A grumpy anti-hero snail is hardly the type of protagonist you’d expect to lead up a hit of 2021, but this year is full of surprises and indie top-down action-adventure title Clid the Snail does a great job subverting your expectations.
Within a world of citadels divided by species, reckless and gun-toting Clid finds himself expelled from his own and cast into the cold, war-stricken world with his firefly partner, Belu. Luckily for them, they chance upon a group of fellow outcasts aiming to rid the world of the evil slugs terrorizing it; a samurai frog, a blacksmith hedgehog, and a bat that uses earphones to talk are just a few of the unique and mysterious characters that provide great storytelling and expand this entertaining world.
Such is the intrigue provided by the conceit that I felt compelled to speak to each character at each step of the story, simply to avoid missing any amusing tidbits or background-filling story that might come with it you simply don’t know what’s coming next.
The story of course contributes to this, as you never quite feel confident that your surroundings will remain the same for long, but the whole game makes you feel this way, with a variety in level features and weapon mechanics which can just as easily have you destroying a slug lair in survival type sections with waves of enemies or puzzle sections that need to be solved with your selection of weapons and their unique characteristics.
Framing the presentation is a very appealing art style and an isometric camera angle that conveys the atmosphere of small creatures surviving in a world of humans described as ‘giants’. Whether it’s the smooth animation of grass as the wind blows through it, the blurring of the isometric-view camera to convey the feeling of size or the discarded human items that are being used in the team’s base as furniture, the presentation is a joy to experience.
Beautifully detailed levels, while admittedly small, imbue personality in its unique residents such as a futuristic cyberpunk city inhabited by technology-obsessed fish and frozen tundra by rabbits. Joining your team outcasts to help these creatures is not simply a case of search and destroy, you also need them to pay up the reward they offer you to rid them of their slug problem.
Furthermore, this snail has some bite to go along with its bark and brings the overall package together excellently with great action gameplay. Your eventual arsenal of weapons, which are large enough in number for a small army, is always introducing something new to introduce to your elongated eyeballs, but more importantly, they are very satisfying to use.
Your main weapon is a laser-guided beast that when unleashed at full charge will explode all but the largest of enemies in a glorious shower of blood and body parts that can see you roll enemy body parts down stairs and off paths – it’s far more amusing and less morbid than it sounds and makes perfect sense that its caused by our gruff protagonist.
“What the shell?”
Supplanting your all manner of death-dolling weapon is yet another instrument that can be used to best take advantage of your situation and in this case, is your natural protection – your shell – which can house some pretty epic special moves such as missiles for airstrikes and electric shocks.
These weapons are not only great for defeating the enemy but they are also used in the game’s puzzles which are specific to the area that you are in, such as a lightning gun that can charge mobile phone batteries and flame throwers that can melt frozen areas and divert lasers. An honorable mention must also be made for the little robots that can fight alongside you like a personal guard dog, that most importantly, you can stroke – good developer.
The main downside to this title is not that it’s particularly missing anything essential nor did it include anything egregiously bad – it’s simply not as long as you want it to be. The game’s linear nature means there’s little to do other than follow the story and there isn’t anything particularly different to do in a second 6-7 hour playthrough, but despite this, considering how enjoyable the playthrough was – like a rollercoaster ride you enjoy repeatedly because you know its features – you wouldn’t require too much of a push to encourage you to jump straight back in for another round. It’s just a shame that you can’t carry over all your acquired weapons that can only be acquired deeper in the story.
There are some smaller things that could have been improved, such as slightly stupid AI that means that in enclosed areas with obstacles you can pretty much run in circles to avoid enemies and the gibberish voices take some getting used to, but overall there is little to grumble about here as even these minor issues are minor are overshadowed by some of the game’s better features such as the personalities of the characters and the unique boss fights that require quick thinking and various tactics.
Creating a subdued and melancholic mood from the go the soundtrack, like the game itself, starts slowly, and might make you think that the small developer use of philosophers names for snails was showing signs of pretentiousness and misplaced concepts, but the atmosphere of its colorful world where blood and guts, witty comments and world-shaking events are an everyday occurrence, bringing you right around and by the end, positively steals the show.
Clid the Snail ticks so many boxes with its enjoyable action, great visuals and dark narrative that not even my general dislike for gibberish audio and its short play length can affect my enjoyment of it. Therefore I can only keep my fingers crossed there’s more to come from indie developer Weird Beluga Studio as there is a risk that this unique title flies under the radar, but nonetheless, this well-made adventure is one of the better indie Playstation titles and deserves a look.