Tag Archives: Lovecraft

Cthulhu Saves the World with an old-school parody RPG

Cthulhu saves the world screen gd impressions

A copy of Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII: The Beginning have sat untouched, uninstalled in a folder on my laptop’s desktop, for a good long while now. I mean, the former came out in July 2011, and I guess I ended up getting a copy of it through some bundle promotion that I can no longer recall, but all I did was download it, not ever sure when it would be a good time to kickstart an old-school RPG adventure. Turns out, any time is good, and so I’ve been tinkering away at this pixelated 2D journey through labyrinthine dungeons brimming with treasure chests, a limited number of random encounters, and the moodiest soundtrack, with hard swings from cult-like chamber songs to a peppy, relaxing tune when exploring a village.

Now, technically, the game’s name on the title screen is as follows: 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!). Oh boy. Quite a mouthful. We’ll just stick with the abbreviated title to save precious space, plus I have no idea how one even goes about abbreviating such a thing.

So, what’s the deal in Cthulhu Saves the World? Why would the lord of insanity want to save the world? Well, truthfully, Cthulhu was all set to plunge the world into madness and destruction, but his powers were suddenly sealed away by a mysterious sorcerer. Alas, the only way for Cthulhu to break the curse is to become…a true hero. Sometimes to save something, you have to destroy it at the same time. Everyone loves a good anti-hero in these days of Breaking Bad‘s Walter White and just about everyone from Game of Thrones.

I’d like to tell you that, as a writer, I’ve long delved into the works and demented mindset of H.P. Lovecraft, but the truth is, I really only became aware of the material due to the Munchkin Cthulhu card game from Steve Jackson Games many years ago. Still, I understand it on a surface level, and the game here seems to only demand you understand that Cthulhu is a monster forced to take on a heroic quest. At least so far. I haven’t really come across other cosmic entities yet.

Cthulhu Saves the World is a throwback to traditional 16-bit RPGs of yesterday, like Phantasy Star and Final Fantasy. You wander around towns full of houses and shops, buy potions, armor, and new weapons, and then traverse across an overworld to your next destination. That said, the battle system is a bit more unique here than your standard turn-based form, and this is what makes both playing the game and grinding for higher levels enjoyable. To start, enemies become 10% stronger for every turn they live through, feeding off of Cthulhu’s madness. This means you want to kill them as quickly as possible, as you’ll also regain more magic points the sooner the battle ends.

Here’s one of my favorite elements of Cthulhu Saves the World: random encounters are limited. When you arrive at a new zone, you can pop over to your status menu and see how many random encounters you will have to endure before they just stop popping up altogether. Praise the Great Old One! This means you can only grind for so long, though you can also start a battle if you want via a menu command. It’s both a nice and strange feeling to wipe an area clear of random fights, which makes going back for missed treasure chests less of a pain. When you level up, you have the option to pick between multiple spells or upgrades, and I’m focusing so far on Cthulhu doing big damage and Umi handling healing and attacking all enemies at once with her Flood spell.

I’m not terribly far into Cthulhu Saves the World, somewhere in Chapter 2, with both characters in my party–Cthulhu and Umi–at level 10. Like I mentioned at the top of this post, it’s a game I’ve been tinkering with over the last few months, playing it in short spouts, but always making progress. Its humor and engaging turn-based battles make it a joy to play, and, as always with old-school RPGs, I’m eager to see the next town and purchase better gear. That’s how you know you are getting somewhere, when a shop has more expensive items.

Sense the evil, never see it in All the Way Down

gd all the way down impressions

All the Way Down is a short, dark tale of dread and death set in Yorkshire, England during an ominous snowstorm. It’s openly inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s work, though I can’t pinpoint an exact story of his where it is drawing directly from, but “The Whisperer in Darkness” is probably a good place to start. Still, a lot of his themes are represented here, such as personal madness and fear of the unknown, the unnamable.

Our nameless young man, a hiker, is simply trying to find a place to spend the night and get out of the snowy cold. He stumbles across a convenience store in a small mining village called Millvale; alas, he is not warmly welcomed, since he is far from a local. However, the clerk at the convenience store suggests he check out The Miner’s Arms, a small bar just down the road, known for occasionally putting up stragglers in need. Naturally, things go downhill from there.

I love that All the Way Down is picking up the dropped faceless in-game models torch last seen held by The Granstream Saga. The character portraits themselves are actually more detailed, left black and white save for rosy cheeks, that warm orange-red someone’s nose turns when they’ve had a bit too much to drink. It’s a strong effect, gelling well with the often pleasant, colorfully warm backdrops, despite everything somehow silently screaming terror and mayhem. You never end up seeing the Deep Ones, the monsters feared by all of Millvale, but that’s fine. You don’t need to see them to believe and sense their presence, but I did find the main guy’s switch from stark disbelief to pure panic a little too convenient; he goes to bed, wakes up to a pounding on his door, and now swears that it is pure evil coming for him. There should’ve been a dream sequence scene to help sell that better.

Puzzle-wise, there’s unfortunately not much here. In fact, I can only recall four sections where you actually are tasked with pointing on items, clicking, and clicking somewhere else: the miner flashback, escaping your bedroom, freeing yourself from the basement, and using the minecart to flee. That might sound like a lot, but it’s not; the amount of interaction and exploration is slim to none, with the puzzle solutions extremely easy to spot, save for a tin can that I missed during my initial pixel scan of the screen. At the start, while the hiker is conversing with the convenience store worker, there’s dialogue options, but that never appears again, not even with the barkeeper or old man filling him in on the village’s grim history. A missed opportunity, but given that there’s voice acting involved, I can understand if words had to be limited to a specific amount. Just felt like a tease, that’s all.

I really dug the look and feel of All the Way Down, but wanted more interaction, more poking and prodding. Let me find the madness; then, let me run from it, blindly, arms flailing, my only direction away.

2015 Game Review Haiku, #1 – All the Way Down

gd games completed 2015 001

Know not if they eat
Deep Ones never satisfied
Not all the way down

From 2012 all through 2013, I wrote little haikus here at Grinding Down about every game I beat or completed, totaling 104 in the end. I took a break from this format last year in an attempt to get more artsy, only to realize that I missed doing it dearly. So, we’re back. Or rather, I am. Hope you enjoy my continued take on videogame-inspired Japanese poetry in three phases of 5, 7, and 5, respectively.