The Curse of Issyos

A game by Locomalito for PC and iOS, originally released in 2015.
The Curse of Issyos stars a fisherman named Defkalion who is out fishing when he is called upon by the goddess Athena to return to the island of Issyos, which has been cursed by “the Olympus”. The fisherman makes haste to reach the island, fearing for the life of his daughter. Fighting his way across the shore and through the caves, he makes his way to his village and learns that his daughter has escaped to the east, but she is in great danger. The humble fisherman and former soldier takes up arms once more and sets out to rescue her, fighting terrible beasts along the way, but Athena is secretly offering her assistance…

The game is an action platformer with a style and setting very much inspired by the works of Ray Harryhausen. A large number of enemies are taken directly from Harryhausen films, including skeletons wielding swords and round shields, giant scorpions, and a colossal soldier. Bosses include some of the greatest creatures of Greek myth, such as Polyhemus, Medusa, Scylla, and Cerberus.

Defkalion moves at a deliberate pace and has a 1.5x nonvariable jump. Despite the Castlevania-inspired pace and jump animation, he is more maneuverable and is able to change directions while jumping. At the start of the game, Defkalion wields a sword, but certain breakable blocks contain weapon pickups, allowing him to equip a longer-range spear with a slower attack speed. When wielding the spear, weapon pickups change to a sword, allowing the player to switch between the two weapons.

The sword and spear cause the same amount of damage, so the ideal weapon is generally left to the player’s preference. However, there are a couple of instances where one weapon gives a distinct advantage over the other, and weapon drops are available in these areas to assist the player.

For instance, in the boss battle against the hydra, the spear is preferred, as the hydra moves in and out of range spitting balls of acid, so it’s best to keep a safe distance. In another area, the player must run away from a giant bronze soldier, but breakable blocks stand in his way, so the faster strike of the sword is the preferred weapon here.

In addition to the sword and spear, Defkalion carries a bow and arrows, allowing him to pick off targets from a distance with a somewhat weaker attack by pressing UP and ATTACK. Arrows come in limited supply and are found by breaking stone blocks around the environment. Other drops include coins, health restoratives, keys, and armor.

The armor has a significant impact on gameplay. Due to the infrequent appearance of health restoratives and the general fragility of the hero, the added protection of the suit of armor can help the player last a bit longer against the hordes of mythological beasts. The suit of armor also comes with a shield, which may be used by ducking, allowing Defkalion to block most projectiles and make a steady advance on knife-tossing enemies. Armor pickups are rare, and armor is lost when Defkalion is killed.

The first level takes place along the shores of Issyos and sees the player facing off against lizard men, sand creatures, skeletons, and scorpions. This area is an entirely linear experience, with the player moving from left to right through some fairly basic level layouts.

This changes when the player reaches the second level and enters the caves. Here, the player is presented with an entirely open area, with horizontal scrolling and screen transitions leading to areas above and below. There are four tiers, and the goal here is to collect three keys that are needed to open the door to the next area. Keys are found in breakable blocks, but they do not appear in the same blocks each time, requiring players to thoroughly search in order to find them all. Exploration is further rewarded in the form of a potion that adds two units of health to the player’s 8-unit meter.

Later in the game, the player encounters another area that requires three keys to complete, and as before, there are three keys to be found by thoroughly searching the area. However, there are actually some additional keys to be found… In the early going, the player can find three additional keys (one must be purchased), which opens an optional door in the fourth area. Doing this leads to a hidden level, which includes a nod to another classic Harryhausen creature, as well as pickup that leads to an alternate ending. However, if the player uses a continue, he loses all collected keys.

Between each level, the player returns to an overworld map, and he is given some choice as to which areas to tackle next. The first two levels must be completed in order, but once this is done, the player is able to enter a village, a forest path, or the third numbered level.

The village has items for sale, including health restoratives, arrows, and another potion that permanently increases the health meter. Here, the player also learns that there are hidden coins that may be found by striking in the air… a gift from Athena. The village may only be entered once per playthrough, after which its icon disappears from the overworld map.

The open construction of the map actually allows the player to skip the third level entirely, if he so chooses. He may instead take the shorter forest path, which has no boss and offers the game’s sole 1UP. On the other side of the pass is another optional village and the fourth area. Once the player completes the fifth area, however, he is no longer able to return to the map, and he must complete the remaining two levels in succession.

Level layouts become more challenging in the back half of the game with insta-death lava filling in many of the spaces between platforms. Defkalion is knocked back a considerable distance when taking damage, which isn’t much of an issue in the early going, but later levels are filled with fast-moving enemies and projectiles intermixed with narrow platforms and lava, which can quickly drain the player’s remaining stock of continues.

However, like the classic console games from which this game draws its inspiration, the player will slowly get better at the earlier stages as he replays the game, making it more likely that he will arrive at later stages with a larger stock of continues. Enemies appear from specific locations on each run – rather than appearing at random or spawning infinitely – allowing players to recall their locations on future playthroughs, greatly reducing the threat of early monsters and bosses.

Getting better in earlier areas is especially important since armor is lost upon death and the player’s health is not restored between levels. Health restoratives are infrequent, and killed enemies don’t leave any pickups behind, so every unit of health is precious. As such, players will need to become especially adept at defeating each of the end-level bosses, lest he shed valuable health and enter the next stage unprepared.

Boss encounters are fairly simple once the player understands their movement patterns, but there is a good deal of variety between them. The first boss is a cyclops that can toss rocks and jump in the air to send sand flying at you, either of which will take off a sizeable chunk of your health meter. Once you learn his pattern, however, it’s easy to fight the creature without taking damage. In a nice touch, knocking the beast down to its last unit of health causes him to fall to his knees, at which point you can stab him right in the eye, Odysseus-style, resulting in a satisfying spray of blood as the cyclops clutches at his marred socket.

A later battle pits the player against medusa who emerges from one of eight doors in the room. On every few appearances, an eye icon appears above her head, indicating that the will turn Defkalion to stone if he looks at her. Players must be careful to keep Defkalion facing away from her while avoiding the arrows that she fires quickly from her bow. Turning around at the wrong time spells instant death for the hero.

There is very little money to be found in the game, but there are a few shops, including a couple that appear within the levels themselves. Players can earn money to buy potions that increase their maximum health, eventually doubling their starting health count, but these upgrades are comparatively expensive, so players will need to take risks to seek out all of the available treasures, hidden and otherwise.

Aesthetically, the game is meant to mimic the style of late 80’s console games, and the game offers chunky visuals, a reduced color palette, and noticeable scanlines. Levels are presented with a countdown timer which spells death if it reaches zero, but most levels can be easily completed within the time limit. There are some nice flourishes to be found, including sand creatures rising out of the sand, a vividly-colored underground area, some detailed statues, and red tentacles emerging from the water as Defkalion sails on a raft to take on Scylla.

The Curse of Issyos was developed by Juan Antonio Becerra, a.k.a. Locomalito, a developer based in AndalucĂ­a, Spain who focuses on classic gameplay archetypes. Locomalito’s nickname translates roughly into “sick little crazy kid”, a reference to a mocking term that other kids called him while he excitedly pounded buttons and yelled at the monitor while playing through R-Type in the arcade. Gryzor87 created the music and sound effects.

Development for the game originally began in 2010 but was halted while the developer worked on Maldita Castilla, his most ambitious title to date. In addition to Ray Harryhausen, the developer cites Vampire Killer, Rastan, Kenseiden, Rygar, or Ninja Gaiden as his influences for this game.

All of Locomalito’s games have been released at no cost (although he does accept donations via his website). He is probably best known for his work on Hydorah and Maldita Castilla, two of his more expansive titles, although he has released a number of smaller games along the way.

Verminian Trap
In late 2013, Locomalito released Verminian Trap, an arcade-style game similar to Midway’s Wizard of Wor. The player moves around maze-like environments fighting monsters throughout waves of continuously escalating difficulty. The game takes place amongst the ruins of planet Verminest, which has been featured in two of Locomalito’s previous titles, They Came from Verminest and Hydorah (also below), and features insect-like enemies.

The goal is simple… As in the arcade games of old, you must survive for as long as possible against an unending onslaught of enemies, attempting to get as high a score as possible. Each enemy has a different point value, with tougher foes yielding more points. Enemies occasionally drop stars which may be collected for additional points, although these disappear after a few seconds if uncollected. The player earns an extra life with every 2,500 points, and must return to the start of the game when all lives have been lost.

The most common enemies are the spider-like Vermin that simply crawl around the maze, although pink Vermin gain the ability to fire projectiles in later waves. Heavier tank Vermin take more hits to kill and can also drop webs that slow you down when you move through them and also absorb your fire until they are destroyed. Bees move around the maze more quickly and can close in on you in a hurry. Lastly, there is a rolling juggernaut enemy that moves slowly but cannot be killed, thus preventing you from camping in any one location for too long. The juggernaut also stays in the maze wave after wave, and you can have more than one of them in play at a time, making them particularly dangerous. Enemy speeds slowly increase as you progress.

Powerups are available in two forms. A “P” icon changes your single shot into a double shot, allowing you to dish out more damage. Grabbing another “P” gives you a triple shot, and collecting another gives you a quadruple shot. A second powerup is an “S” icon which increases your movement speed, and the effects of collecting multiple “S” icons are cumulative as well. You retain these powerups until you are killed, although the last powerup you grabbed will drop in the spot where you died, allowing you to run back and pick it up. You gain temporary invincibility when respawning, and enemies will remain paused for a few seconds each time the player is killed.

The game supports up to 4P local co-op with a single score shared between all players, although players are able to kill one another… whether on purpose or by accident. In addition to the main arcade mode, players may also compete to capture as many flags as possible while also fighting off enemies, or compete for score. In each mode, players may select the starting area, which impacts the tile set, layout of the maze, and difficulty of the enemies.

In 2013, Locomalito released Gaurodan, developed with a style, gameplay, and difficulty meant to harken back to arcade games of 1984, while focusing on a theme that is far older. If you spent your childhood sitting on the floor in your underwear eating bowls of cereal (or vice versa) while watching poorly dubbed Japanese monster movies, then you’ll be right at home with the story of Gaurodan, the bird of thunder.

The story focuses on the discovery of a giant radioactive egg in the Canary Islands and its ties to recent earthquakes and underwater volcanic activity. Meanwhile, the locals are worried because of their legends that tell of a mythical creature named Gaurodan who was sent by the gods to fight Guayota, the fire beast, and punish mankind for its awakening. As with the giant monster movies of old, many cities will be laid to waste in the process.

When the game starts, an egg emerges from a mountain. You roll it around to crush houses and other structures on the ground, eventually causing the egg to crack open and reveal Gaurodan. From there, you take on each mission as Gaurodan, a flying pteranodon-like creature that can shoot bolts of electricity from its mouth. Electricity can be fired straight ahead to take down skybound enemies such as helicopters and jets, while the downward blast lets you destroy tanks and buildings.

Destroying power plants grants you a powerup that temporarily allows you to shoot two energy blasts. A clock powerup puts a bit more time on the clock, stars give you bonus points, and hidden bananas may be uncovered to reach a secret ending. Blowing up hospitals grants you a heart that restores one unit of your life bar… and you’ll need it because death means restarting the game again from the beginning. You can’t credit feed your way to victory here.

There are 11 increasingly challenging levels, including the rise of military involvement, multiple encounters with Guayota, a descent into a volcano, and eventually some strange alien parasites. Rack up enough points, and you’ll open a survival mode that puts you up against a steady flow of increasingly difficult enemies.

Maldita Castilla
In Maldita Castilla, the player takes on the role of Don Ramiro as he travels the lands of Tolomera in 11th century Spain, in a game inspired by classic arcade games, particularly Ghosts ‘n Goblins.

Per GnG conventions, the player has an infinite supply of throwable weapons, which come in the form of a lance, an axe, iron balls, and a sickle. The player travels through a number of dark settings, facing off against skeletons, ghosts, harpies, and other nasty beasts, as well as some large boss creatures.

Like the GnG series, this game gets tough quickly, but the player is granted infinite continues. However, using too many continues requires that Don Ramiro sacrifice his soul in order to appease Death and be allowed to continue on.

Players wishing to reach the game’s true ending will need to find all of Maura’s Tears along the way, and make it to the end with their souls intact. For more details, check our coverage here.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful
In 2012, prior to the release of Maldita Castilla, Locomalito released a game called Endless Forms Most Beautiful (EFMB), a remake based on the original ZX Spectrum title, EFMB: Endless Forms Most Beautiful. As in the original, the game has some fairly odd mechanics insofar as what we’re used to seeing in platformers.

Teleporters allow the player to move up or down one tier, while wrapping from one side of the screen to the other allows for ascent and descent (rather than simply warping to the same point on the other side of the screen as in Pac-Man). Moving continuously to the left allows you to move upward, while moving to the right sends you one tier downward.

The object is to collect all of the imps spread across the multiple tiers of each level, with some of them turning into bombs when touched – killing enemies on the same level, and potentially killing you – and some turning into valuable pickups, such as a 1UP, temporary invincibility, or a speed increase.

The 15-level game pits players against increasingly bizarre enemies, each with its own behaviors, adding complexity as you move forward. Some enemies will shoot at you, others can move up and down through teleporters, and others will chase you quickly from one tier to the next. The game also features 2P co-op as well as a 3-level competitive mode in which players compete for the highest score.

They Came from Verminest
In 2011, Locomalito released the demo for Maldita Castilla, but he stepped away from that title for a while to work on a game called They Came from Verminest, which he was inspired to create after playing Galaga on an arcade machine during his travels.

As in Galaga, Verminest features a ship on the bottom of the screen, which can move back and forth – as well as up and down – blasting away at formations of insectoid invaders as they move around the screen and dive bomb the ship. The player must shoot, dodge, and collect powerups to see his way to victory.

There are references to other shooting games as well, with moving shields reminiscent of Space Invaders, and scrolling levels as seen in later vertical shmups. There are even boss encounters, including battles against a giant lobster, a UFO, and a centipede that moves similarly to the one in Atari’s classic arcade game, Centipede. The game features a bonus system where players can earn medals by destroying enemies at close range and scaring away enemies by destroying their leaders.

The graphics were created entirely in black and white, as inspired by 50’s sci-fi films, and it also features an anaglyph 3D mode. The game takes place across 5 tropically-themed environments.

They Came from Verminest ‘83
The developer released a color version of the game shortly thereafter, titled They Came from Verminest ‘83, offering the same gameplay but with a color palette more reminiscent 80’s-era arcade games such as the Galaga series.

Earlier in 2011, the developer suffered from a long-term illness caused by a virus, which inspired him to create a video game called Viriax. At first glance, the game appears to be a standard vertically scrolling shmup featuring a lone ship going up against a number of hostile enemies. However, player doesn’t control a friendly ship, but rather the virus itself.

The virus must swim through various parts of the body, slowly infecting organs as the N.A.S. (Nanobot Assembly System) attempts to stop its hostile advancement. The virus slowly loses health as it expends energy to move forward and when it receives damage, with health only being restored by destroying red globules.

The virus also does not move or attack in the traditional shmup fashion. Instead, it swims forward, dashing a bit at a time, with the player working to get the best rhythm to advance. Since the virus cannot shoot, it attacks by swimming past the target and slamming down on it from above.

The game features 6 levels with procedurally-generated layouts. There are a number of powerups along the way that will help the player to earn a higher score, move more quickly, or increase the infection rate.

l'Abbaye des Morts
In 2010, Locomalito released a game called l'Abbaye des Morts. The game is designed after classic ZX Spectrum games, with a limited 16-color palette and only one color per sprite, with negative space being transparent. Later, he redrew the graphics for a Megadrive port in development by Moonwatcher.

This short game was created in the span of a couple weeks and features a Cathar who is on the run from agents of the Catholic church who pursue him through each of the single-screen environments.

The game is primarily a platformer, with the player jumping over pits, hopping on platforms, collecting items, and avoiding enemies – such as rats and flying skulls – as he runs from the crusaders.

One of the developer’s more popular releases is Hydorah, a traditional horizontal shmup released in 2010. The title features gameplay reminiscent of shmups from the era of Gradius and R-Type, with numerous references to other shmups and sidescrolling action games of the time.

Unlike many of the developer’s smaller projects or experimental titles, this is a full-fledged shmup with 16 levels, 30 bosses, and dozens of unique enemies spread throughout the varied environments.

The game features primary and secondary weapons as well as a weapon selection screen for outfitting your ship. You can grab powerups within the levels to increase your overall weapon power and increase the speed of your ship, as well as collecting brand new weapons for use in later stages.

Primary weapons come in a number of flavors with thin lasers, wide sprays, and weapons that can shoot through solid objects. Backing this up are secondary weapons, such as air-to-ground bombs and mines.

The game also features branching paths, allowing the player to experience different levels – and different endings – on multiple playthroughs. Side paths feature challenging areas for more skilled players.

Earlier Development
Earlier in Locomalito’s development life, he created a number of simple titles, including Zneik, a variation on the classic game Snake; Blokanoid, a variation on Arkanoid; and Red Spheres, a variation on Lights Out. He even created a basic first person shooter called 8 Bit Killer, which used low-res NES-style graphics, harkening back to games like Wolfenstien 3D while mixing in the slow bullet dodging of NES-era run-and-gun titles like Contra and Commando.