A refreshing twist in a genre where save-the-world is passé.
HP Lovecraft’s tentacle-clad, insanity-invoking alien isn’t what you’d call a typical hero. After rising from the sunken city of R’lyeh, his nefarious plans are foiled by a righteous wizard who seals his powers away. The only way for Cthulhu to regain them is to become a true hero, and so begins his quest to save the world... to destroy it later on.
The homage to franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, and appropriation of Lovecraft-ian lore, combines to make Cthulhu Saves the World a quirky experience. Although crawling dungeons and grinding encounters feels dated, there are plenty of things to remind you that – despite the retro styling and soundtrack – this isn’t an RPG of the early 90s.
Many of the systems are taken from developer Zeboyd Games’ previous outing, Breath of Death VII, and put to good use here. Each dungeon has an
encounter limit that, once hit, disables random battles and allows you to explore without interruption (you can always initiate an encounter manually if you need to grind). Every level up presents you with a branched development option, which gives you the ability to customise your team.
This is very handy to ensure you have a balanced selection of special attacks. It can be tempting to choose damaging single-target attacks which are handy for boss battles, but it’s important to have multi-target moves or you’ll quickly be overwhelmed in standard encounters. In addition to this, you have moves that are powered up by (and subsequently reset) your combo multiplier, unities that team-up two of your party members, and insanity-inducing attacks that change the enemy’s properties and appearance.
The standard setting has a nice difficulty curve; encounters aren’t too taxing if you pay some attention to character development and the bosses are sufficiently challenging, but there are multiple settings to accommodate a shallower or steeper climb.
You can easily get eight to ten hours out of Cthulhu, and they’re enjoyable hours. On occasion, the tributes to its inspirations are a bit over-enthusiastic and the frequent fourth-wall breaking can be obnoxious, but the vast majority of this game is well written and funny. Lovecraft fans and RPG buffs will appreciate the subtle references scattered throughout, and it’s hard not to like a cast that includes a talking sword and a green alien cat.
Whether you’re looking at Cthulhu Saves the World on Xbox Live Indie Games or the PC, it’s an incredibly good deal for less than £2 (and the Steam version comes packaged with the aforementioned predecessor Breath of Death VII). This is made even sweeter by an update that adds developer commentary and bonus post-game modes (most notably Cthulhu’s Angels, a remix of the story that includes different characters).