To make sure you never miss out on your favourite NEW stories, we're happy to send you some reminders

Click 'OK' then 'Allow' to enable notifications

Clive ‘N’ Wrench review: a frustrating yet charming tribute to 90s platformers

Clive ‘N’ Wrench review: a frustrating yet charming tribute to 90s platformers

Clive 'N' Wrench is a successful tribute to the greatest 90s platformers, but it's unlikely to be an all-time classic itself.

Clive ‘N’ Wrench is a successful ode to the golden age of platforming, even if it does fail to cement its own status as a classic. It both echoes and imitates the titans of my childhood - Crash Bandicoot, Super Mario 64, and Spyro the Dragon - which creates an end product that is both a refreshing dose of nostalgia and wholly frustrating. Clive ‘N’ Wrench captures that 90s charm, but it also features some rather clunky controls that while may be befitting of the era, are certain to be divisive among fans.

The story is simple, but that’s somewhat to be expected in a retro-inspired 3D platformer. Clive ‘N’ Wrench stars, you guessed it, Clive and Wrench. Clive is a rabbit while Wrench is a monkey who mainly exists to function as the ‘Chimp Chopper’ - a type of gliding mechanic you’ll need to get around. The duo are sent hurtling through space and time in a 1950s refrigerator to thwart the evil plans of Dr Daucus.

Take a look at Clive ‘N’ Wrench’s gameplay trailer below.

Clive ‘N’ Wrench is undoubtedly a game that’s left me torn. There’s so much to like and enjoy and yet the platformer is endlessly frustrating. I referenced the rather clunky controls. Clive ‘N’ Wrench offers up a basic move set. You can jump, spin, and glide your way through the game’s various mini-worlds which act as ‘collect-a-thon’ style hubs. You’ll need to acquire so many hidden tokens in order to tackle that world’s boss. Defeat the boss and you’ll proceed onto the next world. It’s like a rudimentary Super Mario Odyssey. It all sounds easy enough. That’s not the truth of it though. I’d like to clarify that I consider myself to be pretty good at platformers, particularly as I’ve practically been playing them my whole life, and let me tell you, Clive ‘N’ Wrench is hard in a way that can oftentimes be demotivating.

The tutorial requires you to master a double jump followed by a glide. X, X, square. I spent far too long trying to master this. The window of opportunity to nail the game’s controls is minute. Double tap X too quickly or too slowly and Clive won’t make the second jump which, most likely, will send you crashing down into the abyss and back to the start. Having played the game now, I can safely say I’m an expert at the simple control’s very specific timing requirements but it’s a hurdle that felt unnecessarily difficult to overcome. I was exasperated when I finally finished what is actually an extremely short tutorial. Thankfully, there was an uplifting treat waiting for me just around the corner.

Clive ‘N’ Wrench’s greatest success is its world design. Regardless of which platformers you grew up playing, there’ll be something here that will send you straight into a childhood daze. The first level sees you navigate the bedroom, kitchen, lounge, and bathroom of a house. The catch is, you’re actually the size of a bee and I’ll admit, I had a bit of a ‘wow’ moment - mainly because I haven’t played Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue in decades and suddenly I felt like I’d stepped back inside an inviting memory.

Clive 'N' Wrench /
Numskull Games

Due to the ‘collect-a-thon’ nature, there’s no set linear path for you to take within the various worlds. You’ll be required to observe your surroundings, looking out for potential hiding spots. That’s where the fun comes in. If you are a platforming fan, it’s exciting to see the golden glow of a token atop a tall building for example. It prompts you to ask yourself, ‘How am I going to get up there?’ and that’s why we play this genre - for the thrill of tackling the platforming conundrum placed before you.

For me though, the various worlds lacked consistency. In some, I blasted through and found the majority of the tokens in a very short space of time. In others, I’d have to retrace my steps over and over again. When you’re traversing a level for the fourth time in hunt of one more token in order to proceed, that’s when a little bit of fatigue can set in. It’s a problem that kept cropping up.

There are enemies to keep you on your toes. Again, handling these is a mixed bag. Many can be taken out with a quick spin attack which is simple enough. Others, you’ll need to knock out with a couple of bounces on the head. That may sound simple too but for whatever reason, this lacked a certain specificity that made it another difficult element of the game to master. I’d eventually knock out a couple of mob crocs but I’d lose several of my six lives in the process and it never felt like a skill issue, to me at least. It just wasn’t abundantly clear how to succeed.

Clive 'N' Wrench /
Numskull Games

It’s a similar situation with the game’s boss fights which I often find to be the simplest part of most platformers. Again, that’s not the case with Clive ‘N’ Wrench. Let me tell you, I had to rage quit on occasion. It happens to the best of us. You won’t be faced with any instructions when you face said bosses so prepare to die a couple of times while you get your bearings. Then prepare to die a bunch more while you waft about hoping for the best. When I eventually beat my opponents, I felt euphoric but those second boss fight dart-shooting voodoo dolls caused me more grief than I would’ve liked.

I mentioned that Clive ‘N’ Wrench is a successful tribute to classic platformers - and that’s where it excels. It’s not a game that’s coy in wearing its inspirations on its sleeve. I’ve already noted its similarities with Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue. The central hub is very much reminiscent of Crash Bandicoot 2’s warp room, plus the token-collecting reminded me of Spyro the Dragon. Let’s also not forget that Clive ‘N’ Wrench sounds a lot like Ratchet and Clank. A coincidence? You’d think not.

Lead developer Rob Wass of Dinosaur Bytes has been working on this passion project for nine years and his deep love and appreciation of the 90s platformer is clear to see. Playing Clive ‘N’ Wrench certainly isn’t a smooth experience, but perhaps that’s what the quintessential 90s platformer is all about. I oftentimes felt lost and frustrated by the game’s lack of instruction and difficulty that I was forced to take time away, but those inviting 3D worlds just kept drawing me back in. Clive ‘N’ Wrench isn’t just a warp through space and time. It was a journey into my own childhood nostalgia. If you stick around for the journey, you’ll be rewarded for your perseverance. I worry though that Clive ‘N’ Wrench may be too lacking in fluidity and intrigue for those who fail to notice its tributes and inspirations.

Pros: perfectly captures the essence of 90s platformers, well-themed levels

Cons: frustrating controls, lacks instruction

For fans of: Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back, Spyro the Dragon, Croc: The Legend of Gobbos

6/10: Good

Clive ‘N’ Wrench releases for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 (version tested), Nintendo Switch, and PC on 24 February. A review code was provided by the publisher, Numskull Games. Read a guide to our review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Numskull Games

Topics: PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo