Platformers just aren't what they used to be. With consumers increasingly turning away from linear games, there isn't as much interest in conventional platformers these days. Even so, there's room in the indie space for the occasional big hit, mostly among 3D platformers which are innately harder to make.
Clive 'N' Wrench is one of those latter-day platformers. It's a decidedly old-school title, and whether or not "old-school" is appealing to you is going to determine how much you like the game.
Clive 'N' Wrench follows the titular protagonists - a hare and a monkey (get used to the puns, friends) - on a quest to stop the sinister Dr. Daucus and General Olga Chestycough. The evil duo stole the schematics to a time machine from Clive's cousin, Prof. Merricarp, and proceed to wreak havoc across time by stealing rare minerals and polluting the past with Dr. Daucus's mind-warping "elixir." There's not even time for breakfast before the prof shoves her layabout cousin into a time machine hastily built out of a refrigerator.
The plot is going to have some familiar echoes for anyone who remembers the games that inspired Clive 'N' Wrench. Banjo-Kazooie is an obvious point of comparison (it's an indie 3D platformer - of course it's based on Banjo-Kazooie), but I think the design traces more of its lineage to the collect-a-thon platformers found on Sony's systems. Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, and the first Sly Cooper are all definitely inspirations here.
Over the course of the game, the player will travel across 11 time periods in pursuit of Dr. Daucus and his minions. Each time period past the first one is split into two levels - one standard level and one boss level. There's a fair amount of variety in the areas, which include standard time travel-themed worlds as well as some less explored settings such as Victorian London and the Prohibition-era Deep South.
As mentioned above, Clive 'N' Wrench is a collect-a-thon. There are two items that the player needs to collect - stopwatches, which are found by the hundreds, and sacred stones, of which there are exactly ten in each standard level. Most of the time periods follow a standard flow: collect enough sacred stones to unlock the boss level, beat the boss, unlock the next time period and use stopwatches to open the next standard level.
The design for the standard levels is very old-school. Some of the sacred stones require doing a task for an NPC or gathering some sub-collectible, but most of them are hidden around the stage and need only be located. Don't expect to see the kind of mission structure found in some recent 3D platformers such as A Hat in Time.
Fortunately, the controls are pretty tight - a must-have for a game like this. It won't take long to figure out how to control the protagonists, and after that, the basic mechanics are seldom an issue. The only time you might have trouble is when the camera is locked in place, as happens for some of the bosses.
Visually, Clive 'N' Wrench is a mixed bag. On one hand, the animation can be pretty janky. The movements of some of the characters are stiff and fast-moving objects can stutter quite a bit. On the other hand, the levels are very highly detailed, with distinctive landmarks that make navigation easy and lots of little details that are worth pausing to check out.
You might even be able to pick out some jokes and references. I did mention that this game has a lot of puns in it, right?
Depending on how thorough you choose to be, Clive 'N' Wrench will take 7-10 hours to complete. It's a modestly difficult game and most people should be able to finish it with a little bit of diligence.
Overall, while I enjoyed Clive 'N' Wrench, the gameplay was a little dated for my tastes. I would have preferred it if the game had tried to push the envelope a little more a la A Hat in Time. Your mileage will vary on this point, though, and this may just be because I didn't grow up on the kinds of collect-a-thon that inspired this. If you still have a passion for Spyro and Crash Bandicoot, then Clive 'N' Wrench is going to be worth your time.
Clive 'N' Wrench is a throwback 3D platformer in the vein of a PSX-era collect-a-thon. Fans of games from that era will appreciate the variety in levels and design, but those who prefer 3D games with more modern design principles might not enjoy thee game quite as much.
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