Game Review: Cthulhu Saves the World
Do you remember the days of yore? Popping a cartridge into a console and… Popping it out to blow the contacts clean? But after that, I’m sure you have some wonderful sunlit memory of hearing wonderful 8-bit music fill your ears, listening as you read tales of knights and heroes who selflessly saved the world in all their blocky, pixelated glory…
Cthulhu Saves the World isn’t one of these games. Rather, it pokes good fun at these games all while honoring them and their random battles, square little villages full of square little people, and of course by making fun of their (typically) square storyline. In case you didn’t already know, Cthulhu is a monstrosity said to be lying dormant… Waiting… There’s a short story by a certain Lovecraft that was written about this great being a long time ago, if you haven’t read it already, I suggest you check it out. Moving on, this great, horrific evil has suddenly lost his power (accursed adventuring heroes are to blame!) and in order to regain them, he needs become a hero and save the world.
This game originally debuted as an XBLIG (Xbox Live Indie Game), and it’s still available to purchase there, but it’s also available on Steam and, as of late, on Android and iOS. So is this an RPG worth your time, money, and flabby mortal soul? I’d say so. Why? Because Lord Cthulhu said so! But beyond that, the game is absolutely hilarious- if you’re into RPGs, you should know that this game is full of references and jokes to classic games, and lovingly parodies their tropes and clichés, characters, etc. The game’s story is truly comedic, and it’s pretty well written. While I do admit to not having yet finished the game for the sake of having a review out in a timely fashion, the story as I’ve experienced thus far has been nothing short of side-splitting.
Visually, the game mostly reminds me of older Final Fantasy titles, though for some reason I get a slight Phantasy Star vibe from the character art- all of which is awesome. I appreciate the effort Zeboyd put into it- whenever a character is talking, you’ll see their face above their words- and there’s a few different facial expressions you’ll get to catch. I also like the detail on the environments- walk beneath a bridge and you’ll be walking beneath its shadow. Such little touches don’t go unnoticed (especially when they’re pointed out to you when you play the game with developer commentary- I’ll get to that later). The games retro-styled graphics did, at times, make me feel as if I was playing a much older game, and it’s evident that plenty of detail was put into the animation of the sprites, the environments, and of course the enemies- typically in battle, you’ll just see a static picture of your enemy, but there’s a second image that’s unlocked when you’ve driven your enemy insane.
Musically, the game doesn’t disappoint. The music certainly sounds rather RPG-like- it’s adventurous and cheerful most of the time, and the battle music is the standard dramatic battle music. Truth be told, I only found the game’s opening theme to be particularly memorable, although that’s not to say that the game doesn’t have any variety in its tunes- I seem to recall running into a rainy town with gentle, brooding music that seemed to sneak up on me…
Moving on to gameplay, the game is essentially your standard old-fashioned JRPG. You control your party as you roam through dungeons, towns, over mountains, through deep, dank caves and dive headlong into sidequests. As I’ve said before, this game pays homage to the classics, though there are some interesting differences. For example, there’s no map. Instead, you’ll run into lanterns that tell you if you’re heading in the right direction. I thought this was an interesting touch that seems to encourage players to explore the levels instead of just dashing right on through. Your health also regenerates itself at the end of each battle (at least in normal mode) but your mana doesn’t. This creates an interesting little dilemma. Will you summon forth tentacles to do your bidding, you just tough your way through the fight? You see, the first way you get mana back is either by reaching a save point or an inn- or by completing a battle quickly. The fewer rounds you go through, the more mana you’ll gain at the end of the fight. You’d better be ready to manage your abilities. Something else I really enjoyed about CSTW is that you can save at any time. Well, not during a fight, but just about any time else, really. If you play RPGs as sloppily as I do, you’ll probably appreciate this.
Regarding the controls, the game does take a bit of getting used to- unlike most mobile RPGs, there’s no onscreen joystick. Rather, you slide your finger in the direction you’d like to go in and just hold it there to continue on. This takes a little practice- I often found myself sliding my finger right off the screen! Really, though, only subtle movements are necessary- just imagine the joystick is wherever you want it to be.Another awesome feature is on the upper left-hand corner of the screen- it’s a boot. Touching it will allow you to run, thus saving time when you occasionally find yourself backtracking to see if you missed a treasure chest and you just don’t quite feel like soaking up the sights of the city- erm, dungeon.
As I mentioned before, developer commentary can turned on at the beginning of the game. It essentially adds question marks to the game that you’ll occasionally notice scattered across the environment that tell you what the developers were thinking when they implemented a feature or were creating a certain part of the game. I recommend turning it on- it’s really quite interesting to see how some things came to be.
Overall, this game is hilarious, a metric-ton of tentacled fun, and is a must-play for fans of RPGs- you can pick it up for Android or iOS. Or PC. If you’d like to buy the original version of the game, there’s always the Xbox 360 version.