The Games Of Christmas ’11: Day Seven

By John Walker on December 7th, 2011 at 3:10 pm.

We’re a week in! A week closer to the Horacetide celebrations, as children across the world excitedly await the arrival of Horace snaking down their chimneys, devouring the milk and deer carcass left on the fireplace, and leaving his “present” on their living room carpet. To cope with the tension, we recommend you continue reading our in-no-particular-order-apart-from-the-last-one collection of the 24 best games of the year.

What’s behind today’s door?!!?!?questionmarkone

It’s… Cthulhu Saves The World!

Poor old Cthu (as the kids call him). Waiting all those centuries to rise again to take over the world, and a mysterious stranger zaps him on rearrival. Weakened to being just an ordinary octopus-man-thing, he learns (because he listens in to the narrator telling the player) that he can only regain his powers if he becomes a true hero. And so it is that Cthu begins the paradoxical journey of trying to become heroic in order to become evil once more.

That’s a bloody brilliant premise for a game. And at first glance, the extraordinarily lo-fi Cthulhu Saves The World looks as though it’s going to be a throwaway indie short, a fun idea for a few minutes. But here, for the idiotic price of £2 (which includes a second complete game as well) you get a huge RPG. And a really flipping funny one. It’s funny from the opening moments, with the banter between the green god and the unknown narrator. It’s actually funny before then, with the option to control the game using the MindOrb 5XD-2. You think your desired thought settings into it, and then choose ‘confirm’ when you’re done. Sure, fake controller gags have been around as long as games, but this one just deadpans you back to the main options menu, the controller set. Which is a masterstroke.

This is very much an old-school Nintendo-style RPG, random encounters included. About which I always feel concerned to ambivalent. I’m not sure who actually likes random battles springing up out of nowhere, but at least here each location is limited to a certain number, after which you can finally wander freely and check things out without being constantly interrupted. However, the fights themselves are splendid, borrowing ideally from various RPGs and capturing that sweet spot that make the Mario RPGs so acceptable.

The sheer level of funny on offer is incredible. Every nook and cranny is stuffed with jokes, making it worthwhile exploring absolutely everywhere. Which in turn makes a long game even longer. As a tribute to the 16-bit era, it’s a triumph. But as an RPG in its own right, it’s a hugely accomplished thing.

And I’d just like to make a special mention of the fact you can walk under bridges. I mean, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen this sort of technology in a game before, and it’s quite clear that developers Zeboyd Games have made something of a breakthrough here. I mean, the bridges go over the top of the player as you walk underneath them, demonstrating some sort of layering coding that is utterly beyond explanation. It seems crucial that this finally be celebrated.

It’s still only £2, and it’s Christmas. Go get yourself a game you can play on your gran’s laptop.

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33 Comments »

  1. Vexing Vision says:

    I own this, because it was on a sale. I will buy games I hear good things about for a € unseen.

    But somehow, despite all the gushing and applause it receives, I cannot get myself to start it up, because everything, from title to screenshots to premise screams THIS IS DREADFUL at me.

    Someone provide me with the right frame of mind to convince me to start it up?

    • Lobotomist says:

      Its really really funny :D

    • squareking says:

      Just start already. You’ll be happy you did.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bozzley says:

      Read what John typed above. It might help.

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      John wrote about this game? Where?

    • Persus-9 says:

      Just stop reading and writing to replies and start the damn game. Stop procrastinating and do it right now. I’ve not read anyone say it was hard to get into, quite the reverse and that certainly fits my experience. If you play for a quarter of an hour and come to the conclusion you aren’t having fun then you can conclude it wasn’t for you and stop having it weight on your mind. If you do have fun, and I think you probably will, then you’ll be having fun. It’s a win win, the only way to lose is to sit here and keep wondering about why you can’t face it. Don’t reply, just go. :-)

    • sneetch says:

      I’ll use the MindOrb 5XD-2 to convince you to start it…. there. Done.

    • Wulf says:

      Cthulu Saves the World has my support, for what that’s worth.

      @AndrewC

      This article was posted under ‘John Walker.’ So I imagine that John has written about this game.

    • meatshit says:

      It really is dreadful. No amount of jokes or funny dialogue can cover up the terribleness of the old JRPG formula.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      It’s a fun and funny game, but it is nearly ruined by the random encounters. Each area has like a 20 encounter limit before they stop, which is way, way to high. I think it should have been 5-10 at most.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      To borrow from the first black President of the USA, Bill Clinton, “I feel your pain.” *weakly bites lower lip

      But, yeah, I had a hard time getting into it at first, too. I love RPGs and I still load up good old ones every now and then (I’m replaying Sword of Vermillion right now), so it’s not like “zomg! i can’t stand the graphix!” Something about just seemed, I don’t know, kinda meh? It’s hard to describe, but I just didn’t have a whole lot of enthusiasm for it.

      This was JUST after I had shattered my left wrist all to hell and was awaiting surgery, so it put a dent in the list of games to choose from that I could actually, physically play. Reading on the forums and confirming that it was true turn-based (and not the old FF ABS system), I went ahead and bought CSW and BoD7.

      As I mentioned, I too had a hard time getting into it at first. However, once I got about 20-30 minutes in, it really began to grow on me. It’s funny, ranging from witty to sophomoric, and it’s a very solid old-school RPG. For the price, I would definitely check it out. It’s not very long, either, so it’s not like your gonna sink 100′s of hours into it. I’d say 5 or so hours, depending on how thorough you are.

      So, yeah, go ahead and force yourself a bit and if you’re not down with the game by the first hour, then you’re probably not really gonna care about the rest. Fortunately, it’s cheap enough that even if you don’t like it, it’s not a huge hit on your wallet.

  2. Vexing Vision says:

    Bloody reply system. Fail. :)

    • Persus-9 says:

      Reply to deleted reply that I’ve moved into the thread above because I still wanted to say it but this fail thread should probably be removed now.

  3. Oneironaut says:

    It might be worth mentioning that anyone who bought the last Indie Royale bundle, which included this game, can now also download two Zeboyd Games text adventures, which are quite funny.

  4. db1331 says:

    The writing in this game is brilliant. I haven’t laughed so much playing a game since I first played Monkey Island as a kid. I mean I was cracking up just a minute or two into the game. I loved Cthulhu’s response to the narrator telling you that you could save at any time, and the explanation of the controls.

  5. Bureaucrat says:

    Does this game play nicely with netbook-level specs?

    • Suits says:

      Unless it cant handle 16-bit :)

    • Bhazor says:

      Funnily enough I can’t get it working on my Aspire One but thats almost certainly a problem up my end (ooh er etc.). Certainly it beats the system requirements by about 500x.

      http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?2015-Netbook-gaming

    • MellowKrogoth says:

      I can play it on Windows 7 on my Atom 1GHz EEE PC, but the game stutters occasionally. Still very playable. The game engine is really inefficient compared to old super nintendo games with similar graphics, that run on emulator and are still faster than CSTW. But that’s the XNA game library for you… at least it allowed easy porting to PC.

  6. Suits says:

    Spent around 15 hours in this

  7. Baboonanza says:

    I’m honestly a bit puzzled by this. While I agree that the writing is fairly amusing the actual game is incredibly boring. In the hour or so I played most of the time was spent walking very slowly around slightly maze-like, bland and repetitive dungeons while fighting random encounters. I don’t mind random encounters, but the tedium of the endless slow walking just made me stop and play something that was actually fun.

    • Gnoupi says:

      I agree with this. Same impressions for me. Fun to read, but the actual movement in mazes, moreover with continuous “random encounters” is quite tedious and boring.

      I would have to spend more time on it to see if it gets better, though, but just this area after the beach was quite boring.

    • meeper says:

      There *is* a run key. :)

    • fuggles says:

      random encounters aren’t continuous, they are strictly limited and shown in the options I think. The combat is a bit poop, although as in all RPG’s then once you get a party and combat options then it gets better. The gameplay is not the point of the game though, which is why there is no level cap, eventually you have to grind if you want to beat the secrets.

    • LintMan says:

      Unless you’re a fan of those old 16-bit nintendo RPG’s, the fun isn’t really in the actual gameplay, but mostly in the various bits of writing: the narrator, the dialog, the monster descriptions, the bookcases you examine, etc. It got too grindy for my taste after a while, but I wanted to continue for the story/humor, so I found a trainer, which greatly helped expedite things.

    • Tuco says:

      Same here, cool idea, but I just couldn’t stand the gameplay.

      It really doesn’t feel any better than the average RPG Maker stuff.
      I guess you have to love JRPGs (which I really, really, don’t) to enjoy this.

    • InternetBatman says:

      It’s partially a genre thing. I do think that they faithfully replicated some of the best and worst of JRPGs.

    • Bhazor says:

      Its a shame its so enamoured of the Final Fantasy/Dragon Quest lineage that it can’t take the more interesting combat mechanics of Grandia, Tales, Paper Mario or the tactical RPG genre.

      Theres a lot of great JRPG combat mechanics out there. Cuthulhu isn’t one of them.

    • AyeGill says:

      If the fun is in the writing, why didn’t this guy just write a book/do a flash animation? Seriously, that’s like saying “The game might suck, but the cutscenes are spectacular!”. We already have a media that uses only writing, it’s called literature.

      Noone would accept a movie that was just a scrolling wall of text, no matter how good that text was, because movies have all these tools that text doesn’t and if you’re not gonna use them, you might as well not make a movie. The same applies to games, if you gameplay isn’t enjoyable and doesn’t serve the story, it has no reason to be there

  8. Premium User Badge

    zapatapon says:

    I agree with the above. I’ve been playing about 1 hour and I am already bored by the random battles. The writing is funny, but parody gets old much faster than the fantastically, ludicrously epic story arcs found in the classic JRPGs of yore.

    Also, you got to wonder why the ‘run’ key is not pressed by default.

  9. sangkancil99 says:

    Hi

    I just registered to say this. Does anyone feel that the Days to Christmas articles this year feels a bit slapdash? Its like they have been knocked off over lunch and uploaded after the coffee.

    Certainly the current Christmas articles can’t compare against previous years where every game is lovingly analysed. Makes for a cracking read.

    This year? Meh…

    • Jonith says:

      I think this year it depends, some of the games, like Shogun 2, have been analysed very well, however games like this and Orcs Must Die don’t have that much you can actually analyse in them.

  10. Unaco says:

    I received this in the current Steam shenanigans… and I must admit that I am so very, very glad that I didn’t hand over any money for this abomination. Talk about console ports… this is one. But that console appears to be a SNES. Hilarious joke about that Mindorb control device, but no Mouse support… none. That’s no joke! If this was a game from the ’80s or early ’90s I could understand… but its 2011 for goodness sake! It has controller support in there (it is a console game after all) but clearly putting mouse support in before releasing it for PC was too much for us to ask. Appalling.

    And, speaking of appalling… the Interface. Dear oh dear oh dear oh dear. Again, the interface is stuck in a previous decade… no more than 5 lines of text on the screen at a time, and you don’t scroll through it, you advance 5 lines at a time. Missed something and want to go back and read? Sorry, no can do. Unless you reload a save… Of which you can have a max of 5, and can’t name them. Want some shortcuts, to make navigating the menus easier? Sorry, no can do. Want to rebind keys? That you can do… but even it’s done appallingly… go into that part by accident and you have to rebind ALL of the keys, with no duplicates or the like before you can exit out of that part… no cancel/ignore function. You also have to make sure you save any and all changes you make, but you have to exit almost completely out of the options section to find that function… so easy enough to press back one extra time (no sign as to how ‘deep’ you are into a menu), lose all of the changes you just made, and have to do them again.

    Menus are awkward and irritating… and you can’t change the controls for those parts, only for the in game part. What do you reckon would be the ‘back/cancel’ key? Escape, right? It’s a PC thing… but not here. The key you want is Backspace. I can understand that, sort of, but not just by itself… You have 2 keys for bringing up the menu ingame (Tab & Space) but can’t have 2 keys for going back in menus, cancelling etc.

    Serious lack of options as well… Graphics are either Full Screen, windowed A or windowed B. What windowed A & B actually mean, I can’t tell you, because the game doesn’t bother to tell you. Sound options… Choose one of 4 predefined volumes for music/sound effects, and that’s it… no sliders, no choice of device, nothing. I keep checking, just to make sure that this isn’t actually running in a SNES emulator… that would maybe explain some things, but no, it doesn’t apparently.

    So yeah… the game might have its good parts, but I don’t think I’ll be getting into it. It might be funny, but the hasty console port and design decisions that should have been dismissed 20 f*cking years ago are no laughing matter. It’s an insult to the PC and to PC Gamers in general, and I’m surprised it’s received as much praise from RPS it has, with no mention of it’s glaringly obvious faults and flaws. Shame.