Clive 'N' Wrench is a throwback 3D platformer created by one developer, Rob Wass, working for over a decade. As you might imagine from that, the end result is both heartfelt and fiddly. It's a fascinating trip back to the glory days of the PS1 and N64 collectathon platformers that the developer clearly loves. It's also filled with glitches and floaty jumps that are hard to land. It has input lag at times, and if you're playing on Switch there's a lot of loading.
Yes, absolutely. I get all of this. But I have already lost one morning to Clive 'N' Wrench, and, reader? I suspect I am going to lose another. That's because Clive 'N' Wrench, for all its problems, is a return to something I have discovered that I really enjoy - the expansive worlds of old platformers.
The first level is a perfect example. Clive 'N' Wrench throws you through a bunch of different time periods, I gather, but it kicks off with a sort of Honey I Shrunk the Kids pastiche. You've got a kitchen, living room and bathroom to explore, but you're absolutely tiny. It feels like Banjo Kazooie mixed with Micro Machines. I leap from sponges in the sink and dance past gas hobs. I climb chairs to get onto breakfast tables. I navigate the toothbrush pot by the bathroom mirror.
I love this stuff because of the obvious thrill that the developer found in rendering an entire house of things in the game, and then letting sofas, coffee tables and record players stand in for fantasy landscapes of mountains and ravines and all that jazz. I also love the fact that a lot of the rooms in this section are fairly huge spaces, which is perfect for a collectathon. I stand up on top of the sofa and just spin the camera around, working out where I'm headed next and how I want to get there. The platforming is iffy, the combat is a bit of a fudge, and the collectables themselves have to provide a lot of the impetus to continue, but it doesn't matter. For a few moments, Clive 'N' Wrench reminds me of the first Crysis, of all things. It's about surveying a terrain, picking a path, and working out how to get there.
Later levels have their own charms. I'm particularly fond of the dip into Victoriana, which puts me in mind of wandering through the backlots of an old film company, the sets, the props, the sense of possibility. To be here is enough, it doesn't really matter that jumping can be a faff and swimming doesn't work that well. I'm getting to explore someone else's imagination - someone else's ideal game.
It's quite a strange experience playing Clive 'N' Wrench, then. Actually, maybe it's stranger still. Because here's the thing: I didn't love the super collectathon-centric platformers back in the day. I loved Mario, sure, but I never clicked with Banjo or Jak and Daxter or most of the others. And yet I've clicked with Clive 'N' Wrench, and I think that's because I know the story of its design a little. I'm not just exploring an old genre, but rather exploring how one person remembers an old genre that they really adored. And I am willing to put up with a bit of floatiness to that end.