Review – Cthulhu Saves Christmas (Switch)

Oh boy, another game featuring Cthulhu. Another Lovecraftian indie title released over the past couple of years. And yeah, yet another game trying to poke fun at the literary world’s most famous racist’s works with a comedic title trying to water down the dourness and insanity of his universe, just like the mediocre The Innsmouth Case tried to do earlier this year. Surely a recipe for disaster, right? What if I told you that this wasn’t the case, but actually a really funny game that knows how to make fun of its setting and genre with a hilariously intelligent script? Let’s take a look at Cthulhu Saves Christmas, and why you should actually pay attention to it.

I mean, you ARE kinda adorable…

Cthulhu Saves Christmas starts off with our titular squid-faced protagonist waking up one day, only to find out he has lost most of his power. He quickly finds out that he can only regain his strength by doing a good deed, so he decides to rescue Santa, and Christmas as whole, from an army of evil Christmas-themed lackeys, such as Jack Frost and unionized elvish workers. Simply put, he sets off on an adventure alongside Santa’s daughter, a friend of the Nutcracker, and the one and only Baba Yaga, in order to save Christmas just so he can regain the power needed to destroy the world. I can’t even. It’s just brilliant.

This is not exactly an open world JRPG full of optional sidequests and secrets to unveil. Cthulhu Saves Christmas is very straightforward and linear, in fact. Each “chapter” is comprised of a few days in which you are free to talk to some people in a small town and develop “R’lyehtionship Values” (this game’s version of Persona 5‘s social links), followed by a linear journey through a small dungeon, where you can fight a few enemies, as well as a simple boss fight to top things off. Rinse and repeat until the game is over. It only lasts for a couple of hours, so you will never feel like the game is taking you nowhere.

It’s a very simple combat system, but it works. You’re not here for the combat anyway…

The game features a weird mix between random and non-random encounters when exploring a dungeon. There is a small tension meter on the bottom of the screen, which will gradually increase until it results in a battle against a group of enemies. You can avoid these fights by pressing the A button whenever an exclamation mark shows up above Cthulhu’s head, however. After fighting a certain amount of battles per dungeon, random encounters will cease to happen, but you can still fight enemies by choosing a “Battle” option on the pause menu.

A JRPG needs to have a great combat system, or else there’s no way a player will be able to endure the same repetitive battles until the end of the game. Cthulhu Saves Christmas features a system that can best be described as “simple, basic, but yet unique”. It’s your typical turn-based system, without active times or any of that mumbojumbo. Each combatant attacks in a set order, just like the most old-school of old-school RPGs.

Always look on the bright side of life.

The thing is, you don’t exactly have the ability to properly choose your movelist. You can edit some of them in the pause menu, but the vast majority of your attacks will show up randomly in your menu whenever you enter a battle. Furthermore, you can only use each move once per battle, unless mentioned otherwise or if one of your characters uses a spell that “recharges” your movelist “ammo”. That sounds like a nuisance, but battles are usually pretty quick and easy, so I never actually ran out of moves during a fight. As a matter of fact, I don’t think any of my characters died once during the entire game. It also helps that there is no MP meter, and your health meter is fully restored at the end of each battle.

The overall presentation is good, but not overly exciting. Cthulhu Saves Christmas‘ visuals are clearly inspired by some 16-bit classics, such as Final Fantasy IV and Breath of Fire. Nothing too amazing, but it gets the job done, especially with the charming and well-designed character portraits. The soundtrack is actually pretty good, comprised of some extremely catchy tunes in and out of battle, which more than make up for the fact that the rest of the game is somewhat devoid of sound effects or the most simplistic of voice samples.

Everything gameplay or presentation-wise is either decent or passable in Cthulhu Saves Christmas. What really makes the game so damn entertaining is its script. It is hilarious, but also really smart. It pokes fun at JRPG’s most clichĂ© tropes, breaking the fourth wall so frequently that every single wall in a ten mile radius has already been put to the ground. Cthulhu, without a doubt, is the star of the show, being arrogant, sassy, ironic, sarcastic, and oh so charming.

Self esteem is a beautiful thing.

Cthulhu Saves Christmas is an odd case in which the complete package is actually way more enjoyable and entertaining than the sum of its parts. Its visuals, soundtrack, length and simple combat system aren’t exactly special or groundbreaking, but add them all together alongside its hilarious script, and you get a laidback JRPG experience that’s a phenomenal fit for a portable like the Switch. Don’t expect a challenging game, this is more of a small parody that pokes fun at the genre’s conventions. That’s exactly what I wanted from it, and I definitely did not feel disappointed.

 

Graphics: 7.0

Cthulhu Saves Christmas resembles classic JRPGs from the 16-bit era, such as Breath of Fire and Final Fantasy IV. It’s not exactly impressive, but it’s pretty competent. Character portraits are well designed as well.

Gameplay: 7.0

A very simple turn-based combat system that, despite featuring an annoying randomized skill system, doesn’t exactly irritate due to how easy each battle is.

Sound: 7.0

The lack of overworld sound effects and even small voice clips is a bummer, but the game does feature a surprisingly catchy soundtrack, both in and out of battles.

Fun Factor: 9.0

Oddly enough, Cthulhu Saves Christmas‘ hilarious script and laidback difficulty result in a game that’s way better and way more enjoyable than the sum of its parts.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Cthulhu Saves Christmas is available now on PC and Switch.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Cthulhu Saves Christmas was provided by the publisher.