Also available on PlayStation 5, Google Stadia, and Windows
Review written by Stephen Deck; originally published 01/27/2022 on Teacher by Day, Gamer by Night
A little over a decade ago, a quirky little RPG called Cthulhu Saves the World made its debut on the Xbox 360 Indie storefront. I didn’t have a 360 at the time, but as soon as I got one about three years later, it was among the first games that I downloaded. The entire premise of an RPG in which an eldritch evil saves the world rather than destroying it was enough to lure me in, and the humor in the game was spot on. Years later, a holiday-themed prequel comes along. When Limited Run Games did a physical printing of this Christmas prequel, you know I had to jump on it.
Cthulhu Saves Christmas starts with, obviously, Cthulhu waking up in this bed in R’lyeh to find a present in his room. Upon opening the present, he realizes that it’s actually an anti-present of sorts; instead of getting something, his powers are magically taken. Assuming that Santa was the culprit, he sets off to slay the slovenly saint, but he soon discovers that it was not actually Santa who stole his powers but the Christmas League of Evil, a group of Christmas-themed villains who have kidnapped Santa and seek to destroy Christmas. Without Santa, Christmas will never come. Clearly, the Grinch was an amateur who didn’t have the first clue about how to actually steal Christmas.
The gameplay is a throwback to classic 8-bit and 16-bit JRPGs. You explore an overworld, open chests to find items, and battle enemies in a turn-based format. Each area is capped with a boss at the end, and between areas, you’ll have the opportunity to do a few side events out of a sizeable list to develop relationships with NPCs, gain better equipment, and generally flesh out the humor of the story. That’s really where this game most excels – the humor. The writing in this game is absolutely hilarious, and it references not only Lovecraft (obviously) but also a slew of European myths as well as 4th-wall-breaking jokes. Not every game can pull that off, but this and its predecessor are the only ones I’ve played that can match Neptunia for well-delivered meta jokes.
Visually, the pixel sprites are gorgeous, and the game world looks fantastic, too. The music, while not jaw-dropping or anything, is excellent and never gets stale or annoying. The game has several difficulty levels from which to choose ranging from probably-too-easy to brutally challenging. When you finish the game, there’s also a New Game+ to enjoy where you keep your characters, levels, items, etc. Since you can increase or decrease difficulty in-game via the menu, New Game+ is perfect for turning up the difficulty for a replay.
Cthulhu Saves Christmas is a perfect game for the holidays as it’s not too long – only five or six hours – so you can play through it at Christmas and still have plenty of time to spend with your family. If, like me, you got distracted and Christmas and are playing this a month later, it’s the perfect length for a single evening or two of gaming. At $10, it’s a definite step up in price from Cthulhu Saves the World, but it’s also a whole leap forward in quality, and I think that’s a very reasonable price for the game that you get. It’s extra enjoyable if you’ve played Cthulhu Saves the World (which is, unfortunately, now only available on PC; fingers crossed for a port to modern consoles), but even if you haven’t played that, this is a fantastic experience in and of itself. I only wish it were longer.