Cthulhu Saves the World (PC) Review

By Aria DiMezzo 20.03.2016

Review for Cthulhu Saves the World on PC

PC has always been friendly to the indie development scene, and many successful independent titles were birthed on it. A lot of the successful productions never break into the mainstream/console market, though, and Cthulhu Saves the World is mostly one of those, despite being available on XBLA. Zeboyd Games delivers a positive experience, but some problems stand in the way. Can the Lovecraftian nightmare beast become a hero? Cubed3 cracks open the Necronomicon to take a look.

It's kind of a shame that so much effort was put into creating a new game engine, because Cthulhu Saves the World doesn't really look any better than the standard RPG Maker game, and in many cases, such as character sprites, it's actually inferior. This is probably because the graphics resemble those of the Sega Genesis, and it calls out to the 16-bit era with expert skill, but it still seems that a lot of effort was wasted on something that brought no real gain.

Use of a proprietary engine also caused a number of problems. For one, maps are huge; they are ridiculously large. To accommodate these gigantic maps, the frequency of random encounters is very low, so Cthulhu and his caterpillar of allies spend most of their time traversing gigantic, empty locales for no other reason than that the developers got carried away. If maps were reduced to a more typical size and the encounter rate adjusted accordingly, playtime would almost be cut in half. For example, the journey begins on a beach, and it takes the incredible amount of fifty-four steps across an entirely empty and boring area to get to the very first event.

This runs through the entire game, with everything being too big. Turning on the developer commentary (which is worth doing, because it's one of the best features available) reveals that play-testers were routinely overwhelmed by the scale of the dungeons, which is no surprise; the maps are hundreds of tiles across, and they twist and loop around enough (often leading to empty dead ends) that it's easy to get lost. It's somewhat bad, and it wastes a lot of time without adding anything - it's like grinding, except that, rather than battling, players have to walk across gigantic, barren levels.

Screenshot for Cthulhu Saves the World on PC

It's difficult to know what to make of the dialogue and story, but it's not meant to be taken seriously. Of course, there are constant shout-outs to Lovecraftian lore, but Cthulhu himself is not quite the entity of unbridled darkness one might expect. For the first part of the game, it seemed that it was going to take the Invader Zim approach, which could have been really funny, with Cthulhu being a sort of bumbling buffoon whose schemes never quite work out, but there's not much hilarity to be found. Portal was hilarious because Valve brought on board actual comedy writers; here, there is the distinct impression that it was written by people trying to be funny, rather than people who what funny is. They are mildly successful in their attempts, but the comedy is unlikely to leave players holding their sides in laughter.

Cthulhu Saves the World is a standard JRPG, complete with stats, equipment, random encounters, and levelling, but it's all bare. Upon levelling, a character can choose between two bonuses: at one level, Umi can learn a spell with a very high MP cost and guaranteed chance to flee, or a spell with a lower MP cost and a moderately high chance of fleeing a battle. It's interesting enough and suffices, but it's not fantastic. In addition, characters equip only a weapon and a piece of armour, which doesn't leave much room for customization, either.

Refreshingly, this is one of the hardest JRPGs out there, though it's not necessarily in a good way. At the normal setting, the game is difficult but fair; higher difficulties, however, simply crank up enemy stats and lower the damage the player does. There aren't many ways to make a difficult JRPG, though, and Zeboyd Games does a good job with it. Grinding can help, and Zeboyd clearly knew about the encounter rate issue: to solve it, they added a menu option that spawns a random fight. Not having to wander around aimlessly to grind is a great feature, but it's hard to break decades of programming that one grinds by walking in circles for hours.

Screenshot for Cthulhu Saves the World on PC

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Cthulhu Saves the World is a refreshingly difficult RPG, with heavily streamlined mechanics, and an interesting hook. Without Cthulhu, though, probably no one would have paid any attention to it, because it doesn't stand out among the thousands of RPG Maker-made games that are often superior both graphically and mechanically. Kudos to Zeboyd Games for doing something different, but, in the end, it's just another reinvention of the wheel, with Cthulhu along with some humour thrown in.

Developer

Zeboyd Games

Publisher

Zeboyd Games

Genre

Turn Based RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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