Clive ‘N’ Wrench review – a delightful indie 3D platformer

Following in the footsteps of Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time, Clive 'N' Wrench is a love letter to the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Spyro the Dragon.

Clive 'N' Wrench review image showing the duo on a pirate ship.

Our Verdict

With loads of moreish worlds to explore and a lot of charm, Clive 'N' Wrench is a real treat for fans of 90s era 3D platformers.

Clive ‘N’ Wrench is a game that I had been looking forward to since sometime in the early 2010s. Though the likes of Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time have been released before it, it actually started development before both of them, and as a largely one-person labour of love, there is so much to admire in this Switch platformer.

The story has the titular duo traveling around through time, visiting a number of different periods as they try and track down the villainous Dr. Daucus, who has stolen a time machine of his own and seems to be hatching some nefarious plan. It’s a fairly simple story, but exactly the kind you’d expect from a game like this, so there’s nothing to fault there.

As for gameplay, the game which it bears the strongest resemblance to is probably Spyro the Dragon. Each level has an exit for you to reach, but rather than just finding your way there, you’ll want to collect all items hidden along the way (and these worlds are by no means formulaic). There are hundreds of pocket watches hidden in each world (like Spyro’s gems), then also ancient stones (which are mainly used to unlock new levels), plus a few keys, which are used to get an ancient stone out of a safe.

Clive 'N' Wrench review image showing the duo in a dark forest near a checkpoint.

The formula is by no means unique, but the developer has it down to a tee. After a tiring day, it felt absolutely wonderful to sit down with Clive ‘N’ Wrench and comb through a level to get all of its items. Once you get the last thing, and know that you’ve adequately explored every nook and cranny, there’s such a satisfying feeling of achievement. I mentioned that it was like Spyro, but the next closest point of comparison is probably the original Banjo-Kazooie. There are no moves or power-ups to unlock, but imagine clearing through those levels with the bear and bird at their peak.

However, before I go any further, I better get my one negative out of the way. When I first started playing, it took me a little while to get used to the game’s controls. They felt just a little bit off and combined with a few graphic glitches, I thought “Oh no, have all the years of waiting meant that I’ve set my expectations too high?” Fortunately, a couple of hours in, I was completely used to these minor issues and they stopped bothering me. It might be off-putting at first, but I implore everyone to keep going with it if they feel this way at first, because there’s so much joy packed within the game.

Every world was so unique and distinct and I have special soft spots for Bunny, I Shrunk the Chimp (a world where you’re tiny in an ordinary house), Middle Age Crisis (a world based on a Medieval English castle town and forest), and A Grave Mistake (a spooky haunted graveyard level). You could say that the game was like a box of chocolates, and with each level you’re unwrapping a new one – then at the end, you sadly realise you’ve eaten them all.

Clive 'N' Wrench review image showing the duo near a large goldfish who is suspiciously similar to Roysten from Banjo-Kazooie.

Part of what makes these worlds so fun to explore is that there are so many small details making reference to other games. Trowzer from Yooka-Laylee appears in one level, the game Antonball Deluxe is playing on a TV in one area, there are wanted posters for Hat Kid (from A Hat in Time), a goldfish who bears a suspicious resemblance to Roysten in Banjo-Kazooie makes an appearacne, and that’s just the tip of the ice berg. Heck, if you ever lamented the loss of Twelve Tales: Conker 64, you’ll be pleased to hear that Clive ‘N’ Wrench seems to draw heavily from it and is probably exactly as good as that game would have been.

Some of the sound effects for certain characters could probably be a bit better (some make kind of annoying sounds over and over again), but on the flipside, the soundtrack itself can be pretty good. The main theme song of the game itself is absolutely fantastic and somehow, hearing it makes me feel the same as I would hearing the title theme of one of my favourite 90s games.

Clive 'N' Wrench review image showing the duo by a scarecrow character in a spooky location.

The ending hints at the possibility of a sequel, and I hope that we’ll see one. The game feels exactly like it’s one of the N64 or PlayStation 1 greats (except with better graphics and bigger worlds). Unfortunately, this does mean that there is a small amount of ‘jank’ in place, but nothing that should be detrimental to your overall enjoyment of the game (especially if you love N64 games or play a lot of indie games). I’ll be going back to 100% this game, and that’s not something I often feel compelled to do these days.