There is a subgenre of games that I’m attracted to. I’m not sure what to call it. Survival Non-horror? Survival? Disaster? In any case, these are games where the player nature, rather than any specific enemy, is the antagonist. It’s a small genre. I can think of only a handful of games that would fall into it: S.O.S and The Firemen on the Super Nintendo, Disaster Report and Raw Danger on PS2, and the Survival Kids/Lost in Blue series on Nintendo’s handhelds. I find these games endless fascinating. They put the player in unique (to video games at least) and dangerous situations that at to stay grounded in reality. At least sometimes.
I’m always on the lookout for more games like these. And that’s why Cursed Mountain caught my attention.
Cursed Mountain is a survival horror game developed by Deep Silver. Famed mountaineer Frank Simmons has gone missing while attempting to climb the Himalayan mountain Chomolonzo and his other brother, Eric has come to Tibet to find him. Something has gone wrong and the residents of the valley have fled the area. Arriving at Chomolonzo Eric finds that spirits trapped between life and reincarnation haunt the mountain. Now not only must he endure the natural dangers of the mountain but ghostly ghouls as well.
I’m not a big fan of survival horror. Mostly because I’m very susceptible to the idea of fear. Things like ghosts and monsters don’t frighten me as much as the idea of being frighted by ghosts and monsters. It’s all very stupid. Just reading some Silent Hill 2 articles last month kept me awake. Just the idea that I might have Silent Hill nightmares had me shaking in my sheets.
So I’m a little nervous about playing Cursed Mountain. I’m not afraid of ghosts and reviews I’ve read have said the game isn’t even scary. More like a dark adventure, one put it. Still I bought the game yesterday, didn’t start it, and still had a restless night.
But I will man up and actually play this game. It’s got too strong a grasp on me. Though it has ghosts and ghouls the game is grounded in reality like the survival-survival games I listed above. Chomolonzo is a real place. Like a real really real mountain. People have climbed it. I’m not suggesting that the people at Deep Silver recreated the mountain in Cursed Mountain. I’m sure little real geography is present in the game. But still I am excited about a game that takes place in an actual place. This isn’t like Liberty City’s recreation of New York or Resident Evil 4’s “Europe.” This is a tangible specific place. A hostile one of “rock and ice and storm and abyss” as Fosco Maraini described it*.
And like those survival-survival games I’m interested not because of ghosts but because here is a game about climbing a mountain. I’m looking forward to those terrifying grandiose vistas. Climbing treacherous ice walls. Navigating blinding snowstorms while low on oxygen. Those ghosties can go bugger themselves. I’m here for the mountain. This game calls to me. Why? I can only answer with the old mountain climber’s cliche: Because it’s there.
*Well, he was describing K2, the second tallest mountain in the world (Chomolonzo is the 24th), but I think the description is perfect for the whole of that upper world.