($0.99). Unlike Slayin, you play Candies ‘n Curses in portrait mode and there’s multiple levels of enemies which for lack of a better comparison almost gives me a classic (non-Super) Mario Bros vibe.
Using simple swipe controls you can send Molli up and down a level my swiping up or down, and you run right or left by swiping in that direction. The cadence of the game basically involves jumping between floors and in between ghosts to kill as many of them as possible as quickly as you can to keep your combo meter rolling. You’ll eventually reach a (often very cleverly designed) boss fight, and if you manage to make it past that, you’ll proceed to the next level where the whole thing repeats again with more difficult enemies and bosses.
You’ll eventually run out of hearts from hitting ghosts and die, at which point you’re offered the ability to watch an ad to continue once per run. Keep going until you die again, and you’ll have the ability to watch another ad to double the souls you collected on this particular run. What are souls? Oh, well, they’re one of two currencies you’re constantly earning in the game, with ectoplasm being the other.
These two currencies are used to unlock new weapons, like a lantern that changes your attack from a front-facing flashlight to a set of orbs encircling Molli that you mash into enemies instead. Additionally, each weapon can also be equipped with charms, which do things like give you more life, increase drop rates, and other stacking passive bonuses. There’s also an overarching experience system that has you constantly leveling up, as new weapons are gated not only by currency but also character level.
And of course along with all of these there are daily challenges you can do which provide bonus freemium currency, daily log-in bonuses, and an in-game store where you can buy all the extra souls and ectoplasm you’d ever want. If you really feel like dropping some cash, you can pick up a soul doubler and remove ads, each for $4.99. You can even enable push notifications to be reminded to keep playing when your daily bonuses are up again.
I think this all feels more annoying than usual in Candies ‘n Curses because you can definitely see the core of a really good Crescent Moon game in here. If Candies ‘n Curses had been released at a different time in the history of the App Store, it’d just be a real awesome premium game that sells for a few bucks. Instead, the whole first time player experience is all about teaching you how all the stuff you can buy in the game works.
But, hey, that’s just sort of the reality of the App Store in 2018.
Candies ‘n Curses is a great time, and has its hooks in me like any game with a fun upgrade cycle. The freemium stuff is pretty in your face, and the dual $4.99 IAPs to turn it into a more premium experience feels a little on the expensive side for what’s basically just a simple fast action arcade game. It also has some minor rendering issues on the iPhone X, with the game displaying some game data under the notch, but that sort of thing should be an easy fix.
But, hey, for the entry price of free, Candies ‘n Curses is totally worth downloading- Doubly so for being super timely with Halloween coming next week.