If I had to pick my favorite game genre, the 3D collectathon platformer would be up there. It’s fairly uncommon for new entries to pop up, which makes releases like Clive ‘N’ Wrench feel all the more special. I’ve wanted to get my hands on it for some time and was eager to see if it offered what I look for in a collectathon game. For the most part, the answer is a fairly resounding yes. It’s got the art direction, controls, level design, and dump truck full of trinkets to find that I was after. But it’s sadly a rough and unpolished game that feels like a beta, alongside issues with trite main objectives and iffy collision detection.
Clive ‘N’ Wrench dips into the Banjo-Kazooie well and you play as an anthropomorphic animal with a smaller animal in its backpack. Here, you’re Clive, a rabbit guy and cousin of one Professor Nancy, who happens to be building time travel tech. Her findings get misappropriated by an evil doctor.
Naturally, it’s up to our heroes to travel through time to put a stop to some rather poorly defined evil machinations. I’m not actually sure what the doctor is up to exactly and he only shows up at the beginning and very end of the game, which makes the adventure feel a bit unfocused.
So much to find
Clive doesn’t talk, and the game doesn’t really do much to give him any sort of personality. He’s a rabbit, and you play as him. There’s very little story here, and Professor Nancy does most of the talking. The game is structured around Clive and Wrench hitting up 11 different time periods to grab watches and coins from the levels to then fight the bad guy’s henchmen.
There are an enormous amount of watches to find, which I greatly appreciated. I can’t think of a collectathon that has more trinkets to grab than this one. Seriously, there are thousands of them to find.
Partners in time
The worlds themselves are all nicely varied, from a pirate world, to a snowy Christmas world, to a giant house (while in tiny form). I got a kick out of exploring every nook and cranny of these places; it was a joy experiencing all the different settings. Clive ‘N’ Wrench requires you to beat a boss to pass into the next time period since they’re all unlocked in order, but very few of these bosses actually have boss fights. An early one is a very clear nod to Crash Bandicoot bosses, complete with the signature health bar.
Many of the boss levels are instead literal levels that you just need to make it through to see the boss get defeated by something other than a fight. The few boss battles here vary in quality. They’re mostly a bit dull or tedious, including a late-game battle against a dragon that’s a combination of banal and overly reliant on memorization. You have to just remember where to push a box in order to hurt him, which I found irksome.
Thankfully, the more typical boss levels are much better. Overall, the levels have very nicely varied layouts that are fairly roomy and creative, even if most of the main levels can easily be 100%ed in 20 to 40 minutes.
But a lot of that comes down to just how mobile our heroes are. Clive can jump, double, long jump, high jump, and run. With Wrench’s help, the duo can hover until Clive’s feet touch the ground. Tearing through the levels is really a treat. The jumping is a bit floaty and some of the more precise controls can feel a little loose, but Clive ‘N’ Wrench definitely hits the platformer mark.
But then there’s the game’s combat. Clive can swing Wrench in a spinning attack or roll into foes. Unfortunately, he can only roll when running. The spin attack is clearly meant to be reminiscent of Jak & Daxter, but it just simply doesn’t work well. A lot of the time I went to use it on enemies resulted in me getting hurt, and it doesn’t help that the game does a poor job of conveying just what went wrong. To make matters worse, the enemy AI is poor. Most foes tend to just run straight at you so quickly that there isn’t much time to react.
This often ended up with me desperately using the spin attack and taking damage as the enemy ran into me headfirst. Thankfully, Clive can take six hits and enemies drop a bit of health whenever you defeat them. But speaking of defeating them, they ragdoll upon death. The collision detection for this is quite iffy and the framerate on these ragdolled animations are bizarrely low. In fact, there are plenty of animations in Clive ‘N’ Wrench that are accompanied by low framerates, such as vehicles driving around streets or the animations for the vases that you have to break to find certain watches.
Not up to spec
And the technical issues don’t end there. Stages often see the lighting change whenever I move the camera, which is jarring and looks awful. There’s also a surprising amount of pop-in when it comes to geometry, but some levels are worse than others. You can see objects blink into existence when they’re mere few feet in front of you.
And then there’s the performance. The game is haunted by frequent frame drops on a 3090 for no good reason. At 1440p, some levels had me at a steady 40 fps. Clive ‘N’ Wrench is a bit of a technical mess that needed multiple months of additional polish. While collecting all the watches in one level, there appears to be some sort of mistake in their placement, as 12 of them were missing. I had to quit and reload a level, which would cause a single vase to respawn which would allow me to collect a couple of the watches. Then I’d need to repeat that process a few times.
Penny for your thoughts
The collectible in Clive ‘N’ Wrench akin to the power stars in Mario games are coins. There are 10 of these per world and many of them feel like afterthoughts. Three of these are repeated in each world: find five keys to open a safe, find a set number of specific items or characters, and hit a rabbit that runs in a circle.
All too often, coins will just be sitting out in the open, robbing any hope for challenge. Since Clive is so mobile, you’ll often find a coin within your first minute in levels. When they’re not out in the open, they can also fall victim to repeated scenarios. I recall three coins being findable by breaking rocks open throughout the course of the game.
Levels also don’t save many major changes. The Egypt level requires you to go through a tall section to get to the top of a temple, which lets you unlock a pole to climb as a shortcut back to the top. But if you exit the level and return, this pole is gone and you have to go through the entire section again from the beginning to get back to the top. Climbing polls itself only works correctly part of the time, too, as I often found that Clive wouldn’t grab onto them.
Other design problems occasionally pop up as well. One of the boss levels is the toughest level in the game, but not simply because it’s challenging. You lose control of the camera for much of this level and it becomes quite hard to see. At one point, the camera switches to a side view while retaining full 3D movement. I found myself accidentally platforming on parts of a wall that I couldn’t tell I was close to due to the camera angle. Sometimes the collision detection on certain pieces of geometry are broken or odd, too.
I could completely walk through parts of a box you’re supposed to jump on at one point. Some surfaces are slippery and can’t be walked on, even though there’s no good reason for this. On one occasion, I saw a surface where the slippery state was miscellaneously applied, even though I could walk normally on the rest of it.
There’s also the issue of the game’s loading screens. Entering a level means you have to sit through a loading screen that leads to waiting for the intro time travel cutscene to play. Then the game will load the level itself. You also have to wait for this scene to load and watch it whenever you exit a level (followed by waiting for the hub to load). It gets very old, as does having to wait for a period while the camera slowly shows the hub world before giving you control again.
All of this is a real shame, because there really is an obvious amount of love and talent involved in the game. I’m hoping some of these will be ironed out with patches. The game can probably be beaten in around six or seven hours, but I put in close to 11 and found nearly everything, save for a few of the more hidden coins.
I did overall have a good time with Clive ‘N’ Wrench, but between all the technical issues and how so many of the game’s challenges seem a bit thrown in, the experience ends up somewhat damaged. Most of it’s fixable, though. This is a good game that was simply released before it was ready. If you love collectathon games, you’ll probably get a lot out of this one. But just be prepared to wade through some serious jank while enjoying it.