When it was released earlier this year on Xbox Live, Cthulhu Saves the World served as a reminder of how a game can be an homage to the past without sacrificing its originality. Considering the amount of cheaply made clones in the App Store, there’s no denying my joy of seeing the TinkerHouse Games-published RPG make its way to the touch-screen. But how does the pixelated world of Cthulhu translate to the small screen?
Not surprisingly, its a nearly seamless transition from console to iOS. For those unfamiliar, Cthulhu tells the story of the H.P. Lovecraft-created character as he becomes a hero to recapture the powers he needs to destroy the world. Yes, he’s saving a world so he can destroy it shortly afterward, just one of the many hilarious touches and tongue-in-cheek jokes to find in the world of Cthulhu.
In terms of gameplay, Cthulhu Saves the World is constructed as a traditional RPG in the vein of the 16-bit Final Fantasy games: players navigate through dungeons and towns, participating in hundreds of random turn-based battles and having a lot of nonsensical conversations with the locals in every village. But with the game’s brand of humor, attention to detail, and unique battle and party systems, this game is anything but the ordinary RPG.
On the surface, every battle in Cthulhu feels like any turn-based battle: after selecting an action for each member of the party, enemies and characters exchange blows until one side is defeated. But there are a number of tweaks to the formula that keep it feeling fresh, like special attacks with random positive and negative effects, and an original multiplier system that speeds up battles between powerful enemies, less of a menu-navigating slog, and more of a fast-paced, unpredictable egde in big moments.
Cthulhu‘s gameplay and aesthetics translate perfectly to the touch screen, but there are a few disappointing shortcomings – primarily the game’s touch control scheme, which is awkward and highly inaccurate when trying to switch direction, not to mention forcing players to re-position their thumbs every ten seconds. Also,t he text is way too small to read without straining on the smaller iPhone screens, which can make navigating the swipe-activated menus and reading dialogue text a headache-inducing affair.
Despite those small annoyances, Cthulhu Saves the World is an impressive RPG, with a fun branching level-up system and four unlockable modes for players to enjoy. It’s a must-buy for role-playing fans, and any iOS gamer who remembers the 16-bit days of yore fondly.