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Monthly Archives: July 2006

Cloning Clyde

With the advent of Xbox Live Arcade Wednesdays a veritable feast of bite-sized gaming is now going to be drip fed to us for the next few weeks via Marketplace. Hopefully this will mark the beginning of a semblance of order in the Arcade’s release schedule which up until now has been patchy and inconsistent. I shouldn’t bitch, though, we are finally getting some new non-fish games.

First up was Frogger and next up is Galaga but lying in between these two classics is a title that has intrigued me, a little game known as Cloning Clyde.

Cloning Clyde is a platformer, the first pure platformer on Arcade, and as with all games they have to have something to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Well in this game Clyde is the crowd, he’s stumbled upon a scientific lab and been cloned many, many times leaving you with an horde of Clydes all looking for a means of escape.

I’ll be honest from the start, Cloning Clyde does not excel at being a platform game. After being treated to the delights of Super Mario in recent weeks the platforming elements of this new release have left me sighing at the screen. They’re “not bad” but when have you ever heard that being a ringing endorsement; level design is simple and there are so far very few challenging set pieces.

Things are compounded by you ability to control the slippery feeling Clyde. He is armed with the ever-popular double-jump but in the air he feels floaty and unresponsive.

Not looking good so far, is it? What saves this game, though, is its heavy emphasis on using multiple Clydes to complete the level. As you travel through the environment switches, levers and machines need to be operated and luckily you have your clone army at your disposal for just those occasions. Admittedly it’s not exactly brain science what has to happen as the switches are very rarely hidden or off the main route through the level but keeping sixteen Clydes alive is definitely more interesting than keeping one so.

To add further twists you can splice your DNA with that of chickens, frogs and dynamite to give you extra powers but none are utilised enough to lift the game into the upper echelons of platforming greatness. Instead Cloning Clyde is a solid if unspectacular adventure providing an interesting set of features and mechanics for the user to mess around with for short stints. If you have a few hundred points lying on your account then this may be worth the investment as it does offer value for money.

Despite my less than positive reaction to the game I think releases like Cloning Clyde and its Ninja Bee stable mate Outpost Koloki are what Xbox Live Arcade should primarily be about. They are fresh ideas and new IPs compared to the string of remakes and rehashes. It seems that with the up coming slew of ports Microsoft is hoping to ape Nintendo’s upcoming virtual console but I sincerely hope that new titles will still be visible amongst the sea of 16-bits.

6/10

New Super Mario Bros

“New” it states on the box, for that is indeed what it is, a New Super Mario Bros adventure in an old skool, 2D platforming cartridge. A game received with much anticipation by a good number of gamers, but is it as good as it is new?

It takes its cues from Super Mario Bros 1 and 3, along with a dash of Super Mario World. The level design seems based more around the original rather than later additions to the series, however these do contribute most of the concepts that can be found within them, such as multiple suits and routes.

Levels range from those that you can stroll through without any worry to those which require a little more thought, either because of tricky jumps or the enemies that line your way. I wouldn’t say there are many classic levels but many do have their own stand-out moments, for instance one ice level provides you with a slippery rollercoaster you can slide down should you judge your jump right, but my personal favourites are those that scroll along with you forcing you to think quickly and jump accurately. Most memorable is a mini-castle where you have to not only have to contend with the scrolling screen but spiked balls pegging back your progress too.

The new suits at your disposal are a tiny mushroom, which shrinks Mario, and a shell that allows our moustachioed hero to become a spinning Koopa shell. On their own they are quite poor additions to the Mario franchise as they offer little in ways of advantages to general platforming, being not a patch on capes, Yoshis and Tanooki suits. However, each has their own place in the game with New Mario Bros adding exploration to the traditional mix. Remember in Metroid when you needed a special ability to reach a ledge? Well mini-Marios and Koopa-Marios are these special abilities, included as a means to get places that either require a tiny, floating plumber or a block breaking puck.

Exploration can lead to hidden items or access to new levels, with the latter continually drawing me back to the game. Hunting through a level keeping a beady eye out for where a hidden entrance may be has definitely kept me returning to levels that I originally had waltzed through.

Hardly any of the alternates are easy to discover, though, and I feel the system acts as a nominal difficulty rating for the game. If you are single minded and take the shortest route through the game you will polish things off in a couple of hours but if you are determined enough to crack open the hidden levels then the game will expand far beyond that, pushing your skills to reach elusive areas. Most people I imagine will finish the title but a mix of ability and determination is needed to unlock every level.

I must say that at times exploring got me into trouble as I have completely forgotten about the reinstated time limit. I’ve been merrily searching of a route to a coin, lost in my thoughts, when the music speeds up and warns me of my imminent death if I don’t hurry along.

“New” took me right back, from the moment I bounced off my first “New” gomba to the time I collected my first “New” mushroom my eyes began to mist over with thoughts of myself at ten-years-old clasping the NES controller.

However, personally I don’t think this game is a good as Super Mario 3 or World but if you like your platforming it is still worth an investment because New Super Mario Bros is a top quality example of the genre with great level design and the usual cast of colourful characters. You’ll keep picking it up, playing a few levels and leave scratching your head about how you access the secret world, but the key thing is you will always come back for more.

New Super Mario Bros is not a 10/10, that’s for sure, but somehow I don’t think it could have ever been with all the expectations heaped upon it.

8/10