Tentacle-y goodness: A review of ‘Cthulu Saves The World’

Are you a fan of dreadful cosmic entities that lie in wait deep under the waters of the South Pacific, serving as a constant source of fear for all of mankind? Do you have an affinity for old-school JRPGS? If your answer to either of these questions is a resounding and enthusiastic yes (and why wouldn’t it be?), then you owe it to yourself to check out Cthulu Saves The World, a quirky game that blends conventional 2D role-playing goodness with abundant Lovecraftian references and tongue-in-cheek humor.

Cthulu Saves The World, developed by Zeboyd Games and originally released on Xbox Live in 2010, is an enjoyably retro RPG romp that, as the title would imply, draws from H.P Lovecraft’s Cthulu mythos.

In a nutshell, you play as the titular Cthulu, who has risen from the depths of the sea at long last only to be stripped of his devious powers by a holy wizard of sorts, much to his chagrin. To regain his lost abilities, Cthulu must go against his very nature and prove himself as a hero. This does not please the innately malevolent squid-faced deity, who begrudgingly sets out to save the world.

Throughout his adventure, he is joined by a host of companions: Umi, a groupie of sorts who quickly clings to Cthulu; Sharpe, a talking sword; October, a young girl who happens to be a necromancer; Paws, an alien cat who insists that he’s not a cat but is definitely a cat; Dacre, a rather wacky and senile old man; and Ember, a demonic dragon that the party can use to fly around the world with.

The cast of characters is an eclectic and amusing bunch, but none are very fleshed out, and the plot isn’t particularly substantial or interesting. While these could be considered deal-breakers for many an avid RPG fanatic, Cthulu Saves The World is precise and honest in its presentation. Something of a mix between a loving homage and an amusing satire, the game blends traditional role-playing archetypes and game mechanics with an amusing and simple narrative that foregoes heavy-handed drama in favor of lighthearted entertainment.

As with any classic RPG, exploration and progression is divided into a few dominant categories: the world map, which serves as your central exploratory; ‘hub’ towns, where you may rest at inns, converse with the local NPCs and purchase weapons and armors; and dungeons, wherein dangerous bosses lie in wait and many key plot points occur.

The approach is formulaic, but a number of minor innovations ensure that the experience remains enjoyable throughout. Anyone who’s played an older RPG is bound to know the inevitable frustration and tedium of random encounters. There are few things in life worse than finding oneself lost in a sprawling dungeon, low on healing items, no save point in site, constantly being harassed by all sorts of problematic creatures, bandits and ne’er-do-wells that slither out from within the darkness with every few steps you take.

While Cthulu Saves The World sticks to its old-school roots and will throw plenty of random encounters your way, there’s a cap to the encounter limit within each dungeon that ensures you won’t be eternally condemned to a barrage of battles, one after the other, as you wearily seek out the exit. You’re also able to save at any point simply from accessing the menu and can teleport directly to any town you’ve visited from within a dungeon or on the world map. Any of these features could shave countless hours of frustration off of a great many RPGs in the past.

While there are some questionable design choices that can come across as rather odd—you can find potions strewn about dungeons, but there are no healing items that you can actually purchase for yourself—the game plays efficiently and enjoyably the majority of the time. Following each battle, your entire party’s HP is fully restored, and any party member who may have been knocked out is revived. While certainly convenient, only a small handful of MP is restored after each battle, which means that running out of MP to cast spells or perform techniques with is a very real possibility. This can be annoying, since the only way to regain your MP in full is to sleep at an inn, but throughout the game’s roughly 10-hour journey it didn’t happen to me with enough frequency to truly be a hindrance.

The game isn’t particularly difficult by any means, but it’s not a cakewalk, either. While the bulk of random encounters can be shrugged off easily enough, many of the bosses you’ll face require a fair amount of strategy to defeat, which makes for a number of satisfying encounters.

Lastly, the title comes with a slew of features that bolster replayability, including developer commentary and additional gameplay modes and difficulty levels that can be unlocked.

Plainly put, Cthulu Saves The World is a lot of fun. For a game that I only had to pay a solitary dollar for (I purchased the title along with another one of the developer’s games, Breath of Death VII, together as a package deal for around $2 on Steam), I got a lot of bang for my buck.

Cthulu Saves the World is highly recommended for both JRPG lovers and Cthulu fans! I give it a solid 8 tentacles out of 10.