June 15, 2024
A 2D Metroidvania set in a fantasy world – Clunky Hero takes a stab at comedy and ends with a murder charge. The Finger Guns review.

Developed by Chaosmonger Studio, Clunky Hero has been in Steam Early Access since 2021. Now the game’s ready for its full release landing on consoles and PC. I had the game described to me as The Monty Python meets Hollow Knight, and in some ways I could see it – maybe if I squinted. Overall though, I was excited to dive into a Metroidvania-style game as they more often than not land well with me, but I guess clunky is the optimum word.

Rufus and Clunk

The game opens to a medieval/fantasy setting that breaks down the start to the game through an orotund old-English voice-over as most epic tales do. Rufus, the peasant protagonist lives his pleasant life with his wife Brunhilde (who’s described as someone who’s not exactly “pretty” and “the boss of the house” on the Steam page). However, this isn’t the happy ever after they were hoping as The Evil One Who Should Not Be Named – I guess Voldemort didn’t trademark that – grabs Brunhilde from their home and turns her into… “some sort of hideous duck face girl”.

Rufus reaches for a bucket, placing it on his head. Then grabs Brunhilde’s broom and sets out on a quest to save her. At this point, I was already thinking to myself that these are pretty out of touch 2010s-era of online misogyny, but whatever – comedy right? However, it doesn’t get much better or funnier in any regards. Rufus is an unlikable, obnoxious, arrogant, dim-witted protagonist and I loathed to see what his dialogue was next. Out of place commentary of a Priest character being an unflattering stereotype with no basis. Random “SJW” rhetoric. Fourth wall breaking that I wish I could plaster over.

The comedy lands perfectly to pre-teens who think that punching each other in the nards and telling women to “get back in the kitchen” are the peaks of hilarity. I’d give it a pass if maybe Rufus wasn’t posed as this hero that we’re playing as – but he is – we’re supposed to be rooting for him. The game ends exactly how you expect it to making it an overall grating, predictable story that I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities about. Which is a shame as the gameplay has some qualities that made my time with Clunky Hero not completely unenjoyable.

Going on an Adventure

As I previously mentioned, Clunky Hero is a 2D Metroidvania. Progressing through the game and completing quests from NPCs will garner you new abilities. Some of these are new methods of offensive abilities such as a ground pound, ranged attacks whilst the others are new traversal mechanics like a double jump, wall cling or dash. The early game is rough when all you have is attack and jump. On top of this, the only way of discovering maps to show your location and the surroundings can only be found through exploration or buying them from shops. This made the claustrophobic camera angle that focuses too much on the character, and not enough of the level hard to navigate if you don’t have said map. They’re also all broken up by separate screens, so if you were to go to a different stage in the same area, you’d have to find that map too. I felt discouraged to explore despite it being a core feature.

As well as that, the only way to protect you from dying and losing all your progress is finding a save point, which end up being far and few between. In some instances, I needed to progress with no healing items and only 2HP left, meaning I needed to get through almost a whole area littered with enemies and traps before potential safety; and if you’ve not got a map to navigate, you may find yourself unintentionally doing a no-hit run of the game. However, when the abilities are unlocked from boss fights, the dopamine of using your new powers in areas you’ve been through already starts to hit.

Back to Backtracking

You’ll eventually get a ranged ability where you’ll use your armpit stink to shoot at enemies. Though the bulk will be spamming ‘X’ till they dies. The best method of fight is to be in a specific range where your attack hits but the enemy misses. It’s a little mindless and the only times I was bested were when enemies spawned in as I land from above. Boss fights get a little more interesting as they’ll usually have three different attacks where you can read their pattern to know which one it’ll be. But without a boss HP bar you’re just blindly attacking till it’s over. 

The platforming elements are okay, the Clunky Hero does control with pin-point precision with a jump and then double-jump that makes traversing through the areas satisfying. However, the level design usually squanders it by having strange sized areas that makes your jump collide into the ceiling, blocking your trajectory, then potentially missing the moving platform and dying in a pit. It didn’t happen too often, but when other elements aren’t firing at 100% as well, it makes situations like this stand out even more.

Beautiful Bard-ard

Clunky Hero’s Steam description states that it has lovely hand-drawn-looking graphics. The levels look potentially hand crafted, with neat looking background vistas that enhance the visual art style. There are 9 different areas to explore, all distinct enough from each other but it doesn’t necessarily set itself apart from other games. The Clunky Hero himself – Rufus – sports a unique Conan the Barbarian style look, if Conan wore a bucket over his head. It’s not explained why, I guess just funny. Platforms you traverse on most of the time just wind up being a floating pole structure in thin air, which feels a little lacklustre. Other levels have proved to be better designed by integrating the environment with the platforms like the Dark Forest using vines as platforms.

Although, the biggest offenders are the enemy types. Wow. From flannel-wearing-“hipsters”, to Pumpkin Jack rip-offs to literal blobs. The enemies are so uninspired, derivative, out of place sometimes, but all have such grating death screams. When the majority of your time spent is killing them, it really got on my nerves. With that said, the music in the game successfully fulfils the medieval fantasy. Flutes, lutes and driving drums enforce the epic journey you’ve embarked on. It’s by default quiet but it swells during the boss fights giving the game a huge sense of scale. It was the most immersive factor about the game, a tone I wish proceeded in other aspects.

Clunky Zero

My criticisms of Clunky Hero were not to tear down the work that Chaosmonger Studio has done. Whilst all comedy is subjective, certain ground rules are in place for balance and an even playing field. Most of the comedy just punches down and makes weird criticisms that aid in diminishing any progress we’ve made in the field. I’m not on a soapbox claiming to be king of comedy, but tonally we don’t need out of context societal critics in a fantasy land that ideally doesn’t suffer the same shortcomings because it’s not real. It comes off as too jaded or contrarian to really get the Beavis and Buttheads to snort.

The game itself however has a decent structure as a metroidvania and some of the toilet humour works because that’s just goofy and in-character. Even though I mentioned the combat to be a little one-note, sometimes mindless hack and slash is just the type you need and it’s pulled off well enough. 

It’s a tonal hodgepodge, almost completely unfunny in every attempt, but a half-decent metroidvania structure is Clunky Hero’s saving grace. Don’t expect to find magic in this fantasy land, but you can enjoy the game for how it plays. 

Clunky Hero is out now on Nintendo Switch (review platform), PS4, Xbox One and PC (Steam)

Developers: Chaosmonger Studio
Publishers: Chaosmonger Studio

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.

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