[url= http://www.gog.com/game/clarc ] CLARC [/url]
Summary: An easy-to-learn yet satisfyingly challenging 8-12 hour puzzler with a cute little story about a brave and determined maintenance robot who falls in love with a nuclear missile. She is the bomb! You are the brains!
Presentation wise, Clarc does not need to hide and is a very attractive looking game featuring 3d graphics with cel shading: Imagine Wall-E in Borderlands. Everything is crisp and clear and easy on the eyes which is incredibly beneficial when things get complicated. Clarc’s visuals are particularly impressive compared to puzzle games with minimalist graphics like Hexcells, Lyne, Edge or Sokobond. In terms of gameplay, Clarc is essentially a game about moving around boxes. Yes, there are probably more indie puzzlers and “move boxes from A to B” games than there is sand in the desert. Even adventure games like Broken Sword 3, action adventures like Little Big Adventure and strategy games like Incubation have their fair share of box puzzles. Clarc does not bring anything radically new to the table yet manages to stand out from the pack with its personality and excellent design.
The gameplay is quite similar to Blocks That Matter and Tetrobot & Cho so if you enjoyed those two games, it’s a given Clarc won’t let you down. Aside from moving around boxes, You also get to redirect lasers with special boxes and send laser beams into and out of portal gates but not anywhere as complex as the logic gates in Prelogate (thanks to Ghorphm for the recommendation!) or SpaceChem. Clarc is not a hardcore game so if you feel daunted by overly long or difficult puzzle games which require a lot of stamina to get you anywhere close to the finishing line, don’t worry. This game is challenging enough to occasionally make you throw your hands up in frustration but never so aggravating that you’ll rage quit due to seemingly impossible tasks. With enough determination, even casual players can hack this game, and yet I guarantee that experienced puzzle fans won’t get bored due to a lack of challenge. Hardcore puzzle freaks on the other hand aren’t going to find much resistance here.
Despite the simple mechanics, there is a surprising variety in the level and puzzle design: there are very basic stealth segments, combat, timed puzzles, even escort missions. Due to an impressively well balanced learning curve and ideal total length of the game, Clarc neither overstays its welcome nor feels too short.
I don’t like action puzzles at all and yet I made to the end, only if you’re 100% allergic to action puzzles and can’t handle anything more turbulent than a newspaper Sudoku would I advice you to stay away from this game.
Things can occasionally get hectic because some of the action puzzles have a narrow margin of error but it’s less a matter of manual platforming dexterity than it is about planning your moves several steps ahead, concentration, situational awareness and precise timing. You’re inevitably going to get obliterated by purple laser beams many times whenever your brain didn’t have enough to RAM to manage all the changing elements of the scene (moving laser beams, moving enemy robots). I died a whole lot in this game because my brain apparently doesn’t have enough RAM, especially during segments when you have to run a gauntlet of rotating lasers and pick up boxes on the way and possibly evade enemy robots who move faster than you do and shoot at you with ranged lasers. All this sounds more aggravating than it is because once you have a plan, all the tasks are quite manageable and while there are some iffy spots I had to try a dozen times, there were no unreasonable difficulty spikes that disrupted the flow of the game completely. Unike in Blocks That Matter where the player gets sucker punched by that nefarious - and thankfully optional - Mother killer blob level very early into the game, Clarc players get to experience a gentle increase in difficulty.
In the total 24 levels (not counting the epilogue level) there was only one super cheesy and super simple puzzle in level 16 that stopped me dead in my tracks because I couldn’t see the solution right away. In level 19 and 24 I had two more moments of frustration because I had to do the same segment over and over again and kept dying due to my poor timing and lack of focus. But even in these tougher spots you usually don’t lose more than a minute of gaming time, thanks to the very humane checkpoint system – the game’s biggest saving grace for people like me who like a moderate challenge but don’t like needless punishment and are absolutely opposed to redundant replaying of lengthy segments. I angrily cursed at the game many times but Clarc has enough charm to see you through any frustrating moments.
Having a simple and entirely linear but cute storyline really helps to keep up your motivation and desire to complete the game. Instead of just moving from one puzzle room to the next, there is a basic narrative with some light comedy and sparse dialogue, just enough to brake the tension created by the “stressful” puzzle solving. Giving up was never an option, as Clarc himself says “I must not fail!”
The game controls are perfectly serviceable. You move in tile-sized increments and you can only turn 90 degrees. Everything happens in real time, unlike roguelike games such as Bionic Dues or Sword of the Stars: The Pit. WASD moves you in the 4 directions, the left and right arrow are for turning on the spot and the spacebar is for picking up boxes. You can’t rebind the controls and there’s absolutely no need to do so. There’s also no need for a gamepad, I used the keyboard controls without any trouble. Just keep in mind that once you move, you can’t stop until you have arrived on the next tile. Same goes for turning on the spot, you can’t do anything until you have turned a full 90 degrees. You’ll quickly get used to it as it couldn’t be any simpler than that.
There really is no replay value here but you can expect to get 8-12 hours of playtime out of the game which is decent enough for the current price of $7.99. I played this at a rather leisurely pace and would estimate my playtime at around 10-12 hours. It’s an ideal game to play in short bursts, most levels are short enough to play in half an hour or less. I don’t recommend stubbornly trying to finish Clarc in one go. You still need a fresh mind to tackle some of the more challenging parts and keep up the enjoyment.
As for bugs & glitches, I only experienced lag one single time for a couple seconds and got stuck once and couldn’t move in any direction, other than that Clarc was smooth sailing all around. I did find one dead end when I carried a useless box over a bridge instead of the little worker drone I was supposed to escort to safety. The bridge closed behind me and I had to restart the level, only lost about a minute so not too bad. It’s also possible that you misplace boxes in such a way that laser barriers are going to cut you off from progressing, in which case you have no option but to commit suicide by laser and restart from the nearest checkpoint which is usually very close resulting in only very little time lost. All in all, there is just about nothing that stands in the way of a full recommendation for this gem of a game. As I said above, stay away only if you wholeheartedly hate action puzzles, otherwise do yourself a favor and get this game! Full list