I’ve been a massive fan of the “collectathon” games from the ’90s and early 2000s since they took over consoles like the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie are my stand-out favourites in the genre, so when I heard that Clive N’ Wrench was inspired by these Rare Inc. greats and titles like Jak & Daxter, I was immediately interested.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing in your 30s and I was searching for that special feeling while playing this game by Dinosaur Bytes Studio and Numskull Games. Though it does falter on some of its potential, Clive N’ Wrench still largely succeeds in feeling like a 3D adventure classic while also forging its own path.
An Adventure Through Time
Clive N’ Wrench wastes no time in getting the story and adventure going. As the dynamic duo, you’re tasked with stopping the evil Dr. Daucus. He’s messing with time and space and throwing the world into turmoil! Much like the titles this game is inspired by, it’s not really the most compelling and unique tale to tell, but that’s ok; it’s really about the adventure and discovery you have along the way.
Clive N’ Wrench operates with no spoken dialogue and delivers the story beats and character moments through text and fun and witty sound effects in place of voices. It’s one of the many ways it shows its inspiration on its sleeve and truly made me feel like I was playing Banjo-Kazooie again.
From the get-go, you’re thrust into a 50’s era refrigerator that portals you to a hub world. This is where you’ll find what feels like countless different regions and aesthetics waiting to be explored. As with many 3D adventure titles in the past, you begin with what could essentially be “World 1” and you collect items in order to unlock the next world and so on and so forth.
The best part of Clive N’ Wrench’s approach to these worlds is their vastly different look and feel. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring areas such as the old-timey town and being shrunk down to bug size and exploring a house’s gaming room, kitchen, living room, and ventilation system. Variety is the key here and the worlds I just mentioned are literally just the beginning.
The Monkey On Your Back
The gameplay of Clive N’ Wrench is less varied but still has its charm and appeal. Regardless of what world you traversing, you’ll be tasked with collecting hundreds of stopwatches (similar to notes in Banjo-Kazooie or coins in Super Mario), and various other items to check off your list.
I quickly realized that there were so many stopwatches, I couldn’t possibly collect them all. But, thankfully due to some fun and accessible world design, many of them are situated in a convenient location to help guide you to the next task or larger collectable. In essence, they’re needed for progression, but most are not hidden behind unnecessary difficulty or incredibly challenging puzzles. Because of this, I was able to snag most collectables in each individual world. It’s a nice touch to not only make the game more accessible for players of different skill levels but also create a less stressful experience overall.
The various worlds you explore are filled with lots of opportunities to scale large structures, climb poles, make big jumps with the help of the monkey on your back, and smack enemies to smithereens. Most of this works quite well and most of the time it feels rewarding. I say “most” because Clive N’ Wrench suffers from some frustrating inconsistencies. Some gaps seem easy and simple enough to make, but the “float” or fly mechanic that helps you drift through the air like Dixie Kong or Kazooie, doesn’t always feel responsive or effective enough. I also found grabbing onto ledges didn’t always register when it felt like they should have. Sometimes the responsiveness of a jump or the running mechanics felt far too “floaty” and had me circling back 3-5 times to a spot I figured I should successfully tackle on my first try.
Despite this, traversing and making my way through each world was still enjoyable. Clive N’ Wrench still delivers in most of its gameplay offerings, including some really fun boss battles. These not only change up the pace but often the type of gameplay and even the perspective. Instead of being behind the shoulder, you are sometimes on a 2D plane while dipping and dodging projectiles. This was a lot of fun and was totally unexpected just a couple of hours into the game.
There are a number of inconsistencies I experienced as well, most of which stem from the janky nature and lack of polish throughout Clive N’ Wrench. There were many times I walked or landed on a surface that was damaging to my character, but I didn’t know why. During these scenarios, I found it hard to know how much life I was losing and when, because Clive N’ Wrench wouldn’t always respond to being hit or the collision detection would feel off. But similar to the traversal frustrations I listed above, I still didn’t feel like these instances it broke the game or overall experience for me. On top of that, the checkpoint and respawns are quite forgiving and really minimize the occasional frustrations.
Clive N’ Wrench‘s Little Big Adventure Time
As I mentioned earlier in my review, Clive N’ Wrench thrives in its creativity. Sure, the story may not be incredible, but at least it lets you explore a ton of different worlds and defeat a wide variety of baddies.
Clive N’ Wrench looks a little dated at times, with graphical glitches here and there and a camera that mostly works to your advantage (don’t get me wrong though, it’s far better than the 3D adventure games that inspired it). Clive N’ Wrench and the main supporting characters look decent, but not all that great during close-ups and in cutscenes. Thankfully where it counts the most, while in action, everything feels and looks friendly, colourful, and vibrant. Each world is different and brings some excellent variety to the sometimes repetitive nature of the gameplay. I didn’t care that I was jumping on another building or a table to collect an additional 100+ stopwatches, it was still fun and it was still a blast to explore.
On top of that, Clive N’ Wrench has a great sense of humour. There were dozens of times that I found easter eggs on set-dressing items. One example was a video game called “Ponker’s Bad Breath Day,” a clear homage to the infamous Conker’s Bad Fur Day for the Nintendo 64. This is one of many examples of the love, care, thoughtfulness, and desire to make this game fun from all angles. It shows, and I appreciated it each and every time.
Despite some jank and hit-and-miss gameplay experiences, I still feel like Dinosaur Bytes Studio created an amazing love letter to games from 20-25 years ago. Clive N’ Wrench is a great example of creating and iterating on what you love. While it may not be perfect, it provides hours of enjoyment in the 3D adventure genre that hasn’t thrived in years.
If picking up an N64 or PS2 controller is not in the cards, there’s no better way to show a younger generation why games like this from your childhood are special. And whether you play this on your own time or with them, there’s a lot of fun to be had with Clive N’ Wrench.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: PlayStation 5
Great variety of worlds to explore
Fun traversal and puzzle solving
Good sense of humour and nostalgia
Accessible for gamers of all ages
Could use some polish in both gameplay and presentation