Review by recon_7
"Entertaining classic RPG with unique storyline"
Cthulhu Saves the World is an Indie game developed by a 3 person group called Zeboyd Games (according to the credits). They have a top rated previous Indie game released called Breath of Death VII. As with other Indie games, a smaller development team- usually non-professional- and a lower price tag means the game will make some sacrifices compared to bigger budget titles. The score then is based on a slight variation of the usual factors, including innovation or just simply overall enjoyment as opposed to strictly graphics or sound effects.
Where Cthulhu Saves the World shines is its story, gameplay, and the aforementioned overall enjoyment. However, that comes with a disclaimer. As a friend remarked Oh, that's one of those old timey overhead RPG's. Yes, this game is reminiscent of 8bit-16bit titles such as early Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy games, with some Wizardry added in. Understand that this is not a condemnation per se, but if you are not interested in those types of games this one might not be for you (then again demos are free!).
Gameplay - 90/100 Cthulhu Saves the World brings several of the unique and interesting innovations to this genre that Breath of Death VII did. Combat through dungeons is less about attrition than it is about making smart decisions. Hit Points fully regenerate after each battle, with some MP regeneration based on how many rounds it took you to win the battle. This results in less concern with potions and buying healing items (which you can't) or running back to town to recover. Instead, the player is freed to focus on each battle at hand, overcoming enemies using some MP but not treating each fight like a boss battle (unleashing everything you have). I made it through the game on normal never once at risk of running out of MP- though I'm conservative of my magic in any game. Additionally, the limited number of encounters per dungeon simplifies exploration. You can try and wing it without much exploring to avoid fights, or you can blast through the usual 25 encounters per dungeon and then explore without risk of random fights. This mechanic allows you to battle on your terms and explore when convenient.
As in Breath of Death VII, each level up presents the player 2 options, usually variations of a theme. Do you want to do severe ice damage to one enemy, or moderate ice damage to a group? Or, would you rather +30 HP and MP or +15 to all stats? This is an efficient way of character customization, allowing you some control over the character but not sticking you in menu's to compare effectiveness. I don' t think any of the choices would be wrong, I found no powers overly weak.
Finally on gameplay, the refinements. Being able to save anywhere, warp to town, or run instead of walk greatly avoids frustration found in old school dungeon crawlers. The 1-UP treasures which allow you to retry a battle from the start without reloading a save are also very effective. If you forgot to save over the last 20 minutes and suddenly find yourself overwhelmed, these consumables allow you to re-try the fight you lost and put a little more power into your strikes. I used probably 5 or 6 throughout the game, which overall saved me an hour of backtracking. That is incredibly appreciated.
What I did not like about gameplay is fairly simple. I'm afraid I won't have an A button after a second playthrough since I used it so many times, and my B button may get stuck since I held it so often to run. The A button complaint is a bit more serious, as each fight command requires a separate press. An annoyance that doesn't fit the rest of the refined gameplay. Also, equipping items is a bit confusing since you don't see current equipment. Instead, you see all possible items to equip (say 5 swords), without an indication to which one is currently in use. This isn't a big deal, but it makes experimenting with different weapons more complicated than necessary.
Story - 80/100 The story in Cthulhu Saves the World is certainly interesting. There are plenty of references to the work of HP Lovecraft, which makes sense. There is no hesitation in breaking the fourth wall, evidenced by the opening dialogue involving Cthulhu discussing his predicament with the narrator (semi fourth wall since it isn't the player directly). This occurs at various intervals in the game, which I personally found disconcerting. I'm sure plenty of players enjoy that, but for me the suspension of disbelief is a bit jarring to the overall story, which despite the colorful graphics could be quite dark. The story is well conceived and good; just don't expect a serious tone.
Graphics / Sound - 90/100 As mentioned previously, Indie games are not big budget titles. So speaking in relative terms, these graphics are quite good. There are unique monsters with only a bit of color swapping, alternate poses for all enemies when they are insane,' and well designed backgrounds on both the map and battle scenes. The story is sometimes presented with still images of characters and landscapes, which is a very effective way to show the critical plot points and convey meaning behind certain events. These cutscenes are easy to understand and well drawn. The music enhances the atmosphere and is sometimes quite catchy.
Play Time / Replayability - 95/100 Overall the game took me roughly 5 hours. There is replay value in many forms, ranging from hard mode, score attack, a 1 character mode, and a quick level up mode. For the price and options offered, replay and play time are beyond outstanding. It's truly impossible to ask for much more.
Final Recommendation Cthulhu Saves the World is recommended for any classic RPG fan or possible RPG fan. Look at the screenshots, if that looks too old school then perhaps it is not for you. However, for 3 dollars you can certainly give the game a try and experience an old school style RPG with a fresh story and fresh gameplay innovations (or, again, demo it for free!). Final Score: 87/100 Unique story, fun gameplay, excellent Indie graphics, and good music with only a few minor annoyances affecting the game. Add points if you're a fan of HP Lovecraft (the story references his writing but does not imitate it, this is more lighthearted) and/or 8-16bit RPG's. Subtract points if you prefer real time combat, 3D graphics (even Indie level), or a darker story.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 01/05/11
Game Release: Cthulhu Saves the World (US, 12/30/10)
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