I’ve always had an interest in the Cthulhu mythology especially when it comes to video games. I’ve enjoyed games that explored it such as Bloodborne, The Dark Corners of the Earth, and even a lesser known title like Magrunner: Dark Pulse. So when I heard that Cyanide Games and Focus Home Interactive (who also published Magrunner) were working on Call of Cthulhu it had my interest from the get go. Given some of the issues I’ve experienced in other games from this studio though, I did worry whether or not it would turn out well.
In the game you play as Edward Pierce who is a private investigator. The game starts off creepy enough with some very strange and dark things going on before Edward wakes up and realizes it was a dream. From there you are given the job of looking into the death of a woman and her family and are sent off to the town of Darkwater to do your investigation. One of the things I liked about that first segment and following on is the atmosphere that this game surrounds itself in. It really feels like what you would expect from a game based on this mythology.
Call of Cthulhu isn’t going to be the kind of game for everyone. If you’re a fan of games with more action and that are more fast paced you won’t find that here. Your character doesn’t have a health bar to maintain for instance. This is an Investigative Adventure/RPG game that moves at a much slower pace so keep that in mind if that sort of thing doesn’t tickle your fancy. For those who do enjoy those types of games there is a lot here to like. There are people to talk to complete with various dialog choices and clues to look out for while doing your job. As an investigator, you will have to hunt for clues all over this town. That said at times it felt like there wasn’t quite enough to interact with making for a slightly more dull experience. Also worth noting is that this is one of those games that starts a bit slow story wise. I was kind of bored with it early on but after a few hours it got its hooks in me and kept me intrigued until the end.
One of the cool gameplay elements is the ability to take the evidence that you have found and put it together to replay the events that happened, similar to what a game like Detroit: Become Human did. Finding things in these sequences can then open up more dialog choices with other characters. Gameplay wise it’s not the deepest you’ll find in this type of genre but the overall tone and atmosphere of the game that I mentioned earlier helps to sell it and make it better than what it probably really is.
There are also parts of the game where you’ll engage in stealth sequences and these were a little bit disappointing and drags the game down a bit in my eyes. If you get caught during one of these sections you’ll have to restart from the last checkpoint. There aren’t a lot of them thankfully so I wouldn’t worry about that being a deal breaker as far as playing this game. Now as far as the RPG side of the game goes there are points that you earn while playing the game that can be used to upgrade your abilities. Some will give you more options while talking to people while others increase your investigative abilities. There is also another system in the game called the sanity system. It’s a system that affects the psyche of Edward as you play. Look upon certain things and your screen will become distorted which will have an effect on him and can cause things in the game to be different for you than someone else who may be playing the game. Your sanity will affect how the game ends as well so it can be worth replaying the game to see how you can change things.
As far as game length goes I finished it in around 10 hours my first time through but it could probably be done in less. Now this game came out on PS4 and Xbox One around this time last year and when I reviewed it on PS4 the game suffered from quite a few technical issues. Given that it had issues on a stronger platform you might worry that the Switch version would be worse and you would be correct in that thinking. The game doesn’t look as good here but I found that it’s less noticeable while playing it in handheld mode. One thing that can’t be missed however is the super long load times between story chapters in the Switch version. I’m talking load screens that take minutes to pass which is just ridiculous. The game also suffers from framerate issues quite a bit while playing. Voice acting is kind of all over the place with some of it being pretty good and other bits clearly showing that not much effort was put into it.
As someone who is interested in this mythology I found a lot to like about Call of Cthulhu. It’s the type of game that you don’t really see from the big publishers of the gaming world. It has a fantastic atmosphere and a gripping and unnerving story to keep you playing to the end. Sadly the Switch version is worse off technically more than the PS4 version was that I reviewed last year. The graphics are easier on the eyes in handheld mode but there is no escaping the overly long load times here. That said, if you’re looking for a new dark narrative game for this spooky time of year then give Call of Cthulhu a try.
*Call of Cthulhu is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC. Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Review key provided by the publisher.