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Clive ’N’ Wrench is a Classic-Style Platformer Riddled With Bugs

An ambitious platforming adventure that doesn’t stick the landing.



Clive 'N' Wrench

Clive ’N’ Wrench Review

Developer: Dinosaur Bytes Studio | Publisher: Numskull Games | Genre: Platformer
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC |  Reviewed on: PC

Clive ’N’ Wrench is a collectathon platformer inspired by some of the finest games in the genre. It features a team of two furry protagonists like Banjo-Kazooie and Yooka-Laylee before it. It reproduces the Super Mario 64 moveset almost verbatim. It has themed worlds full of items to collect, animated by unique and recurring characters alike.

But something is missing from Clive ’N’ Wrench, something that turns the winning formula into a slog of a game. The first and worst issue plaguing the game is that it is simply unpolished. Compared to other platformers, collectathons are much bigger and more varied, with worlds full of unique assets that get thrown away after an hour of play. Clive ’N’ Wrench even has a decent amount of cutscenes and unique dialog, stretching resources even thinner while core mechanics lay unpolished.

The Story of Clive ’N’ Wrench

Mr. Farfalline from Clive ’N’ Wrench
Image: Dinosaur Bytes Studio

In keeping with its predecessors, there isn’t much to the story of Clive ’N’ Wrench. The evil Dr. Daucus has stolen… something from Nancy, Clive’s cousin. It falls on the not-yet-iconic duo to stop the doctors’ plans by collecting enough medallion-looking things from the game’s 11 levels. Levels range from the western frontier to a Greek island complete with a labyrinth, like a greatest hits collection of ’90s platformers worlds.

For a game so light on story, Clive ’N’ Wrench features a surprising amount of cutscenes, a great effort for a solo developer. Sadly, this effort largely went to waste. The cutscenes are underdeveloped, with jarring cuts to and from gameplay that show little care for pacing or continuity. Many scenes are so short, 5 seconds or even less, to make one wonder if they were at all necessary. Others are long and aimless, thanks in part to the lack of dialogue and a sense of humor that can’t land a joke.

Outside of the cutscenes, the game manages to create a sense of place and progression just fine. Each level is a world of its own, with bosses guarding the passage between every two levels. As players explore each boss’s level before fighting them, they find clues as to who their enemies are. Ancient Egypt is full of statues of the proud Cleocatra (the cat Cleopatra), while the desecrated church in the Halloween level is dedicated to its deer vampire overlord. This might not seem like much, but it’s the most personality that anyone in the game gets to have.

When Did It All Go Wrong

Clive from Clive ’N’ Wrench swimming in invisible water.
Image: Dinosaur Bytes Studio

Clive and Wrench, the protagonists of this story, lack even a basic personality. We don’t get a sense that Clive is adventurous, or that Wrench, his monkey, is a jokester. We don’t even know if Wrench is his friend or just his pet. Giving personality to games with barely a story to go with is a subtle art. Classic platformers like Banjo-Kazooie and Crash Bandicoot perfected this art, leaving Clive ’N’ Wrench some big shoes to fill. Still, it’s telling that not even the game’s many cutscenes could fix this problem.

Poor characterization is only the start of Clive ’N’ Wrench’s problems. Calling this game unpolished is an understatement. Seemingly every action is one button push away from breaking. Walking and running on almost any surface results in a stuttering trot of sorts. The high jump move has a good chance of triggering a normal jump. There are almost no settings in the options, only a single slider for music volume. The list goes on.

Bugs can be fixed, even if there are a lot of them, but some problems can’t be solved with a patch. The sound effects missing from every cutscene won’t be implemented in an update. The transitions between gameplay to prerendered footage won’t be any less jarring after release. The missing settings in the options might be added later, at least on PC, but it’s staggering to see a 3D platformer with less customization than the average visual novel.

A poster referencing A Hat in Time inside Clive ’N’ Wrench.
Image: Dinosaur Bytes Studio

Even after the bugs are gone, even ignoring all the jank and poor optimization, what’s on offer here is far from being great. Nothing that Clive ’N’ Wrench does hasn’t been done before, better and with more confidence. The levels are generic and the entire moveset is ripped straight out of Super Mario 64. Even Clive and Wrench themselves are a watered-down version of Jak and Daxter or Ratchet and Clank.

Clive ’N’ Wrench isn’t the worst game on the planet. If enough bugs are ironed out in time, the released product might even be considered just fine. Much more damning is how derivative and generic, how aggressively uninterested Clive ’N’ Wrench is in iterating on the work of its predecessors. The temptation to call it a love letter is strong, but tangible passion seems to be among what was lost when going from concept to the finished product.

Clive ’N’ Wrench isn’t interesting, it’s not particularly fun, and it doesn’t even do anything new. The only case in which I’d suggest someone buy it is if they have a young, young child who loves 3D platformers and has already burned through every other alternative, from Croc to Balan Wonderworld. In any other case, you’d be better served with something else.

Well-rounded nerd and self identified loveable weirdo, Diana loves stories in all their forms, even though she’s too lazy for most things that aren’t games. She’d drop anything for a night of TTRPGs, and often does. You can find her rummaging trough the tiniest of indie games releases, or trying to wrap up a 50 hours long Visual Novel she regrets ever starting.

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