My love and appreciation for H.P. Lovecraft’s stories has been with me since my freshman year in high school. The Cthulhu mythos was a very popular discussion topic in my group of friends, which inspired me to read the original story. The combination of horror and literary techniques pulled me into it instantly. It proved to me that the horror genre in literature has just as much to offer to the world of horror besides films and television shows. I was excited to see that this major character was once again being taken into the realm of video games with Call of Cthulhu.
Call of Cthulhu, which was developed by Cyanide SA, has been previously released for on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. This review will focus on the Nintendo Switch version of the game that was released earlier this week. The story, which is set in 1924, follows Edward Pierce, a private investigator who is sent to investigate the death of the Hawkins family. As he embarks on his investigation, he realizes that there’s much more than meets the eye to this case. The unfriendly locals and uncertain police reports raise his suspicions even more. Soon enough, Pierce finds himself in the fight of his life as he goes against a world of conspiracies, cultists, and cosmic horrors.
The game is centered around a private investigator. Whether it’s asking the locals, looking over items left behind in a crime scene, or unlocking doors, there are countless opportunities for players to search for clues. The game also gives players the opportunity to go back and talk to NPCs that they have already interacted with. These NPCs may give the player clues and new dialogue options. These interactions with people and items are a key element to solving the mysterious death of the Hanks family.
The player is equipped with eight abilities that must be developed along the way to guarantee success. Eloquence allows the player to persuade NPCs through means of persuasion. It’s important to upgrade this skill to get confidential information from other characters. The strength ability also influences NPCs through Pierce’s own opinion. It also comes in handy when trying to operate several items and opening doors. The instinct ability allows players to notice things that would normally not be noticed. The investigation ability increases Pierce’s skills as a PI. Keep in mind that upgrading this ability is important for specific levels. Psychology allows players to get to know the feelings of those they interact with. This might not be the most important ability to upgrade.
The medicine ability deals with the medical knowledge that Pierce is equipped with. It allows players to examine several medicinal drugs and the health of others. The final ability is occultism, which deals with the knowledge that Pierce has over occult customs and sciences. It’s important to note that these two abilities can only be upgraded throughout the game by collecting specific items that deal with them. Before the story begins, players can set for these two abilities to be upgraded through experience points rather than having to look for these items. It just depends on how challenging players want their overall experience to be.
In Call of Cthulhu, players will sometimes need to hide in areas to avoid being detected. The stealth mechanic has two options when a player is hidden. The first is a white icon, which means that an enemy is looking for you. If a red icon appears, it means the enemy has detected you and is preparing to chase after you. When being chased, it doesn’t help to try and hide in a new location. Players just have to endure and make turns to confuse the enemy. It’s just unfortunate that the stealth option is a bit difficult to maneuver since enemies tend to always find you. It gets repetitive and annoying when enemies continuously find you as you progress through the game.
While it’s great that the game mainly focuses on the aspect of investigating, it lacks any real challenge when it comes to action. It does offer elements of horror that carry the mystery forward, but not being able to defend oneself takes away any real purpose. It also takes away the point in upgrading the strength skill. It’s just hard to imagine for a private investigator to not protect themselves in this kind of situation, regardless of what era the story is set in. Part of the horror should come from players fighting back as a means to survive, but Call of Cthulhu lacks this.
Given that this game was previously released on major consoles and for PC, I was worried about how the game would look and run. Unfortunately, there were some areas where low-resolution and low framerate do affect the gameplay. There’s a chase scene in Chapter 5 that was difficult to look at since it wasn’t running to optimal capacity. On top of that, the game suffers from long loading times and transition scenes.
However, the game excels in it being for a hand-held console. Having played a part of the game on console, I can say with confidence that it looks much sharper on the Nintendo Switch. The depth of field effect and lighting made several moments look incredible. I was able to appreciate the horror aesthetic that went into each level. It also helps the overall gaming experience to be able to play almost anywhere I choose. Most importantly, the game’s mystery is one that left me on the edge of my seat.
Even with its flaws, I really enjoyed playing Call of Cthulhu. What it lacked in graphics and mechanics was made up with the overall story. I was reminded of why I love Lovecraft’s work while getting to experience a great mystery. It kept me guessing the entire time I played it, which was worth it once I got to the end. If you love original source material or a good mystery, this is the game for you.
Call of Cthulhu for the Nintendo Switch is now available for purchase.
Call of Cthulhu
Even with its flaws, I really enjoyed playing Call of Cthulhu. What it lacked in graphics and mechanics was made up with the overall story.