Ah, Monolith. The studio that brought us such macabre fare as Condemned: Criminal Origins and FEAR, but also made those happy-go-lucky No One Lives Forever games. The company has always been versatile, and one need only examine their entire game catalogue to truly understand how far the company has come in its relatively short lifespan.
Take, for example, this week’s forgotten game. It’s one of Monolith’s older titles, but it’s still one of their best: the game is Claw, and it’s a 2D action side-scroller that follows the adventures of an anthropomorphic cat and his quest for a talisman of immortality.
Swashes will be buckled, timbers will be shivered, and sides will be scrolled.
Hit the jump for the lowdown.
You are Captain Nathaniel Joseph Claw, a pirate cat of the high seas who is captured and imprisoned by the Cocker Spaniards (Eh? Get it? Eh?). Inside prison, you hear about the Amulet of Nine Lives, a talisman that grants its wearer immortality. After escaping from the Spanish prison ship, you travel the world collecting each of the nine gems that make up the amulet.
As mentioned earlier, Claw is a 2D action side scroller. As Claw, you can jump, attack with your sword, fire your pistol, throw dynamite, and cast a “magic claw” projectile attack. There are about half a dozen enemy types, all with their own specific attacks (e.g., a mouse that throws explosives and a basset hound with a sniper rifle) that do different amounts of damage.
When you actually play Claw, you’ll notice that it doesn’t really do anything new. In fact, it feels like it should have been released for the SNES — the graphics look similar to 16-bit animation (albeit slightly more detailed and much more fluid), there are very few controls to master, and the gameplay is straightforward.
And therein lies the genius of Claw. It’s simple, accessible, familiar, and, most of all, fun. The levels are insanely large and intricately designed: any given level has at least three secret areas, and at least five different ways of getting through it. In fact, Claw feels like an amalgam of some of the SNES’s best side scrollers: it has the level design of Donkey Kong Country and the straight-up action of Earthworm Jim.
For a side scroller, the game is of typical length (14 levels), but it’s a lot harder than most because of a frustrating and illogical save system: every time you complete a level, the game automatically saves your progress. And when I say “progress” I don’t just mean how far you are in the game, I’m talking the amount of lives you have, your exact HP, how much ammo you’ve got, and so on. This would be fine were it not for the fact that if you ever run out of lives, there is no continue. You just have to load an old saved game. So, if you’re on level 4 and you only have one life and 4 HP left, you’re basically screwed — you either have to go back to an old save game where you had a bunch of lives and play your way back up to where you currently are, or you have to finish the entire level with only one life and 4 HP.
Why You Probably Haven’t Played It:
It’s a decade old PC side-scroller that actually cost money to play, and, on the outside, it looks like a kid’s game. If you were old enough to afford it you probably didn’t want to play it.
But now’s your chance. It’s technically not abandonware, but you can easily find it for free on the Internet (and I’m not just talking about a warez torrent site), or for very cheap on eBay. I’d recommend at least giving it a try if you’re into old-school side scrollers.