#587: The Curse of Issyos

Greeking out on Castlevania

june gloom
4 min readMay 18, 2024

Initial release: December 15th, 2015
Platform: PC/iOS
Developer: Locomalito

We all love Castlevania, but from its inception it has always been a thoroughly gothic flavor of horror, dominated by classic movie monsters from the Universal and Hammer canon. Even the games set in the near future lean heavily on gothic horror tropes. But there’s always been a touch of something older to this franchise. Medusa the gorgon is a regular appearance in these games (inspired by Clash of the Titans, an eighties Greek mythology classic), and so are minotaurs, harpies, and other iconic creatures of the ancient world. Why not go all-in on that? Spanish indie dev Locomalito had the same idea, manifesting itself in The Curse of Issyos, as thoroughly a Greek mythological flavored Κάστροβανίας as it gets.

The story is pretty simple: Defkalion is a fisherman who lives on the isle of Issyos during the heyday of Ancient Greece, when the voice of Athena tells him to hurry back to shore, as the island has been cursed by Olympus. Thinking of his daughter, his only family, he rushes back to the island to find it under occupation by sinister forces, with the beach crowded by fishmen and sand monsters, among other things. What follows is a mostly linear old-school Castlevania-like with a few features lifted from other games, such as a (small) world map between levels. There’s some cool levels here, from caves to a volcano to a snake-infested temple, to a level where you get chased around by a giant statue. The Ray Harryhausen influence is undeniable, which is probably why the game is dedicated to him in the credits.

You start off in the simple garb of a fisherman with a sword, but you can find a spear for longer range and some Spartan-esque armor to reduce damage sustained, as well as shoot arrows from a bow. You can switch back to the sword if you happen to find the corresponding item, though I don’t know why you would want to. Movement is pretty similar to Castlevania, though without the characteristic delay on swinging your weapon and you’re a little more agile in your jumps. Dying will knock off your armor but as far as I could tell it doesn’t usually downgrade your weapon?

Oh yeah, expect to die a lot. The Curse of Issyos isn’t the hardest game in the world, but it’s definitely an old-school kind of game. I had a bitch of a time especially with the gorgon’s temple, but it only gets harder from there. The main issue is that you don’t regain your health upon finishing a level; this makes for precarious situations as you start the next stage. You can restore your health with meat items that drop from the stone blocks that contain items, but it’s seemingly random. You can also buy meat and other items (including potions that increase your maximum health) at a couple places, but once you leave those areas they’re gone forever, and gold is hard to come by.

I had a good time with The Curse of Issyos. It looked good, sitting somewhere between the NES and SNES in terms of graphics, a sort of 12-bit aesthetic that I suppose on balance would have fit snugly in the early days of the SNES’ lifespan when a lot of games, including Final Fantasy IV, weren’t dramatic steps forward graphically over the NES. It sounded good, with crunchy sound effects and a soundtrack that, frankly, was pretty flame. It was fun to play, even if I personally think it’s too damn hard. And the best part is, it’s totally free. Ultimately, if you’re like me and you can’t get enough of old-school Castlevania bullshit, you could do worse than to play this game.

-june❤

The Curse of Issyos can be downloaded for free on Locomalito’s website.

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june gloom

Media critic, retired streamer, furry. I love you. [she/her]