A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Call of Cthulhu is a scary first-person adventure game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. Based on the occult horror story by H.P. Lovecraft, and the pen and paper adventure game of the same name, this scary adventure game has disturbing imagery and tons of blood and gore, although not all of the violence is caused by human hands -- some comes from monstrous beings. There's also some gunplay, such as when you shoot a man who's shooting other people, but apart from limited sequences, this isn't a shooter -- it's a mystery adventure. The dialogue includes a "f--k" or two, as well as a scene in which drugs are located and discussed, though not used. More present is the significant use of alcohol by both our hero, who's an alcoholic, and other characters. Playing this game may prompt players to read the titular story, or others by Lovecraft, most of which are disturbing.
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What's it about?
In CALL OF CTHULHU, a Boston-based private investigator in 1924 is hired to look into the death of a man's daughter and her family, a death she may have caused. Playing as the detective, you have to explore a mysterious island, where you have to use your skills of observation, deduction, conversation, and problem-solving if you want to figure out what happened ... and survive. Inspired by the occult horror story by H.P. Lovecraft, and by the tabletop role-playing game of the same name, this freaky adventure game has a deep story that will disturb you to your core ... or possibly make you want to read more of Lovecraft's stories.
Is it any good?
Based on H.P. Lovecraft's classic 1926 occult story, this adventure game is really scary, but it develops the chills in a very slow, plodding way that will appeal only to horror fans. In Call of Cthulhu, you're a hard-boiled detective in 1924 who travels to a mysterious island near Boston to investigate the death of a family. The cause may or may not be the fault of the mother, an accomplished painter who either has mental problems or psychic abilities. As you talk to the locals, examine their surroundings, and solve situational problems that give you access to other areas and other people, you slowly uncover what may have happened, even if the explanation strains what you know about the natural world.
While this game is as freaky and scary as the short story that inspired it, you have to be in the right frame of mind for it. And not just the mood to be scared. The game can be slow and plodding, and there's little in the way of reflex-testing action or seriously complex problem-solving. Even when you reconstruct crimes committed by the many different characters you stumble across, it's a simple process, and often just requires you to find missing items instead of putting them together in a puzzle-esque way. What Call of Cthulhu lacks in finger-flexing action, though, it more than makes up for in atmosphere, and in tests of your observational skills. All versions of the game manage to evoke these spooky surroundings, although the Switch version may have muddier textures and visuals apart from the pre-made cutscenes that suddenly pop into view due to its less powerful hardware. But on the up side, there's virtually no other technical issues, letting you dive into the creepy environments at your own pace. As a result, if you're in the mood for something slow and scary, Call of Cthulhu will really make you feel like you've walked into the twisted mind of H.P. Lovecraft.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the impact of the violence in Call of Cthulhu affected by the frequently violent and disturbing imagery shown to fill you with dread? Would the intensity of the game be affected by not showing the same amount of gore?
Does playing Call of Cthulhu make you want to read this story, or other stories by the same writer? Can you name other games that are based on books?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Focus Home Entertainment
- Release date: October 8, 2019
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- ESRB rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
- Last updated: October 29, 2020
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.