Clunky Hero is a game that manages to be pretty dang fun despite having issues that can only be described as, well, clunky.
- Title: Clunky Hero
- Release Date: January 25, 2023 (Console Versions)
- Price: $14.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated T for Teen by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch, Xbox, PlayStation, Steam, GoG
- Recommended for fans of:
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
You've got to have a lot of faith in your optimization before releasing a game called “Clunky Hero“. I mean, imagine if that's what you called your game and someone spent a few hours playing through the first section on the Switch and ran into weird issues that made the game not quite feel right. I mean, they'd have to describe it as “clunky” at that point, and that'd just be awkward for everyone, right?
A Comedic Metroidvania
Clunky Hero is a fairly straightforward 2D action exploration title that will be instantly familiar to fans of melee-focused Metroidvanias. The story kicks off with a fun intro that does its best to explain why your shirtless hero is facing off against monsters with nothing but a broom in his hands and a bucket on his head. Does it do a good job of explaining that? Not really, but Clunky Hero is a game that will always put a joke ahead of logic, so that doesn't really matter.
Humor is subjective, and so are video games, so humor in video games is about as subjective as you can get. I can't tell you if you'll find Clunky Hero funny, but I can tell you that a lot of its jokes had me hovering around “wry smile” more than “outright cackle” or even “quiet chortle”. The jokes come mostly from conversations with NPCs and often spin out from the fact that your character's only real motivations in life are finding his lost wife and consuming alcohol, usually in that order.
The jokes don't really spread out into the gameplay, which is a pretty straightforward affair. The enemies you'll face are bizarre, in an almost Through the Looking Glass sort of way, but there aren't really any “jokes” to those encounters. Instead, you'll use your broom (or other unlockable weapons) to wail on foes, most of whom can be stun-locked from a safe distance. Boss fights heighten things a bit, but pretty simple patterns lead to mashing the attack button, jumping to dodging an attack, and then mashing the attack button again.
The gameplay is pretty straightforward, all-in-all, but that's not a complaint. I like a good Metroidvania, and I even like a lot of mediocre ones. I don't need a game to push the genre forward if that's not its focus, and in Clunky Hero it's clearly not. It aspires to be a pretty good game that stands out thanks to its sense of humor and art style.
Unfortunately, I've run into quite a few weird little issues that make me question if Clunky Hero even qualifies as “pretty good”. First of all, the moment I stepped out of my main character's home and into the world the framerate was so bad that I shut the game off. Honestly, I was in control of the character for less than a minute and gave up on the game because my eyes hurt from the weird jitteriness of the screen. I eventually gave it another go and was less bothered, but the framerate, at least on the Switch, is a constant issue. I'm normally not much of a stickler for things like that, but this game has a beautiful environment that scales Mode 7 style in both the background and the foreground, and having that stutter as you move is atrocious. It's a shame because the art style is really fantastic when it's smooth, but I would happily sacrifice a lot of the detail for a more stable performance.
Other Clunky Junk
Outside of that, the other clunky concerns all stem from odd design choices and a lack of polish.
- There are no instant-healing pick-ups in the game, so you have to use an item from your inventory to heal. However, the game doesn't pause when you access your inventory so opening it is dangerous.
- Some items heal you over time and will continue boosting your health bar while your corpse lies dead on the ground.
- Dying doesn't always mean death, though, as several times my character has just started moving around on his own after I died.
- Multiple times I've gotten stuck on some piece of geometry so that I could jump, but not move left or right on the ground or in the air.
- When running from one screen to another, you'll sometimes run into an enemy before the screen fades back from black.
- Items you can pick up in the environment are shown at their appropriate size and without any kind of highlighting. This art style makes spotting a beer mug really difficult.
- You have to find maps in the environment and then open them from your inventory in order to actually see the map. If I find a map, just give me the map!
Alright look, I'm just going to come out and say it. Clunky Hero is a clunky game. It's a janky game. It's a game where you heal your character by finding breast-shaped rocks in the environment. It's a game that's always going to choose style over substance, often to the detriment of how it feels to play the game. But despite all of that, I'm kind of having a good time with it. It's just silly enough, just dumb enough, and just okay enough that I think I'm going to keep playing it, even when a dumb joke or a soft lock makes me groan.