Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure is another of those Kickstarter success stories that I love to hear about. It was Kickstarted back in 2016 and developed by a small team of three people from Transylvania, and is yet another example of how not every game needs to be aimed at the broadest audience possible. Gibbous knows what it is and who its for. But is it actually any good?
While Gibbous might name drop the all-mighty tentacled one in its description and even its name, Lovecraft’s themes and ideas are largely non-existent. There’s barely a tentacle in sight until the closing hour or so, and even then the Lovecraft connection is tenuous. The cosmic horror within the pages of Lovecraft’s work, his themes of sanity and helplessness, are nowhere to be found. Really, Gibbous is a blend of a bunch of things along with a hefty dollop of meta-humour that pokes fun at the genre as a whole with just the lightest sprinkling of Cthulhu. Part of me things that having Cthulhu in the name was pointless, although in fairness to the developers it has probably helped garner the game a bit more attention.
Things kick off with the gravelly-voiced private investigator Don R. Ketype looking for the Necrocomnicon at the local Darkmouth library, where he meets Buzz Kerwan, the second of the game’s main cast. Don has been hired to find the book, but he’s not the only one looking for it as cultists blow up the library in search of the ancient tome. Buzz accidentally winds up with the book, and then even more accidentally uses it to to give his cat Kitteh the ability to speak, something which she is none too happy about. From this comes a globe-hopping adventure of strange cults, the mysterious Bob Olmstein, the possible end of the world and a talking cat who really wants things to go back to normal.
The story starts simply enough but actually becomes surprisingly complicated as things progress. If you don’t pay attention then by time the credits roll you might be a little lost. But complexity means nothing if it’s not a good story, so does Gibbous hold up? Well, it’s not a simple yes or no. The game struggles primarily with its villain who you chase around but never actually meet or even see until the very end of the game. But on the flipside, Don, Buzz and Kitteh are entertaining characters who make the journey worth going on. Buzz is the out-of-his-depth kid, Don plays the role of the grizzled detective who occasionally narrates his own life and Kitteh is lovably sarcastic and probably has strongest character arc in the game, even if its not done that well. The way she speaks to Buzz and the disdain she has for almost everything is exactly how I’d always imagined a cat sounding if it could speak. Without a doubt she’s the standout character of the bunch.
A couple of other characters pop up including a mysterious man with a truly epic voice. Finally, there’s a fourth member of your little group who arrives so late, has so little to do and so little character development that she feels like an afterthought.
Overall, the story is merely okay. There moments of great humour, nice little pokes at the genre and fun characters, but at the same time there is awkward dialogue, a lot of missed opportunities and quite a few examples of basic storytelling structure that weren’t done correctly. It’s still an entertaining narrative, though.
It doesn’t manage to nail the ending, either. Setting anything up for a sequel is a tricky task because you need to tell a compelling and satisfying story in its own right, and Gibbous struggles with that. The conclusion doesn’t make you feel like you were told a strong story, rather like you were told half of one. With that said, it did make me want to see a sequel and see what happens to the characters and the world.
The ending comes pretty quickly, too. I logged in about 6-hours before the credits rolled.
As for the performances, for a budget game Gibbous does really well with its cast. I particularly enjoyed Don who nailed the noir detective without coming across as monotone and dull. The only gripe I have is that, especially while wearing earphones, there’s a notable background fuzz when lines of dialogue are being played. A little more cleaning up on the audio was needed there.
Gibbous doesn’t stray far from the now somewhat mundane point and click formula. Despite how much I love and cherish the genre it’s hard not to wonder what the future holds for it, since there haven’t been any big changes in its basic design in years. But that’s a debate for another time, isn’t it?
So, you’ll be pointing and clicking your way through varied and beautiful environments in search of objects to pick up and use to advance the story. Puzzles are the key to these games and the developers need to get them just right – too outlandish and they can become frustrating, too simple and logical and they can feel overly easy to complete. Basically you want a strange sort of controlled chaos. For the most part Gibbous manages to get the logic part right so that puzzles make sense, but sadly none of the challenges you come up against are actually difficult. As a veteran of the genre none of the puzzles gave me any sort of challenge, and even newcomers to pointing and clicking won’t find themselves having to think very hard.
It’s a shame that none of the puzzles are particularly memorable, either. As soon as you solve them they fade away from memory. The only exceptions come later in the game where things get a bit…er, bonkers. These manage to marry the logic of the earlier puzzles with more exciting and memorable premises. Only a single puzzle earlier in the game stands out, one that involves a rap battle in a castle.
It’s silly because Gibbous brings in a couple of potentially brilliant elements. When playing as Buzz, for example, when you bring up the interaction wheel there’s an option to involve Kitteh. Early on this lets you click on a high up object and ask Kitteh to grab it. This seems to setup up some potentially great puzzle mechanics for later, but sadly she’s barely ever used. Mostly she’s there to act as a hint giver, and spends the majority of the game just sitting around while you get on with things.
Likewise, Don gains access to an ability that lets him hear snippets of the past by interacting with things. Another cool idea that sadly gets very little use outside of a couple of gags. Much like Kitteh its real function seems to be to provide hints, but since the puzzles are so simple it’s just not needed.
But I will say that the relative straightforwardness of the game does mean it’s a great choice as a family game because kids can get involved and contribute to Gibbous. I can easily see myself playing through again with my nieces, or just handing it over to the older one completely for her to enjoy.
Before we end this review the graphics absolutely need to be mentioned. Apparently the graphical style draws inspiration from Disney and Studio Ghibli and I have to say that you can definitely see that. But most of all it reminds me of the classic 90’s adventure games, just sharpened up for modern day and with a flair all of its own. A section of the game later on also shows off some great artistic talent.
The point and click genre still has a loyal fanbase who eagerly await every new entry in the genre, and I include myself in that. Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure is far from the best, but it’s a comfortable game with simple puzzles, fun characters, some great humour and a daft story. I’d say this one is for the hardcore fans who want their fix, while everyone else can probably skip over it, unless you’re looking to get into the genre and fancy something straightforward to start off with.
3 out of 5