Worshiping an elder god can be complicated.
There’s the occasional bout of insanity, insatiable hunger for death and gore and all that worldly destruction and chaos every other century or so. Keeping one happy is not for the faint of heart. Gurgamoth, the first outing on Steam for Galvanic Games, attempts to show us just how one awakens an Elder God by pitting a colorful collection of death-cultists against one another in a sacrificial battle to the death. Gurgamoth is designed to be a very casual party brawler that aims to cut away the unnecessary fat of similar titles and hone in on the fun elements at its core. Unfortunately what is left is mostly bone with very little substance.
Like any good, self-respecting blood-magic ritual, the more involved, the more powerful the experience. Gurgamoth is strictly for 2-4 local players and it does make for some fun and chaotic moments when playing with a big group. Be aware, however, that if you’re alone – whether in the vast abyss of the cosmos or your living room for the night, you won’t be awakening an Elder God due to the lack of an option for AI. Although the gamepad controls make flying your cultist about and slamming into your friends feel tight and satisfying, the gameplay itself is fairly lackluster. Playing with a couple of friends resulted in us staring at the menu screen after a quick round of matches that lasted only 5 minutes, feeling disappointed. That was it. In that brief time we had seen and done just about everything there was to do. I wanted something more. We tried playing other levels, choosing other cultists, grabbing different power-ups but it was too late; we’d seen beyond the veil to discover nothing but bleak, indifferent and downright boring emptiness.
Where Gurgamoth shines, other than the parts covered in blood, are the great sounds and visuals. The cartoon-style graphics are polished and really nail the right tones to create a darkly humorous and creepy world. The design of each cultist’s unique look adds a nice bit of variety even if it’s sadly only cosmetic, bringing in elements of Mayan, Pagan and even Sci-Fi themes. The sounds of a gurgling monster, wiggling tentacles, grinding stones and fearful shouts all come together to paint an eerie atmosphere throughout the menus and levels. In terms of music though it can be hit or miss depending on taste. The music playing at the cultist selection screen reminded me of the old Mortal Kombat games, which is more than fitting, and brought me back to the good old days of arcade fighters. The in-game music however was a different story. Sure it’s fun and motivating to send your fellow cultists flying into a wall of spikes to house and techno beats but some may feel that it favors the party mood at the sake of thematic consistency.
Who knows? Maybe Lovecraft would have been a Skrillex fan.
Some say that Elder Gods are eternal. Gurgamoth, on the other hand, gets old fast. Although the cultists vary in color or how their heads look (from a branch-horned helmet to a pink mohawk and gasmask) they’re all strictly cosmetic changes that don’t change much, especially when they all play the same due to the simple controls. The levels themselves, which are toted as being the real variety, really boil down to the same rectangular room with surrounding walls being spikes, saws, tentacles and electricity or –simply walls. Again, they all look different but they all feel pretty similar in that they either stop movement or pop the cultist like a gut-filled balloon. Understandably, Gurgamoth is meant to be quick, simple and dirty but when it lacks any real variety, there is very little reason to keep playing. After a while or even a single drunken night with friends, Gurgamoth might end up like an old, dusty copy of the Necronomicon long banished and forgotten in the darkest depths of another dimension (or your game collection).
For an indie title that’s under $10, Gurgamoth will definitely please those players looking for something simple to play with friends for a night of trash talking and bloody, chaotic competition. Yet even then, they’ll probably get bored of the simple pushing and shoving pretty quickly. Although Gurgamoth typically sounds good and looks even better, the overly simplistic gameplay, lack of depth and actual variety left my Elder God plenty hungry after quickly devouring this shallow, bloody pool of an appetizer.