TUCSON, Ariz. — Spared from oblivion by an anonymous stranger, you are a fragile lamb saddled with a stiff debt: Build a cult from the ground up in honor of your savior.
A wacky, endlessly entertaining effort, "Cult of the Lamb" starts at full speed and hardly ever pauses for breath.
Devolver Digital, the mad scientists behind the likes of "Fall Guys," "Enter the Gungeon," and "Hotline Miami," has another watercooler game on its hands.
Phil Villarreal: Devolver Digital just gets it. It's a rare combination to be able to appeal to highbrow and plug-and-play audiences consistently, but the publisher nails the task with nearly every game it produces.
"Cult of the Lamb" hooked me from the get-go, with a clever hook of an intro that sucked me in right away. The subtle ways in which the game indoctrinates you into its spell are entrancing. Subtly and slowly, you combine the skillset it takes to survive, thrive,s and fail in your quest to build your following.
The visuals reminded me of "Castle Crashers," and the soundtrack helped ratchet up the tension. I adore this game. Were you as taken with it, Sean?
Sean Newgent: Devolver's "Inscryption" earlier this year took the deck-building genre and completely reinvented it. "Cult of the Lamb" is a similar experience, mashing genres into a comprehensive and delightful reimagining of a tired, overdone genre.
From the beginning, the game pulled me in with the art. Cutesy animals like something out of "Peppa Pig" being indoctrinated into a devilish cult have a certain dark whimsy to them that it's hard not to smile at. Watching these frightened, cute little creatures become influenced by the dark proselytizing of the player character is satisfying in a twisted way.
The gameplay comes in two parts. You have the roguelite section where you swing around an edged weapon of some denomination "Zelda" style, collecting items and power-ups as you work your way toward a generally very tough boss who will whoop you and force you to go back and reevaluate your strategy and continue grinding for better abilities and weapons.
That comes in the form of a kind of cult simulator. The hub world allows you to indoctrinate followers you collect in the dungeons and build your cult's little parcel of land to be as efficient as possible with food, bedding, hygiene, and other necessary items for a successful religion. As you decide who does what and offer sermons to level up your abilities, you also must keep the cult happy and healthy. Otherwise, you'll see all your followers slink off to other religions or the great beyond.
Which gameplay elements did you find the most satisfying, Phil?
Phil: I'm not a huge fan of games like "Animal Crossing" and "Stardew Valley," but I was oddly attracted to the village management aspects of the game. It gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment to complete the quest and bolster my base.
The not-so-subtle mockery of the influence of religious and political demagoguery was fantastic. There is a thrill in the cynical manipulation and coercion of your innocent marks; wielding them as surrogate weapons carries a guilty pleasure.
Though leaning toward the simplistic side, the challenge—reward loop is thoroughly satisfying, and the procedural generation ensures that no two playthroughs will be the same. I was surprised about how enraptured in its world I became. "Cult of the Lamb" is quickly becoming one of my go-to's as I take a break from meatier endeavors.
Final thoughts, Sean?
Sean: "Cult of the Lamb" can be as deep and rewarding or simple and exciting as you want. While you don't necessarily need to focus on the cult-building aspect if you are more into the dungeon-crawling. It's an adorable facade masking a cynical, dark story subtly told through minuscule dialogue and the gothic environment. "Cult of the Lamb" is fast-paced yet deeply rewarding and a nonstop thrill ride that can take you from decapitating unbelievers to scooping up your followers' excrement in the span of a couple of minutes, and the latter activity is just as fun as the former (somehow).
"Cult of the Lamb" is sure to show up on my list of best games of this year; and I'll gladly join the cult of this game and offer it my indulgences (for $25, it's a small price for gaming heaven) and sermonize to every one of its greatness.
Publishers provided review codes. Phil played on Xbox Series X, and Sean played on PS4.
Past game reviews by Sean and Phil:
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Diablo II Resurrected
NEO: The World Ends with You
Rainbow Six: Extraction
King of Fighters XV
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
TMNT: Shredder's Revenge
Capcom Fighting Collection
Capcom Arcade: 2nd Stadium