Cthulhu Saves Christmas (Review)

As I crawl to my 10th Anniversary as Indie Gamer Chick (it’s been pointed out to me that it’s actually my 9th anniversary, as your starting date isn’t your first anniversary. Yes, fine, I’ll have been IGC for ten years on July 1 is the point), something dreadful is overcoming me. And I don’t just mean the grim specter of Parkinson’s disease, a thought that gives me trembles. I mean sooner than it’s supposed to. No, I’m talking about nostalgia. Oh Christ, are you telling me that I’m now old enough and the world has gone to shit enough for me to long for a simpler time? Already? Ten years isn’t that long ago! But, yea, I’ve sort of reached that point where it’s almost unfathomable that I was once prolific and cranked out almost five-hundred game reviews in a a two year span and wish I could go back to THAT time.

The self-aware humor is so non-stop that even Deadpool would be like “yo, slow down! Let the jokes settle!”

So I started browsing through the literally hundreds of Nintendo Switch indies I’ve bought but never played and saw Cthulhu Saves Christmas. Oh hey, that’s a Zeboyd game! They made XBLIGs! I remember XBLIGs! I reviewed XBLIGs! They made Cthulhu Saves the World for XBLIG! I played it! I reviewed it! This is a Cthulhu saves game, only it’s NOT an XBLIG! That’s exactly the type of nostalgia my prematurely decrepit ass has been longing for. So, I fired it up and immediately started getting warm and fuzzy feelings of familiarity playing one of their self-aware satirical RPGs. The exact same kind that I started playing in 2011 when I started Indie Gamer Chick. You didn’t see a lot of games like this back then. Ten years later and there’s actually too many “haha, you’re playing a game, isn’t that quirky?” experiences. We’ve come far, and I figured Cthulhu Saves Christmas might run the joke into the ground eventually. But, I was wrong. They actually ran it into the ground right away. That’s the joke.

If you’re looking for “hardcore” RPG experience, something tells me you’d know enough from the title to realize you’re not getting it here. Or, if you’re familiar with Zeboyd’s work for that matter. Not that they can’t do damn fine RPG mechanics. Honesty, their Penny Arcade titles probably outclassed anything the Xbox 360 ever offered. But, even with really fun combat mechanics, you’re never going to be immersed in this world. In fact, the humor landing requires you to be as detached from the goings-on as humanly possible. That’s sort of the point. And yea, it’s really fun to play Cthulhu Saves Christmas. The set-up of having some attack options being chosen at random, while others you can organize and optimize for making battles be breezy is quite satisfying to build and implement. Besides, it moves at such a blistering pace that you never even have time to be bored. Things like exploring towns are shit-canned in favor of having to choose a handful of events between each stage which will give you a pre-set reward. It does feel rushed at times, but there’s always a disarming joke to go along with the feeling, as if the devs are letting you know “game makers get bored too, you know?”

CSC does actually do satire as well as any game. Its parody on the Final Fantasy “we must depart forever” trope had me laughing so much my eyes stung from the tears.

To CSC’s credit, it never gets boring, and writing is always absurd enough to hold your attention. Yet, I can’t help but get the distinct feeling that Zeboyd couldn’t believe they were still making games like this after a decade. Their magnum opus, Cosmic Star Heroine, did well enough but wasn’t exactly a world beater as far as RPGs go. Cthulhu Saves Christmas has the feel of a game that says “couldn’t you pricks have saved us from making games like this?” Or maybe I’m reading it wrong. Maybe they’re every bit as nostalgic for a simpler time as I am. I usually disclose friendships earlier in reviews, but I guess now’s the time to note that I love Robert & Bill Zeboyd. They’re my friends, but more than that, they were partners in that weird and often frustrating world of Xbox Live Indie Games. We were on different sides of the table: they were makers of XBLIGs, while I was a critic XBLIGs. But we all struggled to get attention for the community together. They certainly made my job easier, to the point that I actually felt sorry for them. They seemed too good to be stuck hocking their games for 240MSP to 400MSP (MSP is Microsoft Points. 80 Points = $1). When they were chosen to become Penny Arcade 3 and 4’s developer, but with their games still stuck on XBLIG, part of me smiled, but most of me felt heartbroken for them. “Jeez, really? Even with the license, they’re going to be stuck on the same sales page as vibrator apps?”

You have three permanent attack slots that aren’t selected by a randomizer. I placed “attack all” attacks in the first slot of each and just mashed A for the most part. Your mileage will vary on how much you get out of CSC, especially since you can adjust the difficulty.

It never occurred to me that any developer would remember that time as fondly as I did. I guess what I’ve taken away most from Cthulhu Saves Christmas is that was a happier time. For all of us. When we were all plucky upstarts, with the best yet to come sometime down the line. Who knows? Parkinson’s or not, maybe I’ll eventually reach higher highs. Zeboyd, on the other hand, certainly will. Hell, whenever I pester AAA studio heads, they’re probably the developer I name drop most. “Oh, you have an old RPG property and you don’t know what to do with it? Well, I know these guys. They’re a bit batshit but they’re good..” I suspect that they’re still destined for gaming superstardom. Even ten years later, the best days of Zeboyd feel like they are ahead of them. I guess it’s reassuring to know that those old days we spent on Xbox Live Indie Games meant as much to them as it did to me. It makes me feel a little less pathetic to be nostalgic for it.

Cthulhu Saves Christmas was developed by Zeboyd
Point of Sale: Nintendo Switch, Steam, Coming Soon to PS5
$9.99 is an old one now in the making of this review.
Cthulhu Saves Christmas is Chick-Approved and Ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

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