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Saturday, 3 December 2011

A Cthulhu Christmas

So let me open up with a confession. I am not fond of Christmas. I do not enjoy Christmas. I never want to hear a Christmas carol or a Christmas song ever again. I do not believe that there is anything special about Christmas dinner. Now, having confessed all of that, I would expect that you, my gentle and occasional readers, to apply to me the appellation of “Scrooge.” Whether or not I am deserving of such a label is for you to decide, but what I do like about Christmas is giving gifts. The wrapping of gifts is another matter, but I like taking the time to choose the right gift and hoping that I get it right. So, what exactly am I doing writing a review of an advent calendar?

The clue is in the name – the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar.

Now this is not the traditional type of advent calendar constructed of card with twenty-five little doors to open and reveal both a pretty picture and a piece of chocolate to consume, and not always a good piece of chocolate at that. Instead, the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar is an App, an application such as a small, dedicated program that can be downloaded and run on the smart mobile device of your choice. Which explains in part why the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar does not come with chocolate, because after all, anyone who had worked how to do digital chocolate would not be producing weirdly themed Christmas Apps and would instead have either sold the rights to digital chocolate for big money, or be selling digital chocolate and making even bigger money. In the meantime, the publishers of this App, Red Wasp Design, are designing Call of Cthulhu: The Wasted Land, a turn-based strategy/role-playing video game set during the Great War and based on Call of Cthulhu. That though, is by the by…

As an App, the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar is available for your iPhone, your iPod, your iPad, and your Android device. I bought and downloaded mine to a pair of devices, both for the Android platform. First my smart phone, an HTC Wildfire S, and then my tablet, a Motorola Xoom. Both downloaded readily and installed without any problem. The interface will need to be stretched in order to be viewed on a tablet, but this affects the resolution of the calendar only ever so slightly. Having it two devices means that both myself and my girlfriend can enjoy this in cackling competition.

So, having installed it, what then is the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar?

It is both an advent calendar and a quiz. Touching great Cthulhu’s looming head reveals a swirl of numbers, running as you would expect from one to twenty-five. These of course match dates of your traditional advent calendar and on each new day, touching the appropriate number reveals a new piece of artwork and a related question with three answers. So for the accompanying artwork, the question is “This hopeful beast is posting a letter to Santa, but who created it and its ilk?”

Select the right answer and you will score a point. Come December the 25th and all of the points are tallied to get your Mythos Rating. Every good Cthulhu Cultist should get twenty-five out of twenty-five, but the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar lets the user reselect his answer until he gets the right one. Which to be fair makes getting an enhanced Mythos Rating in the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar a whole lot easier for the Cthulhu Clot!

So what is there to like about the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar if you are more the Cthulhu Clot than the Cthulhu Cultist? That question is simple to answer – the artwork. Which is not to say that the Cthulhu Cultist will not enjoy the art work, as he will. Red Wasp Design has taken all of the Christmas imagery that people seem to like – Christmas pudding, Christmas trees, mistletoe, and more, and through a process of coagmentation, coalescence, and commingling has intermingled them with the Mythos of author, H.P. Lovecraft – tentacles, cultists and cultist celebrations, a gibbous moon, eldritch entities, and more… All to be revealed as the season progresses. The result is that every day, the Cthulhu Christmas Calendar adds a joyous subversive slithering and an ichorously interesting anomaly to the baleful blandishments that blight the season.

Merry Christmas? I think not.