It is doubtful that when H.P. Lovecraft first got the idea for the character of Cthulhu, one of the malevolent “old ones”, that there would ever be a story in which he rescues damsels in distress, saves a young boy’s dog, and eventually saves the world. But now, there is! Zeboyd’s Cthulhu Saves the World is a game originally released only on the Xbox Live Indie Game Marketplace and is now available on the PC. The game is both a parody and loving revival of old school JRPG’s à la Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. It uses a retro 16-bit art style and classic RPG battle and exploration elements. Cthulhu is full of dungeon crawling, zombie slaying, party managing and of course, with a title like Cthulhu Saves the World, a ridiculous sense of humour.
The game starts out with Cthulhu finally rising, ready to destroy the world! Unfortunately his plan is ruined when all of his godly powers are taken from him and the only way of having them returned is to become a true hero. Cthulhu, being a creature of pure evil, jumps at every mindless good deed thinking that it will turn him into a hero. Though none of them boost him to hero status instantly, they are all steps on the way to heroism and destruction. Over the course of the game, Cthulhu gains various allies, including a girl named Umi who is deeply in love with the squid faced monster.
He is just glad to have a groupie, because don’t all heroes have groupies? The game is filled with hilarious dialogue which parodies Lovecraft, JRPGS and video games in general. Providence is a town in the game, featuring an RPG staple, the town greeter: “Welcome to Providence, birthplace of H.P. Lovecraft, whoever that is,” he states as you enter. Every NPC in the game has something witty to say and Cthulhu and friends often add humour to the conversations.
You can’t expect anything revolutionary from a Final Fantasy parody but for the most part, the game is able to satisfy: the overworld has a few optional dungeons scattered throughout and you have the option of exploring the entire world from the classic 2D RPG overhead point of view. Combat is not always the most exciting part of the game, particularly the random encounters throughout the overworld and dungeons. Every character of course has some special abilities with more being unlocked as they level up but the difficulty of random encounters can be a bit of a roller coaster ride.
While many mobs are easy enough to just spam your basic attack and defeat, you will on occasion run into a group of enemies that will easily best you if you try using only the one attack. While the more difficult battles can be fun to plan out, it would be nice if the random encounters were more leveled out. Boss fights are fun as well, often with simple quirks used to defeat them though some seem a little bit too easy to beat. The game is often simplified by mechanics like regaining health and a small amount of mana after every battle though this is a welcome addition. After beating the game you unlock new game modes like Highlander where you only get to use one party member and Overkill where everyone is raised to level 40 after the first battle. The bonus game modes add some replayability to the game along with the Beastiary and Bromides.
Though the game is of course limited by the retro RPG look, it handles the style very well. The characters all look good in their 16-bit pixely goodness, and even the comic book style cut scenes are fun to watch. The battle models are also good and extremely varied. There are at least a hundred different enemies, all with unique models and descriptions. For the art style, the game does have some beautiful visuals, my favourite being the sunset scene in the first dungeon.
The musical score in this game is extremely well done by Gordon McNeil, with each area and event having a unique feel. The music is recycled fairly often but not enough to detract from the overall experience. The town music has the classic RPG town homeyness to it and the battle music has the fast paced battle music feel, every piece of music in this game just fits perfectly with the game itself and forms a great atmosphere combined with the art. Whether you are a fan of old school JRPG’s and Lovecraft or not, Cthulhu Saves the World is a great game with some repetitive mechanics, worth buying for the humour and insane story alone. The world is full of random fun little details to occupy completionist players to the end of the game. The game’s story should take most players 6-8 hours on a first play through and for those who enjoy the game enough, the bonus modes should keep you occupied for many hours after that.
Is It Worth Your Money?
For the asking price of $2.99 via Steam, the game is well worth your money. In terms of price to playtime ratio, this game may be one of the best around. With bonus content, some players will log at least 15 hours on this game. In addition, the game is bundled with another Zeboyd RPG called Breath of Death VII which will occupy buyers even longer with similar style and humour.