3D platformers were always my favourite genre growing up! All the RARE N64 collectathons, Spyro, Rayman, Mario 64 of course, and the list goes on. So when Numskull asked me if I wanted to review Clive N Wrench, I jumped at the chance! (Pun Intended!)
A new game that draws inspiration from all my childhood favourites, made by a passionate developer who clearly loves the same games I do? The collectors edition here is fantastic too, with a nice fridge magnet, some character cards, and a nice full colour instruction manual. I especially love the character controls page which reminds me of the days of obsessing over the Mario 64 instruction manual and drawing all the moves Mario could make…
The game was off to a good start, my nostalgia was firing on all cylinders, this is going to be amazing, right?? Right? Well, not exactly…
Sometimes there’s glimpses of a great game here… one that lives up to the nostalgia, and gives it a modern coat of paint, but then, there’s also times where the game completely falls apart.. It’s definitely a rough experience, but I didn’t want to just write the game off though, so over the past few weeks, after many hours of collecting things, and struggling with some very awkward platforming, I did play and finish the entire game.
The game begins with a brief cut scene setting up the plot of the game, You have to stop an evil doctor from stealing a time travel device that your cousin Nancy invented. To do that, you jump into a 1950’s fridge and travel across different time periods, collecting ancient stones and pocket watches along the way. The story doesn’t take itself too seriously, its pretty nonsensical, but for a game like this, it doesn’t really need to be anything more than that, and I did really enjoy the cut scenes and the little bits of humour thrown in!
Once the game began and I was given control. the first thing I noticed was the sluggish everything felt, plus the fact that it only ran in 1080p and 30fps on the PS5 was very shocking! Apparently that is being addressed in a day one patch though, so I won’t dwell on that detail too much, and you’re going to have a much better experience than I did when it is released.
You play as Clive, a rabbit with a monkey named Wrench on his back. It’s a classic 3D platforming pair, and although Wrench doesn’t really say or do much thought the game, he’s a fun sidekick to have along for the ride, and using him to attack and do the helicopter style hover move is fun.
The tutorial area was designed like a test room blockout that you’d find in an alpha test of a game, it was cool, but felt very much out of place compared to the rest of the game. It’s also the only thing that Nancy says to you throughout the entire game in the hub world for some reason, I was surprised to see she didn’t comment on your progress as the adventure continued.
The orientation room did not leave a good first impression. The controls feel very unresponsive, sometimes the double jump worked, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes you can grab onto the ledges and pull yourself up, sometimes you can’t…
and the swimming physics are just completely broken. Another very frustrating thing I noticed immediately, was how slow the camera moves. It’s frustratingly slow, and even made me feel a little motion sick at times, when I expected to see it move much faster than it did. Hopefully this can be fixed in a future update…
Your attacks don’t seem to have any impact, and the enemies just float away after you kill them, and frustratingly, sometimes the attacks don’t register properly and you end up getting hurt instead of hurting the enemy, which makes for some very frustrating moments in boss fights later on in the game!
The controls can be very frustrating if you’re trying to do precise platforming, just take a look at how many tried it took me to get past this section. I was honestly about to give up not he game entirely, here… but I persevered for the sake of the review!
One of the selling points of the game was the fact that all your moves are unlocked from the start, and sure, that’s cool. You get all the basic platforming abilities, like a hover, a. Double jump, run, and high jump. But that’s it. There’s zero upgrades or anything to make the game feel fresh across the entire 11 worlds. It starts to all bend together and began to drag after the 5th world or so. I’m not sure that having all the moves unlocked form the start is the sales pitch they think it is, sure in Mario 64, you had your moves at the start, but there was still new inventive things to find that made the adventure feel worthwhile, like the flying cap, the metal Mario etc. Even in Banjo Tooie, you begin the game with all the moves from the first game, but then gain new abilities to make traversing the environments more fun down the line and that open up new possibilities to keep the game fresh. Not having anything to aim for made every level feel the same and the pacing felt flat as a result.
Each world also ends with a boss fight, some of which are actual bosses, and some are platforming challenges. The bosses are well designed, but thanks to the slippery controls, they aren’t that much fun to actually fight, most of the deaths will feel like something happened out of your control.
In terms of the game structure, the game centres around this hub area, with each area branching out into a space where you can enter the stage, or face the boss of that world. Inside these areas there’s a few things to collect, and a few enemies scattered around too. Once you defeat the boss, the next world opens up.
Apart from the first level, which is a honey I shrunk the kids reference for some reason, the rest of the game takes place across different time periods and locations throughout history. There’s 11 different worlds,
- 2002 Bunny I Shrunk The Chimp
- 1988 The Great Wen
- 1931 – Cajun Mob Bog
- 439BC – Tempus Tombs
- ??? – A Grave Mistake
- 440BC – Ancient Greece Trap
- 1885 – The Chimp, The Bag & The Bunny
- Ancient China – Hare Today, Gong Tomorrow
- 1720 – Corsairs Cove
- The Ice Age – Iceceratops
- 600 – Middle Age Crisis
I loved entering a new world and getting that feeling of adventure, with he possibility to run off in any direction and start collecting things! They all looked great too, you can clearly tell a lot of effort went into creating the environments and making them feel unique.
The fact that there’s not really anything in terms of gameplay to differentiate all the levels is a bit of a missed opportunity though. There’s nothing to make you excited to progress apart from seeing a new level theme. Which might be fine for someone new to the genre, but for a veteran like me, I’d like a bit more originality and some new and exciting moves to unlock to make the game more fun and memorable as time goes on, as it stands, it all kind of blurred together towards the end, and it’s a long game too.
Most of the levels themselves are well designed though, and have multiple different paths to take, as well as opening up at various points to make the levels even bigger than you first imaged, all without feeling overwhelming. I did enjoy just running around these stages for the first time and uncovering new areas.
Obviously collecting things is the main objective here, and there’s a few different things to find. First, there’s these coloured stopwatches scattered about everywhere. Kind of like the music notes in Banjo, except every stage has a different amount to find. Something I really loved was the inclusion of the rider system. If you don’t know where to look, you can just press up on the D-Pad and it will point you in the direction of the nearest collectable! Great for saving time at the end of a stage if you think you’ve already been everywhere!
The next thing to collect is the keystones. Each level has 10 of these, these are like the Jiggy’s, or the stars in a 3D Mario game. Each one is given an accompanying riddle in the log book. They are usually just scattered somewhere in the stage to find, or hidden and revealed somewhere else when a switch is pressed. Tracking these down for the most part is a fun and rewarding experience, with plenty of challenging scenarios! There’s also one in each stage linked to collecting something specific for one of the NPC’s, for example, some fruit for this shop owner here, or finding all the bees in the first stage to bring back to the mother.
Each level also has 5 gold keys to collect, which unlock a safe hidden somewhere in the level which contains one for the ancient stones.
There’s also something called the Karma Llama scroll, which you can find, and give to a llama in each stage, who will give you a hint as to the whereabouts of one of the ancient stones, the problem with this system though is that by the time I’d found the scroll and remembered to take it back to the llama who asked for it, I’d already found the stone he was giving me the hint for!
Annoyingly though, unlike any other 3D platformer I’ve ever played, once you’re out of the stage there’s no way of seeing how many things you’ve collected in the game, opening the book in the hub world just shows you an empty list. The only way to tell if you’re missing something is to go back into each area one by one and open the book. Such a waste of time, and a very big oversight.
As well as the Llamas, You meet various other NPC characters in the levels, The characters talk in that same goofy Banjo Kazooie / Yooka Laylee style, which I love! There’s even a cameo from the Yooka-Laylee character, Trowzer!
But the text boxes themselves are strangely static, it doesn’t give you the same kind of fun impression as I think they were going for… Plus sometimes the text was so small, I couldn’t even read it, on my 60 inch TV… They also don’t really do anything. Most either say random things, or ask you to collect a certain amount of specific things I the level, before, just doing nothing once you complete that task. Some even still have the chat icon above them, but nothing happens. It’s just another example of a general lack of polish that is present in every aspect of the game.
There are some nice cut scenes to end the levels, and these are usually quite well animated, which makes it even more jarring to see so little characterisation in the levels themselves.
Music / Sound Effects
The music was a highlight for me, it really felt like an evolution of classic 90’s games, with fun and catchy tunes, and sound effects that made me think back to the early 3D era of gaming, in a good way! No really complaints here in the sound department!
The graphics for the most part look great, and really fit the themes well! As the game went on, the graphics got better and better, but there were a few prominent issues with the graphics form a technical point of view. Several times I would turn the camera and parts of the level would just flicker in and out of existence. This was especially bad in indoor areas if the camera got too close to the wall, whole parts of the level would disappear! Also, the game has a huge issue with pop-in. Sometimes you’ll be flying and only see the platform appear infant of you as you were flying in that direction! This makes searching big areas difficult when you can’t even see all of the map! And I’m not allowed to show this in the video, but the second phase of the final boss has, honestly, the worse pop-in I’ve ever seen.
As well as the graphical glitches, there were times where collision detection was just non existent, earlier in the game you’re taught how to climb poles, so I tried it on the lamp posts in this stage, and just went straight through them. There’’s also some areas where it seems like you should be able to go to, but the collision is all broken and you just slide around until you fight to get yourself back into he level, or fall to your death.
One thing I did love regarding the graphics though, was all the puns on the objects and buildings in the game! So many jokes, and plays on words! Even every single one of the collectables had a pun based tagline! I could tell the developer really enjoyed coming up with those!
I did end up completing the game, and despite the many complaints I did have with the game, it’s not completely unplayable, and I did have some fun with it, and I can tell that a massive amount of work was put into the game by the developer, apparently it was a TEN YEAR LONG labor of love, so it’s kind of sad that after all that time and effort, the game falls short of greatness. With so many issues preventing it from becoming a classic.
With a lot of polish to fix the technical issues, and some time spent on making the game feel better, it really could have been a classic that would be fondly remembered as a great entry in the genre, but it falls short on so many levels that it’s hard to recommend in it’s current state, I really wanted to love it, and I hope the developer tries to make another one in the future, taking when they’ve learned from this and improving upon it.
There is the spark of something great here, but it’s not here yet.
Time to beat: 11 hours
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