The 90s was a golden age of gaming for 3D platformers packed with collectibles, memorable levels, and iconic characters. Clive ‘N’ Wrench perfectly encapsulates the 3D platforming genre whilst also bringing some fresh ideas to the table that make it engaging for those picking up a Switch today.
The game’s story revolves around the titular Clive the rabbit and his buddy Wrench the monkey, as they head out in a refrigerator time machine to stop the evil Dr. Daucus from making a mess of history. It’s simple, easy to understand, and gets you into the action fast. While there’s a fairly long cutscene at the start, there’s nothing else that prevents you from getting stuck into the platforming action from that point.
After hopping into the aforementioned fridge, Clive and Wrench are plonked into a hub world connected to all the time periods Daucus has been creating havoc in. This is where you’ll immediately start to feel the 90s platformer vibes, with each world and boss requiring a certain number of Ancient Stones from previous worlds to unlock. Your goals are simple and need very little explanation, nor does the gameplay.
There’s a decent variety of worlds with different time periods on offer in Clive ‘N’ Wrench. From a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids scenario and ancient Egypt to Victorian London. Each one has been cleverly designed to hide the items you seek behind platforming puzzles, interactions with the world you must work out on your own, and NPC quests. Unfortunately, the quests don’t move much from the tried and tested “get me a few of these items, and I’ll give you an ancient stone”.
With that said, these quests work with the genre and are a staple part of it, so we’re not too disappointed there isn’t anything more complex on offer. The game even has a dedicated button that points you in the direction of the nearest ancient stone, so you’re never really stuck when it comes to progressing the main story. For brain-teasers, there’s working out how to reach new ledges, unlocking new parts of each location so you can explore further and find more ancient stones, and the boss battles themselves.
The bosses are the real personality of Clive ‘N’ Wrench, outside of the worlds. Each demands a unique mechanic to beat it, which is a refreshing change in an age dominated by bullet sponges. However, the controls don’t make these boss fights, or anything in the game for that matter, very easy. In fact, they quite often get in the way of the fun rather than enable it.
Sadly, for as good as the nostalgia hit of playing Clive ‘N’ Wrench feels, it’s not without a similar sense of frustration that comes from bugs and glitches that mar the game’s face so much you can barely see it through them. 90s platformers were frustrating because they were designed with tough-to-master mechanics and levels that required pinpoint accuracy in your control skills, not because they didn’t work at all.
Almost everywhere I went in the game, the controls were inconsistent. There’s a helpful tutorial that explains how to control Clive and use Wrench as both a weapon and propeller to glide across an area. However, the buttons you press don’t always register. I lost count of the number of times I fell or died to an enemy because the button I was pressing wasn’t heard or seen by the game. Even multiple attempts at the same situation with the same buttons consistently didn’t work until I had attempted it a few more times. I don’t understand what this issue could be, but it’s everywhere. This is a real shame because the jumping mechanics have the potential to feel as good as Super Mario Odyssey’s do, if they were just as consistent.
Other bugs, such as getting stuck while climbing a ledge, or being unable to progress despite doing what the game required, hit occasionally, but these weren’t as egregious as the controls. The game’s visuals can be forgiven because the feel of this game is so good outside of these issues. You won’t get a high or even solid frame rate out of it, and Clive ‘N’ Wrench certainly isn’t a looker, although it’s good enough for your brain to fill in the gaps while you play to have a positive experience.
Thankfully, the bugs present in Clive ‘N’ Wrench aren’t enough to quieten that voice within you that says you should try that jump just one more time. The game eggs you on to find another ancient stone before you quit, and go back to collect everything in each level long after you’ve finished the story. There are dozens of collectibles to find hidden around each world, perfect for those who love a good collectathon and appreciate being able to hit 100% in a title.
Any 3D platformer fan will find a lot to love here but it’s hard to recommend this title. It may get future patches that fix these issues up, but right now, the game is a little messy. It’s a shame because beyond the aforementioned issues is a game any platformer fan could pour dozens of hours into and never get bored.
Clive 'N' Wrench £24.99
Clive ‘N’ Wrench is a love letter to 90s nostalgia and 3D platforming. It gets a lot right but falls short of providing the intended experience due to needless bugs and glitches.