Monday, 20 August 2012

Claw (PC) - Guest Post

This time last year, I played Interpose, a naff shmup with animated cats in it. It was hard work finding a game that could top that in terms of cat quotient, but I think I've found one in Claw, aka Kapitan Pazur.

Claw Title Screen
Look at the box! (Mobygames link) How could anyone not want to play that!

The music thunders into life with old 90s wave-tabley sampled pirate music, and there's rendered pirate ships abound!

Are we going to get horrific rendered pirates to match?

No way! Animated pirate cats!

The poor cats are being hounded by the Cocker Spaniards, and it's not going well.

The survival of the cats depends on the quick wits of their calm and collected leader, the legendary Captain Nathaniel J. Claw.

"CLEAR THE DEBRIS! RELOAD CANNONS AND GIVE 'EM ANOTHER ROUND FROM OUR BROAD SIDE!"

Hey! That's not what he looked like on the box!

"Nearly all the cannons were destroyed after that last attack, sir! There won't be enough to do any damage!"

That is one unimpressed cat.

Claw is a difficult cat to please at the best of times. Take a look at what expression they picked for the rerelease box. Meanwhile, over in Poland, he becomes a happy ginger fellow. Figure that out! (external links)

The dogs are coming, Claw! What are you gonna do?!

"Sir?"

"READY THE SMALL ARMS AND PREPARE FOR ATTACK!"

Monolith really had some guts making Claw.

It's our first game, guys... what'll we have?

We'll have 3D rendered pirate ships...

And animated cutscenes with SWORD-FIGHTING CATS!

We'll just hire one of those animation companies. They're cheap, right?

This reminds me of one time I stayed at a friends house as a kid, and we ended up staying up all night watching foreign kids' cartoons on their fancy satellite TV. Recreate the experience for yourself (YouTube link)!

Despite his extraordinary production values, Claw gets a large flaming piece of debris to the back of the head and wakes up in the clutches of his sworn enemy, LeRauxe.

"Well, well. This is indeed a rare treat... Captain Nathaniel J. Claw. I'm sorry but I must inform you that your ship is lost and your crew was left... ah, how I should I say this..."

"... indisposed."

"YOU CAN'T HOLD ME, LERAUXE! I'LL HAVE MY VENGEANCE!"

They lock up poor Claw in a beautifully painted cartoon backdrop.

Tomorrow, he will be executed for crimes against the King.

But what's this! Claw, the unfathomable badass that he is, has the ability to pick any lock with his claws!

Come to think of it, can't all cartoon cats do that?

And he's got a crazy kind of luck. The dastardly dogs have locked him in a cell with a treasure map! They're going to learn the folly of giving the condemned man a reason to live.

All he needs to do now is to get the door open and then he'll administer the beating of a lifetime to every dog unlucky enough to cross his path.

Oh, right, the game. Wait! There's a game too!?

Talk about value for money! It's a cartoon and a game!

A platform game, to be exact. I've seen a couple of these before.

I think that dog's on to me. Time to spring into action!

Splat! A swipe of the blade and the dog goes flying through the air, spewing giant coins everywhere.

"Weakling!"

Claw himself controls really well. He does exactly what you tell him to and there's no inertia. It's absolutely nothing like the Zorro game I played last year. I can smack enemies with the sword, but I don't think I can block.

There's loads of layers of parallax scrolling going on here. Those pillars, for example:

They like to do this.

Are those two blue spikes in front of Claw the decorative piece of pillar, or a pair of blue shoes getting ready to kick Claw in the face?

Jumping between crumbling platforms that don't come back? That's a little harsh for the first level!

It'd be nice if the camera showed just a little more of what was in front of me.

Lookit goofy mouse.

These guys hang around next to cannons and blast me in the chest before I know what's happening.

"Scallawag!"

Claw's got a cool voice. He's not once said "yarr" which, together with the fact HE'S A CAT KICKING SOMEONE'S FACE IN, makes him the coolest pirate I've ever seen.

Alright, I give up. You've got me.

The game's way faster than I expected. I'm leaping all over the place like a... cat. I can even jump and shoot at the same time! Eat lead, skull!

The skull was actually treasure that I missed. Whoops.

Is all this treasure left out in the open to act as a form of torture for the greedy imprisoned pirates?

Where the heck am I going anyway? This level seems to go on forever in all directions.

Crunch.

Maybe it is a bit like Zorro after all. Good job there's checkpoints everywhere.

I've escaped the dreaded prison La Roca and found another piece of the treasure map! The game saves my progress and I continue my anti-heroic journey to exact my vengeance!

Rightwaaaaard!

Wooden spikes? They're fine. They're just platforms.

Tar pits, on the other hand... Instant death. You're lucky if you see Claw disappear into the ground he moves so fast.

It's not clear at all where you have to go. Sometimes those tree trunks are passable and sometimes they're not. There's blind leaps everywhere, too.

At least I've found a fire sword! Blam blam!

Geronimo!

Are they safe spikes down there? I have no idea! This could lead anywhere!

All the enemies seem to be shaded in a slightly different style to me which makes them look a bit weird when they're nearby.

Claw's got tons and tons of animations frames for everything.

I've got four different melee moves and they're chosen randomly. You've got to be almost touching the enemies for any of them to connect, which sucks because the enemies give you contact damage. At least, I think they do. The health gauge is so far away and so difficult to read that I can't keep track of it.

He doesn't look very comfortable in that uniform; he's breathing really heavily. He could just be SEETHING WITH RAGE though.

More damned tar pits?!

Enough with the screens full of emptiness leading to instant death!

"MAGIC CLAW."

Claw can cast magic? No bloody wonder he didn't think the dogs would be able to hold him!

It's limited uses and instantly kills anything in front of me, just like the pistol. Which reminds me.

I really don't shoot people in cold blood as often as I should.

It's LeRauxe! I've found him! Somehow!

I thought the controls would change to a slower one-on-one duel system like Prince of Persia, but I'm still using the wacky platformer controls and hammering the melee button like crazy. I can only use my sword in this duel, my pistol's useless against him.

LeRauxe's a spry one. Every time I get anywhere near, he leaps over my head and stabs me in the back. I somehow get him trapped up against the wall and stab him repeatedly. It's cheating, but I'm a pirate so it's okay.

He's taking a LOT of hits. I'm up to twenty... thirty... forty... This is ridiculous.

Kapow! That was for my crew, you bastard!

Huh, I want to want to like this game, but I don't. I'd watch the hell out of a Claw cartoon, but I'm in no rush to play this game any further. There's something wrong about Claw and I can't work out what it is.

Maybe it's the MIDI music? It's great music and full of detail but it's forced through a lousy set of samples. The voices, sound effects and ambient sounds are all present and correct. Claw himself isn't annoying in the least.

Maybe it's the blind drops and spiked pits? I seemed to spend a lot of time climbing directly upwards into hazards, and having to jump down vast distances without any time to react. The camera sticks Claw in the dead centre of the screen which tests the players reflexes a bit too much.

Maybe it's the graphical style? Every piece of terrain within a level looks the same. It was easy to see what I was doing on the first level because the background was dark, but I could barely see Claw on the second.

Is it possible that the game is too detailed? I couldn't say 'garish', because Knuckles Chaotix is garish. Chaotix is dangerous to look at, Claw is just difficult.

The game seems to be made well enough. It's got reconfigurable controls and decent joystick support. It's even got save games, level select and an animated cutscene viewer.

I'm frustrated that I can't work out what's missing. It could be something as simple as 'there's no jump sound effect'. Whatever it is, the game just doesn't work without it.

Sorry, Claw.

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