Curio Review


People run for many reasons: to give chase, to escape, to compete. We run figuratively as well: from emotions, from pain, from responsibilities. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re running to or from; perhaps we’re running for no reason at all.

Genre pioneer Canabalt told players, “press X to start your daring escape,” and then tallied scores based on distance covered. This minimalism served the game’s purposes: motive laid the foundation while interface and interactivity carried the game the rest of the way.


Curio is nebulous in its initial instruction and explanation. “Start running, Ron” from an anonymous voice is little encouragement to even begin the arduous task at hand. Dangling carrots exist in the shape of floating pills and comic nightmare creatures act as punishment for poorly timed screen-tap leaps. But everything blurs. The process is a chore. The player knows nothing. There’s no reason to run.

Curio is a game that will continue to evolve,” says the game’s About screen. “Stick around to find out where we take it,” it implores, suggesting there is a reason to keep running… but play doesn’t change. Evolution exists only in the game’s Bonus section, where in-game progress unlocks new narrated chapters and art that reveal the hero’s history and psyche. The playable portion of Curio – tedium, training – becomes a means only to develop its non-playable parts – novelty, reward. Play in itself doesn’t evolve, but the meaning behind it does.


Games of skill and score like Curio transform relatively rather than absolutely, subjectively rather than objectively, via player metamorphosis. Honed skills improve the interactive experience, and only with proper motivation do such games afford players the opportunity to reach those new plateaus before novelty wears away. Curio walks a thin line between hooking and losing its audience, with no intrinsic joy in running and an unfulfilled narrative acting as the only thread of motivation to persevere through unremarkable play.

There’s barely a reason to run at all.


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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