The Great Old Ones spend a lot of time trying to devour souls, but in Cthulhu Saves the World for Android, one is trying to do something nice - even heroic - for a change.
Of course, it's just to regain the terrible powers that have been stripped from him, but that's besides the point. Cthulhu Saves the World originally launched on PC through Steam and Xbox Live Arcade, and quickly followed-up with a mobile port for iOS and Android.
The gameplay will be more than familiar to anyone that has put any time into old-school RPGs on the original Nintendo. You guide Cthulhu and a party of adventurers through a linear series of quests that usually end up in wacky hyjinx. You'll get 6 - 10 hours of gameplay, with some additional unlockable game modes (including Highlander Mode, which quadruples your XP, but only allows one hero to fight in each encounter) and vanity collectibles.
The game controls are simple enough. Virtual A and B buttons combined with directional swipes help you navigate through menus and move your party around through the world (which can be significantly sped up thanks to a convenient run toggle). Combat encounters pop up randomly and are of the usual turn-based variety; each one of you and your party members get to pick attacks, items, techniques, or magic to execute on an enemy of your choice each turn, while the enemy gets theirs. Cthulhu Saves the World employs a combo system based on the number of successful blows landed by the party, which can then be used to execute devastating combo-finisher attacks. Monsters also gain strength every turn, so it behooves you to dispatch them quickly.
After defeating all of the foes before you, each character is rewarded with experience points, loot, and gold. After earning enough experience points, characters level up, and you get to chose one of multiple progression paths, depending on how you want to specialize each party member. New equipment can also help boost important stats, like strength, magic, agility, vitality, and will.
The one real downside to the game is that the dorky references might not be for everybody. Those that never played older RPGs won't get the irony of the choppy graphics and MIDI soundtrack, and just think the game crappy and old. The very premise of Cthulhu as a protagonist will be lost on those who have never heard of H.P. Lovecraft, nevermind all of the gaming references tucked into the dialog. Luckily, there's plenty of more generically funny conversations that fill in character interactions which should keep non-geeks entertained too.
Graphics and sounds
The audio and visuals are fully true to the 8-bit spirit - even the virtual buttons have a charming blockiness to them. Characters in the world view are as poorly animated and misproportioned as you would expect from a mid-80s RPG. The "Victory" banner that slides in after winning a battle is particularly tacky and awesome.
Cthulhu Saves the World did crash on me once, and went into a weird twitchy cycle after casting a spell. Judging from the Google Play reviews, I'm not alone in these performance issues.
- Hilarious dialog
- Charming retro graphics and audio
- Geeky references might not be for everybody
- Unstable performance
After playing Cthulhu Saves the World, I'm really looking forward to the developer's next mobile title, which spawns from the Penny Arcade Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness series. In the meantime, Cthulhu Saves the World provides an entertaining retro RPG romp that's chock-full of tongue-in-cheek nerd culture references and hilarious dialog.
Die-hard RPG fans might not be content with 6-10 hours of gameplay, even with the additional difficulty modes, but they may be better served by Final Fantasy III. This one is definitely easier on the wallet weighing in at $1.99 however, and I can guarantee that the chuckles you get from Cthulhu Saves the World will be worth it - provided the jokes don't go over your head.
Download: Cthulhu Saves the World