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Ninja Bee
Ninja Bee
GENRE: Platformer
PLAYERS:   1-4
July 19, 2006
 Written by Glenn Wigmore  on August 08, 2006

Review: In the words of Jim Rome: ?Alright, clones, enough of your Cloning Clyde resets??

Cloning Clyde comes as the second Xbox Live Arcade entry from the people at NinjaBee, the developer who previously crafted Outpost Kaloki X. Kaloki was certainly a different sort of game, combining micromanagement gameplay with some bizarre jokes and an interesting graphical style. Much of that quirky heritage has been preserved in Cloning Clyde, as you'll take on the role of titular character as he bids to escape the clutches of some scientists who've been cloning him (in exchange for the $20 he was given to participate). With the experiments creating so many Clydes and obviously not being on the level, it's up to you to help all of these clones escape. The humorous themes and feature set Cloning Clyde certainly provide good value, but the gameplay does get repetitious after a while, no matter how hard it tries. Still, NinjaBee has proven that they can generate interesting ideas and include great online features to augment them.

Basically, the 35 single-player levels of Cloning Clyde are little platform-style worlds that house several security drones, as well as several types of items and points of interest. The goal of each area is to destroy all of the security robots (by kicking them), as well as collecting some goofy action figures, and then finally helping all of the clones escape. The game definitely takes some cues from the Oddworld franchise, and this is very apparent with the layout of the levels, odd sound effects, and constant lever pulling. Of course, one Clyde running around pulling levers, opening doors, and collecting items would be OK, but things get quite a bit sillier when you have 5 or 10 clones to think about. You do not control all of the Clydes at one time, but rather have to switch (using the Y button) to each one in order to get them to move. This can make things stagnate a bit, but the reason for this design choice ties into much of the puzzle solving.

More often than not, you'll have to get the Clydes to stand on various switches or pressure-sensitive panels in order to operate doors, catapults, and machines. Each area always has the requisite number of Clydes to complete the challenges, and you'll be using the Y button often in order to switch to another Clyde so that he can investigate new parts of a level. Of course, one main puzzle you'll have to solve in each level is helping the Clydes escape, and this is usually fairly easy, but does get harder, somewhat, as you progress through the levels. Essentially, many levels will start you with several Clydes, and then others will be released by pulling levers. When you have all of the Clydes and have solved the other collecting and destruction puzzles, you have to guide the Clydes to the nearest escape hatch. You will always need one Clyde to actually leave the current area and go back to the level selection room, and he will escape through a separate teleporter.

Another little wrinkle comes from the cloning machines present in many levels. What these contraptions will provide is the ability to splice your clones with various animals and objects. Some examples include chickens (for a flying ability), powder kegs (bang, bang), and frogs (when you need to go for a dip), and sometimes you'll have to do this to every clone in the area for them to escape. All of these special Clyde variants are usually tied into a puzzle or two, with the chicken helping with out of reach places and the powder keg blowing up obstacles, just to name a couple.

The game comes together fairly well, but the charm of what NinjaBee is striving for does start to wane after a few hours. The most effective way to play the game seemed to be in intervals of 30 to 45 minutes, especially since the levels can all start to blend into one another. On the one hand, NinjaBee is certainly to be commended for packing in quite a few levels and even several different gameplay features (cloning, collecting, platforming), but in the same respect, Clyde's limited abilities and the general ease of the opposition takes away any real weight the game might've had. It's pretty cool to be shot by a rocket and sucked down a drain, but when you realize that this is all the levels will really offer it sort of leaves the game feeling a bit empty.

There's some charm to be found with the humorous elements of the game, including the always-visible butt crack on Clyde, and the funny little notes he leaves himself (and they're always signed by him, in different in silly ways). Additionally, the goofy animations of Clyde as he's kicked, thrown, and generally abused are fun little touches. But again, even this layer of comedy still suffers after the initial few play sessions, and you just get the feeling that the game's levels and story-telling could've been a little sharper and more dynamic. But on the whole, from such a small development team, the game achieves its goals, and this is likely the feeling of those who helped make it a reality.

Cloning Clyde can certainly take a decent amount of time if you want it to, especially with each level requiring the destruction of the security drones, collection of figures, and escape of the clones. Additionally, each level features a par time ? think Marble Blast Ultra ? and some of them are pretty, so these definitely provide a good challenge for those who want to replay it.

Additional replay value can be found from the multiplayer section of Cloning Clyde. The fact that this game even included a multiplayer section is definitely to its credit, and playing the game co-operatively with several others players can provide a bit more silliness, especially since you can hit and throw your friends (always fun). The co-op did appear a bit buggy, with certain item collection and task completion statistics not quite adding up (one player seemed to have to collect everything to advance). Still, any co-o is a great thing in my book, and NinjaBee was wise to include it. The versus is also a decent addition, with several different battle arenas that allow up to four players to duke it out and attempt to destroy the others' security drones. The inclusion of cloning and splicing into those mode is quite fun, and four players seemed to make it work the best.

Cloning Clyde presents about as well as any other arcade game, and the visuals of the in-game levels are actually quite good. The graphics use a sort of 3D/2D style that was used in Outpost Kaloki X, and they are very serviceable for the character design and quirky environments found in the game. The animations, as said before, look pretty good, and there's even some funny close ups of Clyde as he's converted into a chicken, sheep, etc. The sound design isn't quite as sharp, but doesn't really detract all that much. The voice quips from Clyde and the effects within the environment sound clean enough, but you'll probably be tired of the voice quips fairly quickly ? they should've used a voice actor to make the character a little more substantial (imagine the conversations he could have with himself!). Additionally, the lack of any real music in the game is a shame, as even something minimalist would've worked. There are little tunes at the start of a level, but they are only 15-second samples that just set the initial tone.

The achievements in Cloning Clyde are quite varied, and you'll have to collect most items, beat the par times, and play online if you want to collect them all. Nothing should prove too difficult, but the par times can be quite dastardly.

On the whole, these sorts of games are refreshing to see on Xbox Live Arcade, especially because they demonstrate originality and provide some interesting online modes. The features of Cloning Clyde are certainly good, and the gameplay works for a while, but a little more shape to the story and game experience would've really helped grab gamers for the long haul. Still, it's hard not to support games like this because they achieve their ends, and they provide original content for Live Arcade.

Bottom Line
Certainly worth supporting content like this, especially since it provides some great online features and original ideas. The game won't work for everyone and may not hook you in like other XBLA games, but it definitely stands as a unique experience that achieves what it set out to do.

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