So, are the explosive death splatters a kindly encouragement or a supercharged mocking of the player's abortive attempts then? In I Wanna Be the Guy, it felt like a decidedly antagonistic affair, but here, probably owing to the lack of the same ambience of sadism, the blood fireworks just feels par for the course somehow, and even cathartic. Like setting your failed builds on fire in Minecraft. And what else do you expect to happen? Spikes are deadly, enemies are spiky, laser turrets hurl hurt in the guise of glowing bolts of energy, with spikes inside. You don't pass out, you don't have a stroke, you FRIGGIN SUPERNOVA... It's not exactly what we call a "trap game", though, since the dangers aren't exactly hidden (though they not infrequently do appear on the screen too late to afford any premortem calculation). The Adventures of Clive McMulligan on Planet Zeta Four is just a regular retro-style platforming challenge.
I should say regular+, since we have both gravity flipping AND a jetpack selectively available. Especially with the flipping, this makes it difficult to remember you can't use it whenever you can't, and even that you CAN use it again when it's been re-enabled. Past this snag, the mechanics also include, and this is probably not by conscious design, the ability to stop any jump short. Normally, the game stops your upwards momentum when you release the jump bind... but if you never release it, the game doesn't ever see the jump as having stopped. That means you can use this to your advantage coming out of jump pads as well. To be fast, you have to eliminate as much air time as possible if it means landing on the next pad faster. This presumably-bug-turned-feature elongates the learning curve and adds to reasons why TAoCMMoPZ4 (which sounds like some tangled-up enzyme) is actually quite engaging as a speedrun game.
The early levels are quite basic. Generally the level design is a bit forgettable at worst and won't become a major hamper to enjoyment, though genuine masterstrokes aren't commonplace either. The very last regular level was perhaps the most memorable – and not just owing to the recency effect – alongside the SPECIAL level in World 6 (ooohhhh...). I only had time to reach the first quasi-secret level, but it had a fun concept (akin to the classic "Vomitorium" from Rise of the Triad) and left me eager to find out if the rest would have followed the silly – and suddenly quite mean – suit. Those levels are reached by completing all the regular levels with a star, by the way, and this happens when you've both cleared it without brush-ins with the Reaper, and beaten it within the par time as well, not necessarily on the same attempt. After crossing the 100 deaths mark in one of the latter levels, you'll excuse me for omitting the rest of the secrets from my investigation, but I am genuinely curious what I'm FOMOing here exactly. One minus in level design comes from wildly varying difficulty, from level to level and within levels too. Could have used some homogenizing. Also more alternative paths within levels might have been fun.
I'm making it sound like regular Joes have no right to complete the campaign at all. It's not QUITE as bad as it sounds, though, since there exists a seemingly rather innovative "Automated Support System", or ASS for short... for those who can't be ASSED to complete the levels on their own. If you have it enabled, after you've died "too many times" (whatever that means, I didn't test it), extra blocks appear that presumably allow for taking a respite in the middle of tough gauntlets between the checkpoints (which are also quite generous), or perhaps block off turrets from delivering disagreeable doom? There is also a whole cheats menu on the menu, if only you need to reach milestone star counts to enable most of them. Some of the less scandalously soul-sucking levels are also completely skippable since the overworld often contains forks. So all in all, there's hardly any fear of not getting your money's worth because of untraversable obstacles... pleb.
Shoutouts for very convincing retro artwork. All the screens, overworld and levels both, look organic and appealing. This has a slight downside in concealing hazards that when concealed, instigate more dyings. This is especially true with spikes in World 2, but also some things that block your movement don't necessarily look like they do. That and the direction of the automatic gravity-flipping fields could be made more obvious. Another graphics pass would have made the game a 10/10 in functional as well as esthetic looks. It's difficult enough to follow what's happening with all the moving parts. The euphonous musical elements (i.e. music), on the other hand, comprise a quaint electronica jukebox in steady rotation.
With in the order of 10–15 hours of handcrafted gameplay for just beating the game once, a token price, and absolutely minimal attention come by within the heaping mountain of Steam-only not professionally promoted releases, Clive McMulligan is one of the easiest games to proselytize into our congregation of consolation. Two thumbs up and have fun discovering the secrets I didn't have time for!
TIWIKs: Things I Wish I'd Known
- You don't have to hold down the fuel recharge button. A single tap is enough.
- When you're facing a difficult section, there aren't seemingly almost ever any secret detours or shortcuts (aside from a few unintended ones perhaps). Just bite the bullet!
- Check out the trailer linked below to give the dev some more views!
Reviewed by: LotBlind