Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Bad. Also: Cthulhu Saves the World Review!

Okay, I neglected my blog again.  I'm very sorry, and feel appropriately ashamed.  Bad me.  Bad me, indeed.

That said, there's only so much self-deprecating humour I can summon at any one point in time, so let's plow ahead with that promised Cthulhu Saves the World review.

First, a basic summary.  Cthulhu Saves the World, available via Xbox Live's downloadable games interface (under the "Indie games" category), posits itself as a throwback to and parody of the classic 8/16/however-many-bit RPG games of the SNES era.  The player assumes the role of Lovecraft's Cthulhu, who, having lost his powers, must become a true hero to reclaim them.

You can probably guess from that summary that the game is funny.  What you mightn't guess at first, though, is that the game's sense of humour is upbeat, quick, and more clever than you usually get from something so deliberately wacky.  Cthulhu Saves the World happily plays around with its source material, though its parody of its Lovecraftian roots is much more effective than when it pokes fun at RPG conventions.  The former is executed with a clever wink towards the source material, while the latter is really more of the same jokes we've all heard years ago (HAHA LOOK A PATH HAS OPENED UP WHAT A COINCIDENCE and so on).

What makes Cthulhu successful, however, isn't so much that it's good at making fun of its sources, but that it is made exceptionally well, and intimately knows and loves those sources.  Visually, Cthulhu is impressive.  Its intentionally retro-graphics are fresh, easy to look at, and the backdrops are frequently quite attractive.  The sound design is similarly effective, working both as a throwback and as an attractive soundtrack.  The characters are (mostly) likeable and enjoyable, and as a functional RPG Cthulhu is actually quite good.  It has a pretty traditional RPG setup (characters have HP, MP, learn skills and/or magic, and so on), and comes with a few interesting twists.

When each character levels up, you get to pick one of two upgrades, usually offering an interesting choice, and there's an Insanity mechanic that functions quite well.  I won't go into the details of it here, but it adds a dynamic to the gameplay that helps to separate it from verbatim RPG action.  The game also restores your health fully after each battle (taking a note from FFXIII), which allows monster battles to be a little more than "mash A to attack".  Later in the game, though, once you've levelled up enough, that level of difficulty fades and random battles do degrade into button-mashers.  While the bosses tend to run into one another, they're usually a nice break from the action, and there's even one or two hidden dungeons.  I don't claim to have found them all.

The game lasts about 6 hours or so, which is just about the amount of time you'd want to commit to it for one sit-through.  For only 240 MS Points (roughly 3 bucks), it's a steal, and Zeboyd games is going to be updating the game soon (for free) with a new mode and a few other additions; check out their site for details.  As a game, it's not perfect, but it is perfect for its price.  If you're a fan of RPGs, this one is definitely worth your time, and your money.  Absolutely recommended.

I don't like numerical scores, as a rule, but if I must give one: 8/10