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Review: Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land
This game from Red Wasp Design throws the player into the horrors of the trenches of World War One and then ups the ante by throwing in the Cthulhu Mythos as enemies. The cherry on this sundae is that Red Wasp is making this game in association with Chaosium, creators of the Call of Cthulhu Role Playing Game (and so much more!) Gamers who play with Chaosium’s tabletop system for CoC will find many aspects of The Wasted Land familiar.
I downloaded the PC version from the Intel AppUp Center for 4.99. There’s also Ipad, Iphone and Ipod versions.
The Wasted Land is a turn-based game. Action Points move the characters and allow them to shoot or heal or use magic as they please, but once they spend them all, then that’s it until the next turn. You can also spend more action points to make the shot have a better chance of hitting, which comes in handy when you really want something to die. The enemies range from soldiers and cultists of the Cult of the Awakened to Cthulhoid monstrosities.
Every encounter with an entity from the Mythos costs Sanity, so that becomes another resource to watch carefully. Luckily, there are items that can counter the insanity and restore the character to sense. However, sometimes the insanity is helpful, like when one of your soldiers goes into a homicidal rage and gains a massive amount of action points! This helped me slay the legions of enemies that appeared on some levels. Less helpful is the Black Abyss of Dread, which makes your character lose all their actions for at least a turn. Come on Captain Hill, don’t quit on me now, we need you to take down that Cultist Leader!
Tactics are key to defeating the monsters, along with careful choices in the equipment that you can buy for your squad at the end of each mission. You can also upgrade your team’s skills and hit points to help you survive the horrors thrown at you. There’s a pigeon you can use to summon an artillery barrage which comes in handy when you have an enemy that you absolutely don’t want getting any closer. Medpacks heal your companions but aren’t usable on the character carrying them (If, indeed, they are, I’ve never gotten it to work.) An interesting item was the Vitality Dose, an injection which gives a character more Action Points.
Gameplay is where I had my biggest issue. The interface is slow to respond at times and the “click and hold” nature of attacking enemies and healing your companions (by which I mean press hard on the mouse button until a menu shows up,) can be frustrating. It sometimes takes a few tries to make something happen, and there were times where something other than what I wanted to happen occurred. By the time I’d gotten through Basic Training and the first three missions, I was good with the controls, though there still were some issues sometimes.
This could turn off gamers who aren’t as patient or as Cthulhu Crazy as I am. Because I really wanted to play the game, I stayed patient until I figured it out. Once I’d figured it out, I took it as a learning curve kind of thing, though I’d love to see Red Wasp make some adjustments there so that it’s easier to manipulate. It would also be good to be able to use items on the character that was carrying them, though maybe the lesson there is to keep your team together.
I’m hoping that there will be more levels and an expansion of the game universe in the future. Now that I’ve got the interface under control, I’m eager to see what other monstrosities Red Wasp has in store for me!