Scary games are often at their best when they create a truly unsettling atmosphere. Couple that with quality characters and an intriguing story and you’ve got a recipe for a good, spooky experience. Cyanide’s Call of Cthulhu does an exceptional job of delivering an unsettling, atmospheric, and distinctly Lovecraftian experience.
Call of Cthulhu tells the tale of Edward Pierce a war veteran and obvious alcoholic who is now a Private Investigator. Pierce is fairly desperate for work and as such takes a questionable contract which puts him on a weird little fishing island. Pierce is a boring main character. He’s a an open book that the player can paint the specific skills they wish to leverage onto. The skills you choose to put points into as the game progresses allow Pierce to notice information during his investigations.
It’s these investigation sections that truly make the game feel unique. Call of Cthulhu is largely an adventure game. As Pierce you will interact with characters and investigate environments to uncover clues about what is going on with the larger story. Dialog with other characters feels interesting and some really quality voice acting made me want to pull every piece of information I could out of every conversation. The environmental investigations have Pierce uncovering clues and then pulling that information together to reconstruct what originally occurred in that room or area. The whole process has a distinctly CSI vibe to it that works surprisingly well when combined with the overall atmosphere of the game world.
The process of talking to people and uncovering clues is occasionally broken up with stealth sections and I’ll be frank these were not my favorite. Call of Cthulhu is at its best when it is telling a story through characters and environments. The stealth and “combat” feels forced into the game in an effort to bring some diversity to the moment to moment player actions. These sections do a great job of adding tension but they also add a lot of frustration and trial and error which quickly dilutes the effectiveness of these sections.
Even with the frustration of the stealth/combat Call of Cthulhu still tells an intriguing and dark story. The choices made and clues uncovered by Pierce as you venture through will make the game shake out differently. Couple that with a relatively short campaign and you have a game just begging to be replayed on a rainy night in the darkest parts of winter.
If you are into Lovecraft, love some great voice acting and atmospheric storytelling, and are craving an adventure game Call of Cthulhu is probably right up your alley. The stealth sections felt aggressively shoe horned into the game but everything else about Call of Cthulhu felt unique and interesting in a way I was not expecting. Now if you’ll excuse me I’d like to go have Pierce make some questionable choices and see how all of that shakes out on the other end.
*The Mommy Gamers were given a copy of Call of Cthulhu free for review purposes.