Quick Look – Call of Cthulhu (#HorrorGameOct)

I’m not really sure what I was expecting from Call of Cthulhu, and by that, I mean, what kind of horror game I thought it was going to be. So far, it seems to primarily be a point & click adventure without inventory puzzles (thank god), with a smidge of RPG mechanics, and some really annoying stealth sections tossed in for flavor.

Thankfully, it’s also creepy rather than being full of jump scares, which I don’t love. It captures the 1920’s Lovecraftian vibe fairly well, putting you in the shoes of a detective on the edge of ruin, taking the case no one else wants because it’s either that or drink himself to death. I’ve completed the first four chapters (the first of which is little more than a very basic tutorial with some story sprinkled in). In all honesty, I’d probably be about halfway through the game by now, but I have hit that point that most horror games seem to rely on – the “solve puzzles in a dark space while trying not to be seen by anyone” section.

If Call of Cthulhu was a “save anywhere” game instead of one that is checkpoint save only, it might not be so awful. If I had ignored the instruction at the beginning of the game to adjust the brightness until the image on the left was barely visible, it might be more tolerable. As it is, the game is not really built around stealth, and I cannot see anything and am sure that using my lighter in most places in the chapter would just get me caught sooner. I absolutely intend to dive back into it, but I am also very sure that this is a roadblock that’ll push completion out well into next month.

… not that I actually expected to finish before the weekend is out.

That said, I’m not sure that this game really benefits from any of its mechanics – the story would be just as well told in a walking simulator or visual novel. In an earlier chapter, I finally had to consult a walkthrough after failing multiple ways to complete an objective. I spent probably too much time poking around and figuring out all the pieces to a puzzle, only to fail a requisite skill-check at the end, and render all that effort moot, and it discouraged me from looking around for less obvious solutions than the most direct route. Now I feel like if there’s something that seems absolutely idiotic, that’s probably the easiest way to reach my goal.

And yet I’m enjoying it for the most part. It’s visually striking, the sound design is excellent, and the story is interesting, if slightly slower paced for all the pixel hunting and puzzle solving you need to do. I have not yet given up on touching everything the game will allow me to, because finding an item that’s useful or that increases a skill you cannot increase with character points is more common than you might imagine. The character voice acting is hit and miss, but thankfully, the player character’s actor did a really solid job.

I tend to buy a lot of horror games, but because I am an epic wimp in real life, most of them sit in my library unplayed for approximately forever. I’m glad to have taken the leap with Call of Cthulhu, because it’s the right kind of horror for me, and manages to avoid the majority of irritations I tend to feel when playing most point and click style adventure games. Looking at the control scheme, I did note there is at least the potential for combat at some point, but I haven’t encountered any yet, and while I appreciate the eventuality of being able to – maybe – defend myself, there’s definitely more scare in being armed only with a lighter and your wits.

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