Review: Clarc

By Sean Clancy 02 Apr 2014 0
My only defense is an "L" box pointing the wrong way. My only defense is an "L" box pointing the wrong way.


Life is complicated. Especially if you're a robot, and not even technically alive. (Or strictly technically alive, maybe.)

You see, there's this one room. You—that's the little yellow astromech-looking fella—enter on one side, and you have to get across. There are three pressure plates here, and two boxes in the room. In a side room there's a third and, hey, that gate opens up when you place one of the boxes in this room on a pad. So, great.

Thing is, there's also a tankbot in this room, trapped—for now—by the same shipping crates you need to shuffle about in order to escape. The “catch” (that's one thing this robot is just beginning to learn about life—there's always a catch) is that from the moment you enter you're playing a game of keep-away with this bastard, on top of your game of box-shuffling.

Whew. What kids will go through for the affection of big pink ballistic missiles.



Move that first cube—quick, before the tankbot has a chance to escape. Now get the extra one, put that over here, and ah, yes... where things were heading all along. You need to move the box keeping the tankbot caged—quick, so you can position yourself to grab the special box you need to focus a laser (there are also lasers) and open the gate to the next room. On top of the good lasers—which open doors for you (or kill you), there are bad lasers, which tend to come from tankbots and kill you (or open doors for you) when tankbot gets ANGRY. It's this latter sort which will cut you down at the door like Don Fanucci after a festa, time and time again.

Clarc is wonderfully hectic for a game that asks you to do naught but shuttle boxes and other such items around. Our hero-bot can, with the press of a button, lift an item in front of him with eye beams, and a swipe swivels him left or right. You can also spider about all creepily while facing the same direction, your facing actually being key when it comes to solving certain puzzles. To pass a narrow walkway criss-crossed with deadly lasers, you might have to shuffle sideways while swinging a crate around to block those immolating beams. Or, just as likely, you might find yourself stuck in, yes, another laser redirection puzzle because the box you're holding, in addition to pointing energy towards the generator which opens the door, also points energy... directly into your face.

Boy, am I glad someone built these shipping containers with big gaps which serve no practical purpose and, in fact, significantly hamper the ability to ship freight. Boy, am I glad someone built these shipping containers with big gaps which serve no practical purpose and, in fact, significantly hamper the ability to ship freight.


With narrow corridors and rigid shambling to and fro, Clarc is a puzzle game in the same way trying to lug a couch up into a friend's apartment is a puzzle game. You're so intently focused on swinging that one block around to fit in this one damn tight spot (“We'll worry about the next corner when we get to it, Larry, you just hold your end higher!”) until, whoops, you slip or forget your surroundings and get clipped in the jaw by something painful. Clarc is a game where you're just constantly muttering a mixed string of encouragement and admonishment at yourself. Yes, yes, I think I can do this yes NO wait that kills me dumb dumb dumb. In this one, solving a puzzle doesn't make you feel bright nearly as much as failing a puzzle makes you feel like a total moron—but, in a goofy, enjoyable-at-first sort of way.

Goofy much like our titular character is meant to be. Clarc is also a love story, where the eponymous robot has to save his diesel-drunk robo-friends and an apparently robo-attractive pink missile named Clara from the violent encroachment of the sinister M.O.T.H.E.R—this shadowy force being a similarly-punctuated counterpart of sorts to the F.A.T.H.E.R presence all these tipsy, disco-partying bots seem to miss so much. The tale is cute, whimsical, and never gets in the way of—nor does it serve to improve, really--the assorted crate puzzles and tests of spatial logistics. (Though, it is a little silly how they had to gender the maintenance bot and the big-eyed missile love interest, right? They're robots.)

Take note: this is a wonderful example of "utilizing comic-style captions to great effect" versus "just using Comic Sans." Take note: this is a wonderful example of "utilizing comic-style captions to great effect" versus "just using Comic Sans."


More than precious, though, Clarc is just damned clever, straight out of the starting block. You've got your escort-style puzzles, where you need to ferry a drone bot around and protect it, same as yourself, from lasers, tankbots, and the like—even when said drone gets up and starts walking around on its own. Then there are those claustrophobic stumpers where you've barely enough room to move around, let alone rearrange things, yet you still need to not just figure out where pieces (boxes, mostly) ought to go, but in what order they ought to go there, with special attention paid to the key pieces you might need to add, remove, or add then remove then rotate at just the right moment. These latter puzzles tend to see you circling Clarc around the same box several times in a row, lifting it then immediately placing it back down for fear of completely borking everything up. And, of course, you can trick tankbots into killing themselves and each other with their own weapons. Action!

In fact, that action's something of a sticking point when it comes to issuing a blanket recommendation here. Clarc is mostly a puzzle game, true enough, but it also often tasks you with challenges which are action-oriented, and betray the game's roots as an Ouya title. While the control scheme is perfect for sedate, move-by-move puzzling, it reveals itself as somewhat clunky when it comes to speedy escapes from tankbots in pursuit, or the rapid dodging of interlocked laser batteries trying to fry your wiry ass.

You'd think you'd remember which end of this box *isn't* the one which pipes hot plasma death into your face. You'd think. You'd think you'd remember which end of this box *isn't* the one which pipes hot plasma death into your face. You'd think.


This isn't an out-and-out negative, necessarily, and the action bits are, truly, thrilling enough to get your blood pumping when they sprout up, while still requiring you to think—just quicker. At the same time, finicky action is exactly the sort of thing some puzzle game fans aren't looking for in their brain-teasers. That's understandable.

But, if you can stand a little adrenaline in your puzzle games (or a majority of puzzling in your action games), along with the occasional spike of frustration when your four-legged avatar doesn't quite respond to your every touch, then Clarc is your bot for sure. It's a test of robotic precision and acrobatic maneuvering in the face of inventive puzzles which baffle for all their simplicity. Which is to say, again, it's a game about getting really good at moving furniture.

CLARC was played on a 3rd generation iPad for this review.

Review: Clarc

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