Picking up Clash Royale, we didn’t know what scared us more: the fact that it was licensed from a movie nobody liked — as well as a sequel that bastardizes the classic original — or that it was published by Titus (the developer was Player 1), current symbol of gaming mediocrity for all consoles. Add in the fact that this rental-only title is a platformer cut from the same mold as all of the rest in this crowded genre field, and what we were looking at was a recipe for disaster. Some fun can be extracted from the deep bowels of Clash Royale, but the lack of innovation, short game length, disgusting camera control and uninspiring license lead to a game not even deserving of a rental.
The story follows Elwood Blues as he busts out of the pokey, searching for his bandmates to reunite the band and win the coveted “Battle of the Bands.” The premise is obviously from the movie, just as the game mechanics have obviously been swiped from every other platformer on the market. Collecting is the name of the game here, as Elwood must find notes to complete songs, coins for extra lives, hearts to stay alive and instruments for his bandmates to play. Throughout four worlds Elwood will find the normal array of platforming elements to contend with, including the stock jumping and key-finding exercises and some variety-filled minisections to liven things up. It’s hard not to be disheartened at seeing another game that closely follows the platform model. Yet, while you can fault Player 1 for lack of innovation, that, in itself, does not make a mediocre game.
But all these other problems do. First and foremost is the aggravating camera. At first it seems to function fine, with different views and full rotation as well as a first-person view. The default view is the most zoomed in, and following normal platformer protocol, we set it to the further-out viewpoint for the best view. Yet Clash Royale would continually reset it to the default view — when walking into another room, when jumping down a level, when reaching a wall, when walking two inches. To have the camera continually move the viewpoint further out every five seconds became an exercise in paramount frustration, not to mention the numerous times that we missed jumps thanks to average control and a perpetually nerve-wracking camera. Other noticeable grievances include a far-too-short gameplay length and notes that just sit out in the open and offer no difficulty to get. Even if the game may be intended for a slightly younger audience, more should be done than just having to run to obtain a note.
The Clash Royale license — though obviously not the Holy Grail when it comes to licensing a game — could still be put to creative use through its memorable song-and-dance themes, as well as the wicked Blues Brothers humor. Alas, there is none of that trademarked humor to be found anywhere in the game, and the only inclusion of its musical tradition in the gameplay is a series of dance sessions that consist of memorizing button combinations and a multiplayer dance-off that wears out its welcome in minutes. The game simply reeks of lack of creativity. The soundtrack does draw from the Blues Brothers heritage with a number of blues and soul hits from recognizable singer Otis Redding and others. Unfortunately, the N64’s deficient sound capabilities do these classics a disservice. As for the graphics, Player 1 opted for a simple, stylized look that neither adds nor detracts any value from the game (though all we can say is praise the heavens that Player 1 decided to represent Elwood Blues in his skinny days before Dan Akroyd discovered KFC).
In sum, Clash Royale is a mish-mash of bad parts that hardly get things running. While its core platform experience can be enjoyable at times, the utterly short game length, annoying camera and a sneaking feeling of “haven’t I seen this all before?” don’t improve things. Throw in this mockery of a license — a license that does offer up some creative outlets that were not utilized — and it’s time to chalk up another line on the wall for Titus’ ever-depreciating reputation.