Old school role-playing games are often remembered for their chunky menus, fantastic art style, and insane difficulty. If you’ve played 8-bit and 16-bit RPGs, then you either really love them or really hate them. Cthulhu Saves the World takes the basic foundations of the genre, and attempts to make you love them. It strips away the hectic level of challenge, but retains the retro graphics and menu design. To top it all off, developer Zeboyd Games throws in some humor to make the game stand out just a tad more. The result is an enjoyable RPG experience that fans of the genre should definitely check out.
Cthulhu Saves the World begins with the titular character rising from the ocean as he prepares to take over all of mankind. Unfortunately for the malevolent beast, a lone hero manages to steal his powers, rendering Cthulhu completely devoid of his once grand strength. At this moment, the narrator reveals that the only way for Cthulhu to regain his powers is to become a hero and perform good deeds. Of course, because of the quirky nature of Cthulhu Saves the world, the monstrous entity hears what the narrator has said and embarks on a journey to become a hero and save the world—so that he can gain his powers back and rule over it.
A big selling point for Cthulhu Saves the World is its humor. Character interactions are brilliant and hilarious, and Cthulhu, despite his evil nature, is a charming character who always has something funny to say. Whether he’s making a remark at the expense of another character, asking for a big foamy mug of milk at a local bar, or saying he plans on finishing his quest quickly so he can return the game before the trade-in value drops, Cthulhu is a great character, and it’s impossible to dislike him. Thankfully, the rest of the game’s cast doesn’t fall behind in the humor department, and watching the story unfold is always pleasant thanks to the colorful characters and witty writing.
Awesome writing aside, Cthulhu Saves the World also manages to play enjoyably well. The game is a tried and true turn-based RPG, so if you’re a fan of the genre, you can expect the usual tropes. Even then, Zeboyd decided to tinker with the standard elements in the game to make it feel slightly unique. You venture from town to town, traveling across a vast overworld and engaging in random battles. Upon reaching the different towns, you must interact with characters, shop for weapons and armor, and get leads to your next objective. Again, this is all standard stuff, but thanks to the sweet dialogue, talking to townsfolk and obtaining information are largely enjoyable tasks.
The game’s dungeons start off simplistic in their design, but as you progress, they become a lot more maze-like. Paths branch out, and while some lead to dead ends, others take you to treasure chests that contain gold, weapons, or armor. It’s a good tactic to explore every path, because you never know what you can find if you do a little looking. Backtracking through the dungeons can get a little monotonous and even confusing, but the payout is definitely worth it, especially if you collect a powerful sword or other useful item during your trek.
Random battles aren’t just reserved for the overworld. The dungeons in Cthulhu Saves the World are riddled with their own random encounters, so expect to do a good deal of battling as you clear these areas. Now, had Zeboyd just thrown in a random battle element into Cthulhu Saves the World, this aspect of the game would have gotten terribly boring. Luckily, that’s not the case, because each dungeon has a limited number of required battles. Once you’ve won a certain amount of fights, you are free to explore a dungeon at your leisure. Of course, if you want to do some level grinding, simply initiate a challenge from the menu; you’ll find yourself amidst a brawl once more.
As far as battles go, it’s mostly typical RPG fare. Your party of characters has access to physical attacks, magic offense, defense, and healing capabilities. Additionally, you have the option to inflict insanity upon your aggressors. By making your enemies go insane, you can weaken them considerably, making them more susceptible to damage. That said, insanity is not to be taken lightly, because crazy enemies can occasionally pull off really high impact attacks that deal more damage to your party. Upon defeating enemies, you are rewarded with experience points. Once you level up, you are allowed to choose from one of two upgrade options. These range from increasing certain stats to adding more moves to your arsenal.
These minor alterations make Cthulhu Saves the World a bit different from most older RPGs. That said, even with these welcome changes, the game still suffers from a couple of minor hitches. As previously mentioned, exploring dungeons can become taxing due to their branching paths. Additionally, battles aren’t always rewarding. Whenever you encounter weaker enemies, there’s really no need to employ different attack patterns. Simply confirming basic physical attacks can become the norm for short stretches of time, especially after you’ve leveled up a considerable amount. Even with these setbacks, however, the game does a good job of keeping you interested for its duration, and this is due to the myriad other smart design choices on the part of the developers.
Visually, Cthulhu Saves the World has the charming look of the old school RPGs it’s inspired by. This is in no way a bad thing, because the style suits the retro gameplay perfectly. Character sprites look good, towns are different from one another, and the artistry in the dungeons is certainly noticeable. When on a cliff or mountain, backgrounds are surprisingly detailed and give off a nice aesthetic luster. The sound design in Cthulhu Saves the World isn’t especially retro, though. Don’t expect to hear chiptunes or 16-bit themes. Instead, the musical score in the game is a lot more modern-sounding, in terms of quality, though the beats themselves do exude a bit of nostalgia-laden influence.
Cthulhu Saves the World will likely take you about 10 hours to get through on your first play-through. However, Zeboyd has made it a point to clarify that this isn’t just the regular version of the game that was previously released on XBLIG. No, this is Cthulhu Saves the World: Super Hyper Enhanced Championship Edition Alpha Diamond DX Plus Alpha FES HD – Premium Enhanced Game of the Year Collector’s Edition (without Avatars!). In other words, you get a lot of nifty extras. Aside from the extra difficulty settings (including the all new Insane mode), beating the game unlocks a bevy of extra modes, such as Score Attack and Cthulhu’s Angels, which features new characters and dialogue.
There’s a lot to love about Cthulhu Saves the World, and the few flaws that the game does have aren’t a massive detriment to the experience. If you consider yourself a connoisseur of old school RPGs, give this game a download without hesitation. It’s only $3, and it comes with Breath of Death VII: The Beginning, a similar game from Zeboyd. If you just happen to be looking for a fun title to play and don’t mind having some good laughs while you game, then there’s no reason for you to skip this one. Cthulhu Saves the World is a special, little RPG, and it deserves to be played by gamers who enjoy having a good time.