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Clu Clu Land

Released: 1985
Company: Nintendo
Genre: Puzzle

As far as puzzle games go, this one goes down in the books being the weirdest one I've ever played. And while most of us NES players gravitate towards a game's ability to go outside the lines and do things no other game has done, I fear Clu Clu Land may just be too innovative and unique for its own good.

I don't fully understand the plot (my copy came without a manual, go fig), but it doesn't seem to figure into the details of the game much. You play this blob-like thingy (looks more like a lobster than anything else), as you swim around a room, trying to uncover gold bars that draw out a picture when all of them are found. It's sort of a combination of Connect-the-Dots and Pac Man, and I'd be a liar if I said that the idea wasn't promising.

However, promising is as far as this game can take the concept, largely because of the other "unique" facets of the game. The biggest and most hampering of those is the bizarre method of controlling the blob-lobster-thingy. Instead of simply being able to move him in the same manner as Pac Man or any other video game character for that matter, getting this guy to change directions is a matter of swinging around a pole and letting go at the right time, changing your momentum. This wouldn't be much of a problem, if not for two things: First, every level is timed (you have approximately 2 minutes to complete the level before losing a life, after which you get an extra minute with each life spent), so you simply can't have the patience to swing around a pole indefinitely while you wait for the coast to clear. Also, every level after the first is done at a near breakneck pace, so in order to get to any predetermined spot your reflexes have to be at the cyborg level.

As a result, the game becomes excessively hard. Later levels force you to negotiate 4 urchins (urchins:CCL::ghosts:Pac Man) instead of two, and still later they throw in the Q*Bert rule: Cruise over a bar twice and you turn it off. A Game Genie is a must to get through any significant amount of levels (and forget what the book says - use the Infinite Lives and Infinite Time codes concurrently), and I still give up once I reach the "No Double" levels. Also, keep in mind that there are two other hazards present in each level: Trampoline thingies that not only send you screaming in the other direction when encountered, but also prevent you from latching on to either endpoint when swinging; and pits which not only create the aforementioned urchins, but cost you a life if you pass over them (unless you're swinging on a pole while over them).

However, the enjoyment level is mystifying. I know that the game is tough, and I know that I can never become accustomed to the controls, but still I have a blast whenever I play. It's as if I'm defying myself by playing this game. The longevity factor isn;t able to break through this barrier as much, but it still gets more playing time than Adventure Island and Seicross combined. And of course a Game Genie enhaces the playability of this game immensely, but even without one the game is still very fun. Not addictive, but that would be asking a lot of this game.

The game is pretty old, and it shows in the presentation. The Gold Bars bear a striking resemblance to Legend of Zelda's rupees (although this game came out first), and obviously there isn't much of a background. Everything is pretty clean, though, and once you finish the level, the picture that is made by the gold bars looks pretty nice. For a game of this age, the graphics are pretty good. As far as music is concerned, There's only one theme played in any of the levels, and it isn't much to scream about. The sound effects are pretty good, though. Again, for a game of this age, the sound and music is satisfactory.

As a whole, Clu Clu Land passes the originality test with flying colors. However, playing the game is another story. Although it's somewhat fun to play, it's not on the level with other puzzles.

Overall Ratings:

Play Control:
Technical Score: 10
Challenge: (Hard)
Thrill: (Frustrating)
Aesthetic Score: 16
Overall Score: 62%