Yeah, there’s a review hidden in here somewhere, but first, a lengthy foreword of sorts before the main event. I blame American International Pictures for my unapologetic appreciation for H.P. Lovecraft’s fiction, but I’ll also blame a particular English class teacher way back in my high school days who assigned the class to write a book report on anything they’d recently read and liked, no matter the medium.
We had to each bring our book of choice in so he could approve it and (eek) everyone had to go up to the front of the class and explain why we chose that particular read, which was mind you, quite a challenge for some of the more socially awkward students (*cough*, ahem!). Of course, one smart-ass decided to be funny and bring in Clifford, the Big Red Dog as his choice and was surprised as hell when his choice was approved… with the caveat that it had to be twice the length of the 500 words the other students were assigned as well as “the BEST damn book report on Clifford, ever!” (eek). So much for that dude trying to get off easy, right?
Me? I ended up picking Lovecraft’s “The Colour Out of Space” from a collection of his works thanks to seeing the so-so 1965 film “Die, Monster, Die!” on TV a few times and later finding out via either Famous Monsters of Filmland , The Monster Times, or some other sci-fi/horror flick-related magazine that the film’s story was very loosely based on that well-aged 1927 short story. I distinctly recall after struggling through my intro speech in front of the class, I ended up getting a note to see the teacher after class (Yipes!). But all he did was complement me on my “mature” selection and note that I’d maybe find out later in life that ol’ H.P. was a tad controversial for a few reasons I didn’t know at the time. Personally, I didn’t care because I wanted to explore the story in question more than I wanted to stumble over info later that would maybe make me not like what I’d read way back when I was in those formative years.
Anyway, I’ve since played a few (as in a LOT of) games inspired loosely to largely by Lovecraft’s writing, and Auroch Digital’s Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics ($24.99) sits somewhere comfortably along the “Well, it’s good more than it is great” games out there. It’s a decent albeit barebones turn-based strategy game that just so happens to be based on the popular board game from Modiphius which interestingly enough, makes for a grander overall impression what with the expansion packs and updates it’s received over the years. The video game version is more a stripped down approach that may work well for new players, but is lacking in an effective amount of palpably relayed cosmic horror that would have made it more memorable.
Granted, the overall story about Nazis teaming up with those eldritch forces is a fine enough idea and as the plot unspools, things get appropriately strange. but the game really never cuts loose and goes all out with the weird horror and wildness you’d expect. I did like elements of the gameplay such as the Momentum meter stuff and yep, that rather impressively decked out boss who looks as if it got a custom leather outfit from the finest shop available at the time the game takes place in (er, unless that isn’t leather, ulp!). But between the reused maps and enemies and the sometimes addled AI, the game squanders a few opportunities to be a lot more strategic and thrilling.
While totally acceptable in terms of length, some more cinematic flourishes would have really kicked things up a few notches. I’m reminded a bit of how even Torus’ Falling Skies: The Game got some solid cutaway to action moments that made it at least exciting to watch play out even if it repeated animation sequences for some of the cooler attacks. That game also allowed recruiting and limited customization of troops, something sorely lacking here. Yes, your small team of talented agents are cool beans and do make for a nice multi-ethnic crew. But even with some fun skills to use as they level up, the game is missing that feel of “Just one more mission!” thanks to some slow pacing.
That said, there’s definitely a certain pull to this game because this is now my third time playing through it (I also own the PS4 and PC versions) and I can’t figure out exactly what keeps me coming back. Hmmm… then again, one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result each time, right? Therefore, it must simply be Cthulhu testing me somewhat fierce and laughing in his own way at my continuing to fall into its trap, the bastard. Eh, I think I’m alright here at the door to the Mouths of Madness as long as I keep tapping the buttons on my controller and feeding the Elder Gods to keep them entertained.
Score: C+ (75%)
Review code provided by the publisher. Or Cthulhu, itself, perhaps?