If you've been missing Game Boy style platformers, your prayers have been answered.
Curse Crackers: For Whom The Belle Tolls is a 2D action-platformer in the Game Boy style of Super Mario Land 2 and the Wario Land series. It stars an acrobatic clown named Belle and her throwable partner Chime, and the pair romp through dozens of stages and a charming overworld. Does this blast from the portable past fly high or does it fall off the tightrope?
The main story involves rival Bonnie kidnapping Belle's boyfriend while the two are out on a date, but as the plot unfolds, some interesting twists complicate matters significantly. As you progress across the game's five or so main areas, the color palettes and obstacles shift, making each hour of the Curse Crackers feel fresh. Along the way, the overworld has rest stops like an inn and a full town where you can find side objectives and many NPCs to interact with in different ways. There's a lot of life to this world, in addition to compelling gameplay.
Speaking of, Belle has the ability to run, slide, jump, and throw the ball-shaped Chime to various effects. You can toss Chime in eight directions to take out enemies, trip switches, or even propel Belle to higher heights. While the basic enemy variety is a little bit lacking, there are mini-bosses every three stages and then a final boss at the end of every world area, and these are a joy to engage with. Within the levels themselves, there are rings to grab onto, cannons to shoot out of, and even keys to pick up and unlock doors with.
What's really impressive about Curse Crackers is the sheer number of things to do and collect. Every stage has three roses to find, which function in a couple places as a way of opening up new areas, including near the end of the story. There are bonus rooms to complete that offer a platforming test and reward you with another collectable and a bunch of coins. The coins you pick up can be spent in town on items or mini-games, but you lose a portion of them when you die, unless you can retrieve your pouch in the spot where you failed. Other secrets are tied to in-game accomplishments and even post-game content. This rambunctious clown has more than a few tricks up her sleeve, and ultimately there's just much more than meets the eye at first glance.
The music is fairly catchy, and the retro-style art is really attractive, especially in the scores of characters and the little ways that Belle moves and sways. Given the zoomed-in screen display, there are some situations where you'll encounter a pit or other danger below without realizing it, but you can stop and press down on the stick or pad to scroll the screen down slightly. Another potential frustration is in controlling Belle, in that a lot of her jumping and sliding moves use similar button inputs, increasing the chance of pulling off the wrong move at the wrong time. Nonetheless, the presentation is a clear highlight of Curse Crackers, and it's a joy to look at and listen to across its brief but enjoyable main story.
Fans of the Game Boy Color days rejoice! Curse Crackers will have you feeling that nostalgia with its solid platforming, endearing world, and abundance of content. If you're up for uncovering all of its secrets and earning every achievement, there are dozens of hours to keep you busy, but an unlockable Arcade Mode and even just the overall level design lend themselves to leaping through every stage as fast as possible. However you choose to play it, Curse Crackers is an easy recommendation and a retro-fueled gem in the Switch library.