Game: Cthulhu Saves Christmas
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PS45 and PC)
Developer|Publisher: Zeboyd | Limited Run Games
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Teen
Price: US $9.99 | UK £11.39 | EU € 9,99
Release Date: October 28th, 2020
Review code provided with many thanks to Limited Run Games
Do They Know It Is Not Xmas
Yes, before you continue with this review I am well aware it’s not the Christmas season. In fact, it’s almost Summertime when this review gets published. Well, I like H.P Lovecraft and have always been quite fond of the Cthulhu mythos. I have played other more serious Call of Cthulhu video games and even dabbled in board games when I was younger, more intelligent and certainly more attractive. If you’re looking for the horror and insanity that tends to go hand in hand with Cthulhu you most certainly are not going to find it in this game. Cthulhu saves Christmas, takes the cosmic entity and turns them into a joke. For some reason, that really works with this kinda brilliant video game.
Save Xmas, Destroy the World
Out of the gate, it’s clear Cthulhu Saves Christmas doesn’t take itself too seriously. The plot is that Cthulhu has lost his world-destroying powers and the only way to reclaim them is to save Santa Claus who has been kidnapped by the League of Christmas Evil. But he is not alone in his quest. He has the aid of Snow Maiden, Baba Yaga and Belsnickel to build their relationships (or R’lyehtionships as the game calls it) and find the meaning of Christmas.
Each character is well developed and the dialogue and banter between them is very amusing and engaging. There are some pretty nice nodes to various mythologies depending on how clued into folklore you are. Of course, you don’t witness the gritty dark versions of these characters, but more witty interpretations of them. There is something about the writing of this game that really grabbed me. It basically makes fun of everything Cthulhu, Christmas, even game clichés, everything is on the table and it just seems to work well here. There was rarely a moment I wasn’t smiling while playing this.
Turn-Based With Small Twists
At its core, Cthulhu Saves Christmas is a turn-based RPG. The general flow of the game is quite linear though. You enter dungeon style levels looking for chests and searching for the boss to defeat. Usually, with these types of RPGs, you have random encounters as you are looking about.
But the game puts a clever spin on this allowing the player to choose to play this way, avoid encounters if they choose or even just activate them instantly. At the bottom left of the screen is a counter indicating how many battles are left. If this reaches zero there are no more random encounters and you are free to just explore the area at your leisure, a refreshing design indeed.
The turn-based battles themselves are also quite simple. On the right of the screen, you can see the order each character or enemy is going to attack so you can plan your strategy. You can also drive enemies insane as well as cause various status effects such as poison to enemies.
Each character has 8 moves to choose from and once you use one you can’t use it again until you spend a move to recharge. This encourages the player to try different moves with each turn making battles feel quite engaging as opposed to the way I usually play RPG where I often just select the same moves until the enemy is defeated.
Build Your Relationships
When you’re not battling, you’re back in the town building your relationships with your party members. Here you can select a limited number of activities that will earn you a new item for a character to use in the battles ahead. These segments are usually pretty silly and witty but they balance the gameplay nicely after a tough boss battle.
Graphically the game looks like your typical game made with RPGs. Simple pixel designed sprites with Christmas themed backgrounds. Nothing particularly stands out as special but with such a good script and entertaining gameplay, it doesn’t really matter. Of course, there is an appropriately themed Christmassy tune to accompany you on your festive adventure. I guess it feels a bit out of place playing this game in June 2021 but to me, Cthulhu is for all year not just for Christmas.
The game isn’t too long. A single playthrough took me under 7 hours. A simple short adventure that I could actually see myself digging out again when the actual Christmas season rolls around. If you do find things a bit too tough the game has multiple difficulty settings with the easiest cleverly being titled ‘sane’ if you’re looking to just enjoy the story.
Conclusion – The Call of Christmas
Cthulhu Saves Christmas is a great example of a game where the developer had a limited budget and possibly resources and just created something pretty darn brilliant. With a funny creative story and gameplay that works for gamers of multiple skill levels, this is well worth purchasing if you need a title to make you smile or just bring the Christmas spirit a little early this year.
Final Verdict: I Like It a Lot