Top-down twin-stick shooter Clid the Snail is plenty bizarre, but is this gastropod blaster worth your time? The Finger Guns Review.
Of all the creatures on Earth to choose to convert into an anthropomorphic style, a snail surely comes way down the list. Likely this is why it’s taken some 50 years of gaming history to get to one. It’s not like choosing a fox, or a hedgehog, or a gecko, or even a bandicoot – all of these have recognisable arms, legs, and faces. But snails, I mean, they have no arms or legs to begin with, just a face, a single long slimy foot, and a shell. That’s on a par with anthropomorphising a fish, or Earthworm Jim. Err, well clearly it can be done. Clid the Snail gives it a good go and the result is a sort of anti-hero version of Momaw Nadon, with antenna and a shell. If you don’t know who that is, brush up on your Star Wars lore, or just google it.
Clid the Snail is a top-down twin-stick shooter, that features the title character as a gun-toting grizzled snark factory on a mission to rid the continent of a plague of jacked slugs. It’s all grimdark colour schemes and badass weaponry, but it also has a relatively involved narrative to tell and world to reveal through Clid’s 8–10-hour adventure. Not something you get all that often in a twin-stick. Geometry Wars never had a story mode.
We’ve been eagerly awaiting Clid the Snail since its relatively recent announcement and were privy to early screenings too, so it’s nice to see the end result and be able to share our thoughts with you. Is it a new standard in anthro adventures, or has it bitten off more than it can chew?
So funnily enough, you play as Clid, a grumpy humanoid snail totting more weaponry than Arnold Schwarzenegger. You arrive home at the citadel of the snails looking for some bamboo juice, having been out fighting the most recent attack of a plague of slugs, only to find the snails have decided to exile you, because you are too violent. It seems killing the attacking slugs goes against the pacifist teachings of the Snail Citadel, and you have to go. No matter that they’ll die without you and they have no consideration that you were fighting to save them.
Clid sets out on a journey to the citadels of the other animal races, still looking for that bamboo juice, guided by Belu, a little Navi-type fairy, to rid the land of the slug plague that is threatening all. Well, someone’s gotta do it, and those monk-like snails sure ain’t the type. After the first level or so, Clid meets and joins forces with a peculiar gang of anthro outcasts called the Alcastor Gang, including a Chameleon called Cassius, a deaf-mute bat who wears huge human headphones from the old world to communicate, a Katana-wielding ninja frog, a wrench-toting Hedgehog, and an old Turtle, who’s pretty annoyed you killed their mouse friend during that first level. Clid is as nonchalant and unapologetic as always, and says the mouse had it coming – he was torching the entire Grasshopper citadel after all.
What follows is a sort of hub-based mission structure as you venture out to respond to pleas for help from the Citadels, who contact Alcastor and pay for the privilege of a snail coming out to deal with the slug plague. It gets interesting towards the end as has a fairly large twist which I won’t spoil here. Suffice to say, you might see it coming, but it turns the whole story around. Sadly it’s not that interesting a narrative in the first place and struggles to tell a story that would do more than push you towards the next goal. It’s also pretty cumbersome in its dialogue, exposition and scene direction. There’s a lot of tell, and plenty of times when things just happen off-screen.
For example, that opening scene. The establishing issue (the slug plague) is just there, rather than being what Hollywood would call the ‘inciting incident’ that pushes our hero into their adventure. Instead, the inciting incident is very passive, Clid being flushed out of the Snail Citadel. He’s a bit confused and just sets off looking for more juice. Hardly an incitement for the player to get emotionally invested. Sure you feel a bit put out, but not half as much as you could be.
Personally, I think this could have been a much more interesting opening. For example, why not show the slugs really attacking the citadel and then Clid going out to battle them and stage it as a tutorial. The slug plague is established in a better way, truly a dangerous menace, rather than just referred to and vaguely passive. When he’s done with the slime-shed, Clid could return, and instead of all the bamboo juice snark, he could find the Snails had literally barred the door, shouting that he’s broken the rules for the last time. That’s far more off-putting because you as the player have just saved them. Simple changes to what’s already there, but far more effective at showing what’s happening, and giving you as the player inciting motive to set off on your journey.
Overall I would have preferred Clid to be less of the snark and boring one-dimensional obsession with bamboo juice and had a more solid backstory and motive. Why is he the only violent snail? What happened in his past? The narrative only rarely delves deeper than surface-level plot, where to go next etc, but it does have some nice worldbuilding. You get a good idea of the different races, and the giants (humans) that came before. Those races all annoying speak in a kind of gibberish, not unlike the universally vilified gibberish in Biomutant. Clid himself sounds like Bane speaking in tongues on an acid trip.
I’m Coming Outta My Shell
Clid the Snail is structured around a series of 6 or so quite linear levels, strewn with enemies and pickups. If you look closely you can see a lot of interesting old human detritus in the area designs, but on the other hand, the colour scheme is dull and muddy, making it hard to see the detail and appreciate anything through the murk. The levels are detailed but despite the graphical fidelity on PS5 it all somehow lacks definition. You really will see the rough edges on characters and areas, the sharp polygons on hair and tails for example, or the strange use of health-depleting clouds around the edges of the levels.
Enemy designs run the gambit from the aforementioned beefed-up humanoid slugmen, through exploding beetles, long-range spitting flies, fleas, crabs, moles and even a few scorpions. But still everything is grey and muddy. The slugmen, as a main villainous force, struck me as dramatically dull, just grey-suited bruisers with no real flair or personality, they were simple fodder for my cannon. They could have been any grunt from almost any game.
There were a few things like that. For every time there’s a nice in-world item like bamboo juice, there’s a glaring Human-world word like medkit. I dunno about you, but if I were designing a small anthro world, medkits would be made from lichen or something, and called lichen salves for example. It stuck out like an uninspired thumb.
Slug It Out
Dealing with enemies is simple, point your right analog stick and shoot. The targeting is pretty reliable and accurate. You move with the left, and you shoot with R2 trigger, and hold it down for a charged shot on your first gun. Soon enough you have up to eight other weapons to experiment with such as a flamethrower, double-barrel shotgun, and a few laser-related cannons. Clid can carry grenades he can top up at settlements, and then lastly in your arsenal is your shell. There are four upgrades to this, that run from a missile launcher to a short-term shield, to a crazy ice block ring that instakills enemies it touches.
The trouble with combat is that controls and Clid himself, feel real slow, like he’s moving through molasses the whole time. I mean, he’s a snail, but he also has human legs – he should move a lot faster. You’ll take full advantage of your roll move, but mostly just to speed things up. Enemies move slowly, prepare their shots slowly, react slowly when surprised. Most of them just come at you, and all you have to do is back up and shoot. I don’t think I even got hit until the first boss. The difficulty does ramp up, especially in a few tower defense-type sections which then have way too many waves, and sap the last enjoyment from the process. Often I could just lead enemies around levels or in circles, while I shot them full of holes.
There are health restores and save/checkpoints everywhere, meaning that even if you did get hit, you really only need to survive for two mins to the next checkpoint.
You also have a stamina gauge, which governs your roll function and run. Meaning you can’t just constantly roll or run. Fine, but does it really serve any purpose. I can’t shoot and roll, so I wouldn’t roll constantly anyway. I question the design choice of having the stamina gauge, and what it’s really balancing or adding to the gameplay. Does there really need to be another impediment making things slower?
Other than enemies, you’ll spend your time navigating a few laser and reflection puzzles, which feel like a sort of 3D Abe’s Oddysee style, PS1-era puzzles. There are a few per level, nothing too taxing. Otherwise, collect the chests full of currency to spend on weapon upgrades, and find the four max health portions in each level. Pretty simple design overall.
A little like the muddy, drab levels, the music is very grey and one-note. For example, in level one, a single lute refrain repeats constantly through the cutscenes, puzzles, fights, and then in the snail citadel as well. Really started to get annoying. When I eventually found the lutist in the square, I wished for a punch button.
It doesn’t get very varied from there – a few more themes, but nothing of note and certainly nothing you’ll remember fondly. Sound effects are good, with some satisfying meaty noises to the guns, but nothing has the crunch of a chainsaw Lancer, or a Doom shotgun.
The only real issue I found on the PS5 I ran this on, was how easy it is on the Dualsense to accidentally charge your weapon for a moment instead of shoot, constantly causing me to not make a critical shot. You really had to fully let go of the very sensitive triggers between each shot, so I found the calibration off. Otherwise, I did not notice any use of haptics or adaptive triggers.
Hero in a Spiral Shell
Clid the Snail is a solid debut game from a creative indie startup, one that got some extra oomph from Sony and its PlayStation Talents award scheme. It’s pretty unique, tells a passable story and it’ll help you use up 8-10 hours pleasantly enough. However it is still a first game, and that shows in how rough around the edges it is, the issues with narrative and level design, the simplicity of combat in a game that really needed more speed and challenge, and the drab colour scheme and music choices. I’m certain the same devs can make incredible strides on their next project. This one just needed more flavour.
I would say add a little salt, but that might have solved all Clid’s problems and negated the need for the entire journey.
Clid the Snail is a passable twin-stick shooter with plenty of basic plot to keep you on your slimy path. But it is very rough round the edges. Simplistic combat, dated level design and a grimdark colour palette make it a little hard to see, let alone care what’s going on.
Clid the Snail is available now on PS4, PS5 (reviewed), and PC via Steam.
Developer: Weird Beluga
Publisher: Koch Media
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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