Game Title: Call of Cthulhu – Alone Against the Static
Publisher: Chaosium Inc
Author: B.W. Holland
Artists: Andrey Fetisov, Nicholas Grey, and Pat Loboyko
Genre: Solitaire Call of Cthulhu horror adventure set in the 1990s Black Hills of South Dakota
Pages: 104 pages
MSRP: $29.99 for the hardcover (including the free PDF if ordering from Chaosium Inc) or $14.99 in PDF alone at DriveThruRPG
There’s something in the woods and it’s coming for you in Call of Cthulhu’s new solo adventure, Alone Against the Static.
Alone Against the Static differs from previous Chaosium solo plays in several regards, chief among which is its setting. Rather than the classic 1920s New England-flavored horror of Arkham and points beyond, Alone Against the Statis is instead set in the 1990s in the Black Hills of South Dakota. While the change may bring to mind Call of Cthulhu’s cousin, Delta Green, it nevertheless works, bringing a distinct and eerie vibe to the proceedings.
Alone Against the Static feels like a 90s horror movie. The isolated quiet of the Black Hills, a remote rundown cabin, a collection of creepy video tapes, and a VCR with a mind of its own will all feel familiar to players of a certain age.
Despite its single adventure and predetermined endings, replay value is high. While a single journey will certainly allow players to experience a nice slice of the horror in store, it will also force you to consider the tantalizing ‘what if’ of the roads not taken and encourage players to begin again. While some players will undoubtedly tackle each playthrough by dutifully obeying the will of the die, those on their third or fourth go may instead be drawn to simply choosing the option that looks most interesting, be that a success or failure.
One other major deviation comes in the form of the characters. Rather than having players create their own investigator, they instead select from one of two pre-generated characters: Alex or Charlie. Referring to either as an investigator feels a bit like a stretch as neither one is prepared for what lies in store — or faces any chance of defeating it. Speaking broadly, the choice of one or the other has a negligible impact on the tale as most of the adventure is written without regard to the selection.
And both characters are, quite categorically, doomed.
While Alone Against the Flames left the possibility for a sufficiently lucky and savvy investigator to live to fight another day, it seems every ending in Alone Against the Static is some kind of inevitable doom. This cements both the 90s horror movie feeling as well as the Delta Green comparisons: knowing is its own particular kind of horror. Player reaction on this may vary as some will enjoy the inevitability of the situation, while others will be frustrated that even making all of the “right” choices still doesn’t lead to an ending in which their character escapes their fate.
Alone Against the Static is long enough to be engaging, but short enough to allow for multiple replays while the details are still fresh. Fortunately, this allows for easy exploration; unfortunately, it means the story is coming to a close just after it feels it’s truly begun. Alone Against the Static also feels less like an investigation and more like the aforementioned horror movie which may impact player enjoyment.
On a technical note, play is easy regardless of format; while those playing with a hardcopy will be able to bookmark their spot and return, the PDF is helpfully enabled with hotlinks for major jumps.
Alone Against the Static is a fun and generally satisfying experience. Though less an investigation than an experience, players will no doubt find themselves desperately flipping pages as their doom unspools before them time and time again.