By Josh Speer / August 7th, 2014
|Title||Cthulhu Saves the World|
|Release Date||July 13 2011 (PC)|
|Platform||PC, XBox 360|
H.P. Lovecraft and I have a bit of a love / hate relationship. See, I’ve read some of his stories, and I generally find them confusing, disturbing and overly jumbled. Yet, whenever someone else adapts his work, such as Charles Stross’ Laundry Files, Hellboy, Neonomicon or even the odd episode of Supernatural, I find it wildly interesting! Which I find strange, but no stranger than any of the concepts or ideas that poured out of Lovecraft’s deranged noggin. That said, I went into Cthulhu Saves the World with a bit of apprehension and a lot of curiosity. I love retro RPGs, and it was a Lovecraft adaptation, so I was willing to bet I would love it. So in the end – was it an amazing game or did it drive me utterly insane?
The basic premise of Cthulhu Saves the World is that the elder god’s powers were stolen by some mysterious force, and he’s bound and determined to get them back. There’s just one catch – he can only do so by proving himself a true hero! A bit of a hurdle for a hideous space god, but Cthulhu proves game and sets out on his quest. Along the way he comes across a diverse and hilarious cast of compatriots, sycophants and deranged fools who assist him. There are some wildly creative choices here – ranging from a mermaid groupie to a living sword to a whip-wielding goth girl and more. Their abilities are equally unique, and the game lets you choose branching upgrades as you level them up. They range from the standard magical attacks and healing to unique tentacle-based attacks. Though you can only have four party members in your group at a time, I never felt restricted. This was likely due in large part to the fact that all party members gain XP, even those sitting on the backburner. This was a wise decision, as you’ll spend the vast majority of your time running through large dungeons full of monsters.
With such a ludicrous premise, it’s a good thing that the game also has a great sense of humor. It never takes itself too seriously – constantly breaking the fourth wall – and I found myself chuckling often as I played. You even get a type of airship late in the game, and come across heroic archetypes to trounce. Most of the story is told through still cutscenes that would look right at home in a silver age comic book, and text displayed in boxes. It’s not the most revolutionary choice, but, since the game is going for a retro indie RPG vibe, it perfectly meshed with my expectations.
Combat is a standard turn-based affair with some interesting quirks. First off, each dungeon has a limited number of battles you can encounter. Though it starts out at around 25 per area (you can always check on the save screen), later dungeons can get up to 50. You have an option to add more battles, but if you don’t want to, you can just clear an area out and then walk around safely. I generally adopted this tactic, interspersed with teleporting to villages and resting at an Inn to heal my party when necessary. This was a pretty frequent occurrence, since the enemies you face are no joke, and the wrong assortment can wipe you out in a turn or two. To curb this, Zeboyd games implemented a feature wherein the faster you win a battle, the more HP and MP you recover at the end. This was very helpful, least of all because your enemies get stronger every turn you battle them. Given the source material, it will be no surprise Cthulhu and Co. can drive foes insane. This is dangerous, as it can make them more or less dangerous. I often opted not to risk it, especially against bosses. Assuming it backfired in my face, I could always use the helpful 1-Up, which allowed me to replay a battle if I got creamed. Also neat were the Unite attacks, allowing two party members to join forces and unleash a mega attack against foes, improve your stats or more.
Controls in the game were simple and effective. Use the direction keys to move around, Enter and Backspace to confirm and deselect, Tab to bring up the menu and Esc to quit. Given how new I am to PC gaming, I really appreciated this simplicity. Another nice feature was the linearity of the game. You generally could follow the plot from one location to the next without too much wandering. For those with wanderlust, there are optional dungeons to face, but these were pretty basic for the most part and offered nice equipment for your crew. My only complaint gameplay-wise was how long and convoluted many of the dungeons were. Since the heal points in dungeons are few and far between, getting lost could be a problem, even with the capacity to save wherever you want. But this was only a minor concern, far from game-breaking.
Graphically, the game hit my sweet spot. It was simplistic pixelwork that was also pretty and effective at conveying personality and emotion. Though you never see advanced sprites for the party members, the enemies and bosses all looked nice and provided plenty of challenge (especially the damn Ape Princess…). No area looked quite the same, though there were some that were a little too similar. By far my favorites included the Spaceship and Zombie-infested town. The music and sound effects were also great, ranging from melancholy to upbeat and, dare I say it, campy. The tunes never wore out their welcome and immersed me in the elder god’s (heroic?) struggle.
As far as replay value, Cthulhu Saves the World does a pretty great job. I mostly avoided sidequests and still ended up spending between eight and nine hours beating the game. Taking into account some of the optional dungeons, I’d tack on another hour or two of potential playtime. You also have unlockable character pics, bestiary and more by accomplishing certain feats. Overall, I would say there’s a lot of value in the game, especially considering I got it bundled with Breath of Death VII for less than $4.
All in all, I was quite pleased with Cthulhu Saves the World. It adapted the classic Lovecraftian beast in a modern, entertaining way and gave me a quest just as fun as any Final Fantasy classic. The humor throughout kept things fresh and upbeat, and it provided just enough challenge to keep me playing even as I got beaten by foes. I would highly recommend it to any fan of classic RPGs, indie games or parody. Now I just have to play through the other great offerings from Zeboyd Games, and see how they stack up!
Review Copy Purchased by Author
Cthulhu Saves the WorldParodyPCRPGZeboyd Games