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Call of Cthulhu

Developer: Cyanide Studio Publisher: Focus Entertainment
30 October 2018
Call of Cthulhu - cover art
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2.87 / 5.0
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115 Ratings / 2 Reviews
#3,640 All-time
#174 for 2018
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2018 Cyanide Focus  
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RU 3 512899 117884 CUSA 04850
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XNA 8 54952 00387 5
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XNA 8 59529 00744 7 LA-H-AU7EA-USA
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Title
Very, extremely C-grade video game does things which have been done before and must not be forgiven.
Here's a new game to sate the fans of Cthulhu Dice.

All the references and allusions that the past decade of horror media has grave-robbed of Lovecraft and his mythos with some semblance of subtlety—only because you weren't familiar enough yet with the source material to notice a composite body when you saw one—at last reclaimed under the proper branding™ and collapsed into a grotesque and choppy pastiche apropos something you always heard was supposed to be scary, incomprehensible, utterly abhorrent.

This is Cyanide Studio's "Telltale with a skill system" narrow-path CYOA and soft-RPG detective game. Edward Pierce (your player-character Detective with a drinking problem) takes his first assignment in quite some time to clear the name and investigate the death of the disturbed artist, Sarah Hawkins, in creepy East coast fish town Darkwater. This macabre investigation involves the classic archetypes of locals like dim-witted fishermen, skeptic cops, street-wise gangsters, and secretive aristocracy in what is consistently a typical Lovecraftian tale about the pursuit for truth revealing too, too much.

COSMIC HORROR is hot, and with its growing popularity the past decade or so its horrors have become less scary and more familiar. Call of Cthulhu: The Video Game aids in the stagnating and genretizing of this strain of horror, animating the cosmic-indifferent to serve a fandom its favorite comfort dish with all the tasty ingredients included.

But similar to what you may get out of a mediocre evening with friends playing the Chaosium RPG—which this game shares a brand license with and whose mechanics it attempts to translate into the computer RPG medium—the scenario of Call of Cthulhu: The Video Game incorporates Lovecraftian markers (cults, tentacles, MaDnesS!) as the sum composition of its drama and not just as foundation and undermeshing. Instead of an intelligent synthesis of these motifs we get here an ugly snowball of mythos bullshit that your group's underprepared Keeper might breathlessly shape over the course of a sloppy one-shot campaign. Not engaging enough to be anything more than a decent way to pass an evening, not promising enough to make this a bi-weekly or even monthly thing.

"It sure would be fun to do this again," sez the friend who drank a conservative 1.5 beers over the span of three hours, "but hoo-boy, our schedules!"

"Well," this poor Keeper, "goodnight anyway..." Keepsie cleans up after their guests have left and wonders why, if all the essentials were in place, if there was variety and Cthulhu was, finally, Called, then why did this session end well before 10pm and my guests decline to take home their character sheets...?
Because, my dude, it is no longer enough to drag out the old props and have them recite their mad barks or gloop and glop their sickly tentacles and leave it just at that. It's not enough anymore!

======

There is a level of disdain over this game's satisfaction in being absolutely mediocre that I am attempting to exorcise. I have been questioning my own attitude about art that does not strive to be anything more than just (ugh) What One Might Expect. I wonder if it's possible to be content with being as barely serviceable as this game is, and I wonder if it really deserves to be criticized as viscerally as the alarming collisions of its narrative and mechanics make me want to.
I may be a bit of a motherfucker about this but I don't want to forgive this game for giving just what I'm supposed to want and nothing more. Playing this game was a jarring, lame and stupid time.

======

I surmise the object of the developers in making this game was to translate the Chaosium RPG into an adventure game encompassing the interactivity, ambition and freedom of queue lines for certain DisneyLand rides (look into Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye). For no good reason that I can see besides marketability this game includes a skill-point system that it routinely embarrasses itself to justify including.

At most times you are wandering semi-medium sized locations with locked doors and guards gating your progress with skill-checks. Progression gates like these are the most common application of the skill system in the game. Skills like Speech and Psychology affect what dialogue options are available to you but often appear as options in the same response opportunity, making their specific purposes as skills vague and homogeneous. This is compounded when the door lockpicking skill, Investigation, appears besides Speech and Psychology dialogue options in what, I guess, are meant to be social encounters that only a keen detective could escape with a positive outcome. Skills and their functions outside of social encounters include Medicine (knowledge leads to investigation shortcuts), Occultism (unlocks the BAD END), Strength (actually useless!), and Detect Hidden.

This last skill underlines the shortsighted design of this system most clearly. While Detect Hidden in the Chaosium RPG could actually determine the success or failure of an investigation, in Call of Cthulhu: The Video Game this skill effectively hides or reveals the world-building documents littered across the world but offers the player nothing substantial that could change the outcome or progress of the game. The skill functions in most cases as a binary on-off switch for hidden journals, but I do understand there is for some reason a random factor totally separate of the Detect Hidden skill level that could reveal these objects anyway. What's the point? To hide a typical Telltale-style adventure game behind the superficial UI icons of an RPG with mechanical complexity.

I consider this dishonest presentation Call of Cthulhu at its lamest, and it extends—as if this weren't a crime already deserving of death—beyond the game's crummy mechanics. The shallowness of this game's smirking vanity, if we are to be cynical about all this, often reveals itself when its ambition as presented through dialogue encounters that are meant to bring the player/Detective's ignorance, knowledge or feigning-ignorance into consideration but collapse and produce confusing results. If you exhaust your options in conversations with characters you will find contradictions, like How did this person know that, Why do they believe that when they just acknowledge the opposite, and these shred the game's narrative integrity apart in my opinion.

These breaks in narrative consistency occur so often, the disconnect between the game's appearance as a competent RPG or narrative adventure became impossible for me to ignore. So when the game's conclusion convulses with all the explosions, death-threats, surreal dream sequences and terribly animated and voice acted CGI cutscenes, it is a beg to be taken serious that I in my most gracious mood imaginable could never acquiesce. If an artist can paint a backdrop of my surroundings in distorted blurring and running horizontal lines to give off the impression of a rollercoaster's thrilling mach-speed zooming I will not be moved to scream as I walk past it, unless ironically.

But even ironic enjoyment is made impossible due to how uncompromisingly typical this game's plot is. There is no way to not expect how it unfolds, and there is no irony deployed in its writing to get ahead of those expectations and play with your knowledge or assumed comfort within the regularity of everything in name-brand Cthulhu land... Call of Cthulhu: The Video Game is just bad and boring. And I don't think saying this makes me an especially cruel gamer.

In sum, this is a bullshit game trying to pretend its not a bad game. The $59.99 price point it had at launch implicates Cyanide or Focus Home Interactive as knowing-bullshitters, and I don't think there is any reason to pretend this isn't this case. As media consumers of a burgeoning art form (video games are less than a century old wtf!!) there is no tradition set, no social mores to respect that would justify any argument on the behalf of bullshit game makers and apologists of those games that says we owe them an intellectual handout comprising our dishonest participation in wack, crappy, boring, trite, garbage empty-hearted works like this.


If you are interested in actual progression and synthesis of Lovecraft horror, see Bloodborne, Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows' 2017 series Providence, or Matt Ruff's Lovecraft Country. Don't bother with crud like this. Toss your Cthulhu dice and smile sincerely at your simple enjoyment there.
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vodsel 2019-01-18T05:17:36Z
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This is a pretty odd game, I heard about the Cthulhu series a while ago but never knew what it was, when I was at one of the libraries by where I lived to get another game, I saw this in the new games shelf, and decided to see what it was about. Cthulhu is essentially a glorified walking simulator, you go from place to place, investigate clues, with an occasional stealth or action segment. That's pretty much the entire game, it starts off with you investigating the family that used to live in a mansion in a town by the ocean, and as the investigation moves on, you go to different locations that the family had connections to and unlock mysteries surrounding the town and its locals. Its just basic crazy cult stuff, a bunch of cultists who are brainwashed by Cthulhu and the great ones try to recruit you and you see others around you go mad.

My problem with Cthulhu is that its just too short and there's not enough gameplay, there are occasional puzzles, but the puzzles are too basic and require hardly any thought, the game just has you quickly moving from one area to the next that you hardly even have any time to appreciate the game or what's going on. The only parts of this game I enjoyed was the first time you investigate the mansion and the part where you have to sneak out of the asylum. Outside those segments, the game is just super forgettable and repetitive, I got tired after having to investigate over and over and the story just got too silly and boring after the first hour. The game is only about 5 hours long, and it feels super rushed, none of the characters have enough development and I could care less for any of them. Plus the ending was just bad, it left way too many questions and it felt a bit like a cop out. It also has a lame upgrade system that hardly impacts anything other than allows additional dialogue choices.

I wanted to like this game, it had a decent enough atmosphere, it had lots of things to explore and I heard it does an alright enough job following the board game it is based off, but Lovecraft was more complex than this game portrays, and it doesn't do him justice. At best this game has a few decent segments and a decent concept, but it goes absolutely nowhere, is way too short, repetitive, and it doesn't have enough meaningful gameplay.
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Catalog

Roland731 Call of Cthulhu 2024-02-04T00:38:11Z
PS4
2024-02-04T00:38:11Z
4.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Jodas Call of Cthulhu 2023-12-31T21:32:47Z
PS4
2023-12-31T21:32:47Z
3.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
raegazel Call of Cthulhu 2023-12-28T22:21:42Z
2023-12-28T22:21:42Z
6.0
1
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TheBloodhail Call of Cthulhu 2023-12-27T18:58:40Z
2023-12-27T18:58:40Z
4.0
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
CrossbonesGT Call of Cthulhu 2023-12-24T18:55:04Z
Xbox One • XNA
2023-12-24T18:55:04Z
3.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
c0lcat Call of Cthulhu 2023-12-18T13:51:29Z
2023-12-18T13:51:29Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
horror_snores Call of Cthulhu 2023-12-16T21:34:19Z
2023-12-16T21:34:19Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
FatherBruno Call of Cthulhu 2023-12-02T02:37:45Z
2023-12-02T02:37:45Z
3.0
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
ZachZion Call of Cthulhu 2023-11-29T19:33:29Z
2023-11-29T19:33:29Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
8h 10h 13H
DJSuleiman Call of Cthulhu 2023-11-19T15:36:18Z
Xbox One • XNA
2023-11-19T15:36:18Z
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
Skeletor_Lord Call of Cthulhu 2023-11-15T21:45:10Z
2023-11-15T21:45:10Z
2.5
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
2018 Lovecraftian Horror Mystery Psychological Horror Graphic Adventure
InYourBlood Call of Cthulhu 2023-10-31T01:55:57Z
2023-10-31T01:55:57Z
2.5
1
In collection Want to buy Used to own  
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  • ResetRPG 2022-05-29 22:54:14.912285+00
    Not particularly good or bad imo. Solid B/C grade video game to take up a couple hours tbh.
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