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The Games Of Christmas '11: Day Seven

Prepare your praise

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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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John Walker

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One of the original co-founders of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and general hero of humanity.

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