|I never knew Cthulu was such a snappy dresser|
- Review by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Stegalosaurus Game Development
- Publisher: Stegalosaurus Game Development
- Release Date: 31 May 2017
- Time played: 2.4 hours (INCOMPLETE)
What is itStegalosaurus Game Development is a small indie development team that seem to focus on visual novels. Last year they released a game called Army of Tentacles: (Not) A Cthulu Dating Sim onto Steam which is described as an
"adventure-RPG based upon Shadow Over Innsmouth, where you control the eldritch horrors from beyond time and space!"
The game contained a fully voiced cast of over 60 characters, multiple endings and an argument based combat system. The game has a rating of 66% positive reviews (Mixed) on Steam from a total of 15 reviews. This year, Stegalosaurus Game Development released two more of their games on Steam: Super Army of Tentacles 3 (the game I'm reviewing today and also the sequel to Army of Tentacles - looks like the series did a Leisure Suit Larry and skipped a number) and The Ghost of Joe Papp (which I hope to review soon).
Super Army of Tentacles 3 is a hybrid of visual novel and RPG in that there is a lot of talking, conversations and multiple endings (as you'd expect from a visual novel) but it also has party-based "combat" (the term being used very loosely here as it doesn't actually involve any fighting but arguing instead). You play the role of a guy (or girl) called Perry Hollycraft who is actually a descendant of a Deep One, Deep Ones being ocean-dwelling humanoid creatures that look a bit like frogs or fish. Apparently, the apocalypse has already begun and it's up to you to find out what's going on and then decide who to side with.
How I got itI actually received the game as a free review key thanks to some new functionality that was introduced to Steam Curators earlier this month called "Curator Connect". So, I just wanted to say thank you to Stegalosaurus Game Development for providing me a copy since I do love narrative rich games (especially humourous ones) and the fact it blends the adventure/visual novel genre with an RPG reminds me of Quest for Glory (one of my favourite games of all time).
It all sounds like a winning formula at first glance, but does it actually work in practice?
|The game has a lot of pop culture references|
What I like:
FunnyWhile the humour sometimes feels like it's forced, the game will no doubt draw out a few laughs thanks to crazy characters (e.g. a reanimated former U.S. President John Adams), obvious parodies (e.g. a character that's a rip-off of Harry Potter), breaking the fourth wall, pop culture references and Cthulu in a business suit.
Around the wooooorldI like the fact you can travel to various locations around the world. Most of them are centred around various U.S. cities but still, there are quite a few locations you can visit in this game.
RPGI like what the devs have done with the Ren'Py engine (a visual novel engine developed in Python); using "arguments" as a combat mechanic is creative and suits the visual novel format – however, I was kind of hoping for something akin to insult sword fighting like The Secret of Monkey Island since trying to win arguments by correcting real world facts means a short trip to Google or Wikipedia will give you all the answers you need (mind you, I'm so lazy or stubborn that I didn't even bother – random guessing all the way, baby!)
Your character can also level up and there are a variety of stats you can upgrade, just like a real RPG; you can even bring party members along and take advantage of their abilities in combat.
ReplayThe game has multiple endings which is a definite plus; you can also play as either a male or female protagonist, although I'm not sure if it actually makes much of a difference.
AchievementsThe game has 51 Steam achievements to earn as well as 15 trading cards to collect.
Based off the Cthulu mythosSuper Army of Tentacles 3 definitely stands out from the rest of the pack when it comes to visual novels; no, this isn't a Japanese high school drama but it's about preventing (or ensuring?) a Lovecraftian apocalypse. The game has a whole bunch of ridiculous and unlikely characters as a result (and this doesn't even include the Lovecraftian abominations).
|Behold! The glorious MS Paint artwork!|
What I dislike:
Based off the Cthulu mythosThe greatest strength of this game is also its weakness. While the developers should be commended for doing something completely different, the problem is not everyone is up to scratch with their knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos. I have a limited understanding of it and I'm sure there are many others out there who are in the same boat. Consequently, a lot of the references, creatures, gods, etc. will fly over your head if you're not already learned. Sure, the devs try and help by giving us mythos exposition whenever they can, but with so much to learn about the mythos along with what's actually happening as part of the story at the same time, it comes close to information overload.
Probably need to have played the first gameFor the most part, you don't really need to know the events of the previous game to enjoy Super Army of Tentacles 3, however there are still quite a few characters in it that have apparently returned from Army of Tentacles: (Not) A Cthulu Dating Sim and occasionally it's quite confusing as to what actually happened (even after the start of the game gives you brief descriptions of what could've happened in the game's predecessor – i.e. you get to pick which crucial choices were made in Army of Tentacles: (Not) A Cthulu Dating Sim).
MS Paint artworkThe game has a mix of half-decent manga style artwork you'd expect in visual novels along with some poorly done MS Paint artwork to go along with it – I can't tell if it's because the developer did it intentionally or they just simply ran out of money (or motivation) to continue with the same art style. However, even if the artwork was intentionally drawn this way it's not something I'm a fan of.
BugsThe game crashed twice on me and gave me a lovely white Ren'Py error page as a reward. The first time I came across the error page, I was attempting to go to a new location; the error page came up straight away. Thankfully, I was given the option to rollback (and consequently not try and travel to that location) but this means I am locked out of this location until a later point in the game or maybe it will still crash when I finally get there, who knows?
The second time the game crashed was during combat. Consequently, when the error page came up and I tried rolling back, it didn't really help since I was still in the combat sequence and couldn't exit it (once you're in a combat sequence, you're committed). So, basically, that save game was stuffed and if I wanted to continue playing the game, I had to restore from a much earlier save point.
It was at that moment that I decided I really couldn't be bothered to play any more – who knows how many more of these bugs are in the game? Probably a lot considering you get so much freedom of choice (which is a good thing, mind you, but it also makes it a hell of a job to debug).
CommittedTouching on that bug where I was locked in a combat sequence you're often committed to picking a location to travel to – there's no option for you to change your mind and stay in the spot you're already at which is a bit annoying, especially if the location you pick happens to be one with hostile forces. It's a minor gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.
Score – 5/10 (Average)Super Army of Tentacles 3: The Search for Army of Tentacles 2 is an ambitious game and one that attempts to do many things right: it's a humourous visual novel with RPG elements with a setting that is as far removed from a Japanese high school as you can get. I mean, we're talking about the apocalypse and a world inhabited by creatures from the mind of H.P. Lovecraft here! And yet, the game does have a few issues which prevents me from fully enjoying it; yes, I could've probably got over my lack of knowledge about the Cthulu mythos or the plot from the game's predecessor. I could've even eventually got used to the occasional crappy MS Paint artwork. But when I encountered bugs that prevented me from progressing through the game without continually backtracking and hoping I'd pick the right path the second time round, that was the final straw. It's almost as if I was actually playing a game of Minesweeper, hoping I wouldn't prematurely end the game by stumbling upon a Ren'Py error page.
EDIT (13/01/2018): The bugs I discovered have been diligently fixed by the developer and are no longer an issue.
Is the game worth $10.99 USD?: No, I think $5 USD is a fairer price. While there seems to have been a lot of effort made in terms of distinguishing this visual novel from the competition, the game is still too buggy and you can get other quality indie narrative based games that think outside the box for under $10 USD such as To the Moon, Analogue: A Hate Story, Hate Plus or Her Story; I haven't even touched all the excellent AGS-engine point ‘n' clicks out there for under $10 USD either. Heck, if you even wanted to stay within the sub-genre of comedy game set in H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu Mythos, then Cthulu Saves the World is also a very worthy contender.
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[ LINK: Official Super Army of Tentacles 3 Website ]