Monday, December 5, 2011

Leave Cthulhu Alone

I've never quite understood why, but Cthulhu, ancient lord of the deep, swallower of all life, is an Internet sensation. He's in comics, movies, TV shows... he even has his own Munchkin expansion pack and stuffed doll. Is there anything Cthulhu can't do?

Well, there is one: he can't get people to leave him alone. Cthulhu's a popular extraplanar entity, and in this case for all the wrong reasons - and his devoted follower is having a hell of a time of bringing the creature onto this mortal plane, because people just won't leave him alone.


Leave Cthulhu Alone is a tower defense game. Playing as Cthulhu you need to protect your worshiper from an unending stream of disruptive people: cops, detectives, mystics, professors, madmen, even other cultists who want to summon Cthulhu first. To do this you need to mutate the oncoming enemies using Cthulhu's black magic, turning them into (usually stationary) defensive posts that will attack other enemies. Cthulhu can only mutate an enemy once his power bar is filled up, either through time or violence between your defenses and the baddies, so strategic thinking is needed to protect the follower in the rear of the house.

The concept is more or less pulled from popular depictions of Cthulhu and his followers. What makes the game enjoyable is that it lampoons these stories, turning Cthulhu into an impatient, slightly sarcastic deity and his follower a whiny little do-nothing. Those personalities, combined with tons of silly references and funny writing, make Leave Cthulhu Alone truly ridiculous - which, needless to say, is perfect for a Flash game on the subject.


The controls on Leave Cthulhu Alone are nice and basic. You're represented by an arcane symbol on the ground which you can move back and forth under enemies and through the four rooms of the house. Hit space below an enemy and you'll mutate them into your own crony. Use 1, 2, 3 or 4 to instantly warp from one room to the next to keep track of all the enemies who are tromping towards your follower. Very easy to learn, and never problematic.


I'll be perfectly frank. The colour scheme on Leave Cthulhu Alone is ugly, what with the combination of bright green and purple. That said, it's exactly the kind of weird, ugly alien that you'd expect from such a quirky title, so this isn't a complaint.

Beyond that? It looks okay. The sprites aren't terribly detailed, but the animations are slick and the house looks creepily pretty. I found myself thinking of old Lucasarts games like Maniac Mansion while playing Leave Cthulhu Alone, especially when the little professors got all bloated.

Yep. Best units in the game.


The music, if you can call it music, is the weakest element in Leave Cthulhu Alone. Don't get me wrong, it's appropriate, but the spooky walking-down-an-empty-hall-in-a-horror-film tone that plays consistently gets old real fast. I've no doubt the programmer knew that, as well, since there's a handy mute button in plain sight.

Challenge Rating

Leave Cthulhu Alone is tricky, but not impossible. Unlike a lot of other tower defense games you don't play until you die; you just get through successive levels that become harder and harder. The side-scrolling nature of the game makes this much easier than normal, though, and the enemies always act in the same fashion, so puzzling out solutions becomes fairly easy. A bit less repetition probably would've helped jack up both the challenge rating and the interest factor in Leave Cthulhu Alone.


Overall? Not bad. Leave Cthulhu Alone is not a revolutionary blockbuster. I don't think it was meant to be, either - it's just a joke wrapped in a solid, fun game. Performing the same duties in the same rooms over and over gets boring, true, but it's a funny enough game to warrant trying to beat the whole thing. Recommended.


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