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Game Review: Cthulhu Saves the World

I finally finished my first indie game this “weekend” (I say “weekend” because my days off this week were Tuesday & Wednesday).  That game was Cthulhu Saves the World.  I mentioned this game back in my 4th of July post.  I happened to read about this game briefly while searching for some good indie games.  And after playing going through the intro & fighting my first battle, I knew I had to buy the full version.  So what was my experience?

Hero Tip #1: Have a heroic pose handy

The plot behind Cthulhu Saves the World is, obviously enough, that the monster-god has to save the world.  Now anyone who’s ever read H.P. Lovecraft’s works knows that Cthulhu actually tries to destroy the world & drive everyone insane.  So why is he trying to save it?  Because, as the self-aware narrator tells us, a mysterious stranger sealed Cthulhu’s powers away just as he was rising to destroy the world.  And now the only way to get his powers back is by becoming a true hero.  Thus begins Cthulhu’s quest throughout the land, gathering allies & saving the day.  The heroic deeds Cthulhu commits range from saving a puppy to investigating the alien abduction of cows.  Along the way you pick up several… interesting allies.  A Cthulhu groupie, a living sword, a Necromancer, an alien cat, a senile mage, & a dragon.  Eventually your journey will take you all the way into angled space.

Your typical battle screen

If you’ve played any 8-bit RPG like Dragon Quest, you know what to expect.  You travel around the wilderness & towns, occasionally having random encounters.  The encounters trigger turn-based text combat with a group of enemies.  As your characters level up, they learn new abilities & increase their stats.  There’s a lot of variety in what spells & techniques you choose.  You’ll always have two choices when leveling up.  A unique feature of combat is that you can turn your enemies insane (this is Cthulhu, after all).  This can be to your advantage or disadvantage.  Some enemies have different skills when they’re insane or take more damage, but they may cause more damage.  Some characters can also use Unite abilities, depending on who’s in your party.  For example, having Cthulhu & Umi in your party lets you summon the Kraken.  You also buy or find new weapons & armor to equip on your characters.

Narrative: Cthulhu is a quirky game, but in a good way.  It’s not one of those games that tries so hard to be funny that it ends up being annoying.  It has just the right amount of oddness & humor to make you smirk.  Sometimes the humor is in reference to the limitations of old-style RPG’s, sometimes it’s a prod at Lovecraft, & other times it’s just funny writing.  The characters are interesting & manage to get their personalities through with relatively little dialogue.  Especially when you chat between missions.  Overall, you’ll really want to see how the story ends.  Score: 5

Cutscenes are still but look nice for the genre

Mechanics: Simple yet effective.  There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but it works well.  You wander around & fight random groups of enemies.  There is a limit on the number of encounters you can have in an area, which I liked.  Having to constantly fight would be annoying.  There were times I was actually counting down to having no encounters left though.  But if you like to grind, you can always choose to start a fight in your menu screen.  Combat can be a bit on the dull side.  There’s a fair amount of strategy involved when choosing your attacks.  You have physical attacks, magic & techniques, both of which use up MP, so you have to be careful.  Sometimes you want to buff your party or blind your opponent.  Boss fights are particularly exciting.  That being said, it is all text-based.  Unless it was a particularly tough fight, I found myself tapping A a lot to speed through the battle dialogue to get back to selecting my next round of attacks.  However, the abilities you learn are very different from what you see in most games.  For instance, the alien cat calling down nuclear strikes.  Overall, although the reading can get monotonous, the gameplay works well.  Score: 4

Aesthetics: It’s 16-bit, what do you expect?  That being said, the enemies are well-designed & very different from each other.  They even have different forms when they’re insane.  The cutscenes ar still pictures, but given the limitation of the genre, they’re still well done.  The environments vary from each other, & the colors scheme varies as well.  My main complaint isn’t so much with design as layout.  The dungeons are whatnot can be difficult to navigate.  They’re designed the mazes, with branching paths.  Because everything looks mostly the same, it’s easy to get lost, especially when random encounters keep breaking my concentration.  The audio is much better.  Although still in the 8-bit genre, the music in catchy.  I liked it all, with the exception of the battle theme.  Mainly because there’s only one, & it gets a bit annoying after a while.  Overall, if you can accept it for what it is, the presentation is nice.  Score: 3

The graphics are impressive for its style

Replay Value: Surprisingly high.  There are a lot of gameplay modes to unlock.  No only do you unlock Insanity mode once you’ve beaten the game, but there are other bonus modes as well.  Score Attack turns off random encounters, thus limiting your level, & rewards you for defeating the bosses.  Highlander only lets you use one character to battle at a time, but greatly increased the XP gained.  Overkill starts you at level 40, & is basically just for mucking about.  Cthulhu’s Angels is the story mode told through the Necromancer October’s perspective with her acting on behalf of Cthulhu & gathering an all-female party.  Currently I’m working through Overkill & Angels.  Score: 5

Breakdown

untitled

Overall Score: 4

Final Word: If you miss old-school RPG’s, enjoy a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously, & like having future challenges to work on, I highly recommend this game.  This indie game deserves our support.

Title: Cthulhu Saves the World
Console: XBL
Rating: Violence 2/Sex 2/Mature Content 1
Cost: 240 MP
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Release Date: December 30, 2010

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Filed under 4, Indie, Reviews, RPG, XBox Live

Celebrating Independence… With Gaming!

What better way to celebrating our country’s independence than by staying inside, avoiding your family, & bunkering down with some quality games?  Really, I’m not that unsociable.  I do plan on having a barbecue with my parents later today.  But when you work in emergency services like I do, you tend to avoid crowds on your off days, especially on holidays.  (At least at work I get paid to deal with drunk idiots.)  And I have taken breaks from my games to play with my new kittens outside.  But after the heat, rain, & bug bites, I eventually seek refuge in the climate-controlled, pest-free comfort of my room.

But what to play?  Seeing as how I’ve completed most of the games in my library at least once, I decided to some ‘trolling on XBL & see what indie games were out.  I was looking for something different, something I hadn’t heard about yet, like Limbo or Death Spank (not that there’s anything wrong with them, I was just feeling adventurous).  So after browsing the highest rated I downloaded a few trials for games that looked interesting.  What was the outcome & what games were worth paying for the full version?

House of 1000 Demons

This is sort of the gaming version of those R.L. Stine Goosebumps Choose-You-Adventure books.  The entire gameplay is text-based.  The game consists of sloppy text over a blurry red & black background.  Once you’ve read the text, you’ll have several options for your next action.  Sometimes it’s simply moving to the next room, others are interactions with things in the room.  Honestly, I only played through the trial & wasn’t interested enough to buy the full game.  But in that time I’d run into a bleeding first aid box, a headless woman in the closet with a cell phone who either ignored me, sliced me to death with a katana or beat me for trying to touch her.  I get the feeling that, despite the dark visuals & soundtrack, the game is trying to be more funny than scary.  It wasn’t even able to scare me, which is pretty bad.

A sample of your background

Beat Hazard

Beat Hazard is a shooter that reminds me a lot of the old Asteroid game, but with much better graphics.  The main selling point of the game is that the action is driven by your music.  The game scans your music library (& comes with six tracks in case you don’t have any) & the louder, more intense the music, the more powerful you become.  The graphics also respond to the music, becoming more vibrant with the beat.  Each level is a specific song.  I tried the game with a variety of music, & it seems to work best with rock, heavy metal, etc.  Anything that’s fast & with a heavy base.  Lucky for me, I have a lot of Disturbed & Breaking Benjamin songs.  The controls are pretty simple: use the left stick to move & the right stick to shoot.  I haven’t bought the full version yet, but I most likely will.

Is it any wonder the start screen has a seizure warning?

 Decay

For the life of me I can’t figure out why I insist on torturing myself by playing horror games.  But after the trial of Decay I just had to buy the full game.  Decay comes in four chapters, each of which has to be bought separately (80 for the first & 240 for the other three).  It’s a point-&-click adventure/horror games.  Remember those?  It’s like Myst but with a scary atmosphere.  This game is amazing, simple enough.  The story starts out with you waking up after apparently hanging yourself.  Over the next four chapters you learn about your family & the serial killer who won’t let them go even in death.  Like all adventure games, the gameplay involves exploring the area & looking for items you need to solve the next puzzle.  It’s not heavy on puzzles, but there are some interesting ones, like playing tic-tac-toe with the dead.  The visuals are amazing.  Everything’s dark & desolate, with a grainy quality.  That, combined with excellent sound (both effects & music) lend perfectly to the tense atmosphere.  You just get more & more tense as the game goes on, always expecting something.  For the most part the scares are subtle, like shadows behind a door or footprints on the ground.  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some genuine “Oh My God” moments.  Two in particular stick out for me.  I won’t say which chapters they’re in but one was while playing a seemingly benign game of breakout the freaky doll (that’s right) that’d been following me around suddenly appeared in the monitor reflection, or when backtracking to leave a room a shadow figure pops up in front of me.  Both scenes literally made my heart stop.  I haven’t finished the final chapter, but expect a full review when I’m done.

Even after learning the reason behind the doll, which is actually touching, it still freaks me out.

 Cthulhu Saves the World

“What’s this?  Surely that’s a typo, GamerDame.  Everyone knows Lovecraft’s most well-known monster-god tries to destroy the world.”  Well, yes.  But now his powers have been sealed away & the only way to reclaim them is by becoming a hero.  Cthulhu Saves the World is an 8-bit styled RPG along the lines of the original Dragon Quest game & other classics RPG’s, but it has an amazing sense of humor.  The characters are funny, the dialogue is funny.  There are even references to Lovecraft’s other works.  Gameplay is pretty standard for these types of games.  You wander around wilderness & towns, having random encounters resulting in turn-based menu combat & find treasure.  But there are unique features aside from the story.  Random encounters in one area are limited, but you can select the “Fight” option in your menu for more.  Enemies can be turned insane.  And you can save anywhere you want.  I only played to the first battle when I decided I had to have the full game.  It’ll probably be a bit, but I will eventually review this game once I’m finished.

Save the world to destroy it?

 Sequence

Sequence bills itself as a rhythm/RPG hybrid, but I’ve found little in the way of pure RPG elements.  You can gain items during combat that you can use to craft different items to improve your stats, & choose which spells you want to learn & equip, but that’s extent of the role-playing aspect.  That being said, it’s still a good game.  You play as Ky, a man who finds himself in a strange tower being guided through battles by a woman on an intercom named Naia.  The voice-acting is pretty good & the cutscenes are all still pictures, but the drawing is well-done.  Combat is where the rhythm part comes in.  Without getting too complex, you cast spells, defend & replenish mana by keeping the beat & pressing the corresponding arrows.  I haven’t played lot a rhythm games, but I picked it up easily enough.  The music is good.  Most of the tracks are really catchy, so picking up the beat is easy.  The strategy is that these abilities are in different fields, & you can only use one field at a time.  For example, if you want to cast a spell, you leave yourself open to attacks because you can’t defend.  Eventually you gain the materials to make a key that leads to the floor’s boss.  After beating him, you advance to the next floor.  I’m only on the second of seven floors, & plan to take my time doing some grinding on each level, but a review should eventually come.

 

Can you keep the beat?

Those are the games that’ve been keeping me busy for the holiday.  Hopefully I’ll be getting reviews done soon for them.  Have a happy & safe 4th everyone.

 

– GamerDame

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