Ah, 2D platformers. This genre disappeared after the DOS era on the PC. Also the consoles liked more the 3D platform games like hundreds of Mario 64 clones. There was almost never an attempt to revive the classic 2D side-scrolling action and add a few modern elements to it. Except for Monolith Productions of course! We know Monolith mostly from First Person games like the recent F.E.A.R. and of course the No One Lives Forever series. Claw was one of their first titles which proved Monolith was quite capable of putting together a complete game package, even including a level editor and multiplayer options, in the PC world. Blood is probably the oldest known game from these developers. Hungry 2D platformes which refuse to buy a decent handheld system to ease the pain will likely enjoy Captain Claw. Let’s see what the game has to offer. (Or had…)
Act I, Level I. Escape!… Again?
It immediately show that Claw will be an unique experience once you star the game. The Main Menu looks like a Pirate chest-hunting hand-drawn map. Indeed: Claw himself, the main character, is a super elite cat-pirate which has to take on the Spanish Dog Armada during the inquisition period. Claw has to fight his way trough nine full acts to reclaim ancient lost treasure (jewels which together create the Amulet of Nine Lives. How many lives did cats have in legends again?
Every act is divided into two levels and at the end you’ll have to face a boss. If you manage to stay alive, you’ll be rewarded with one of those nine jewels. If you don’t… Ah, but a pirate won’t be defeated that easy, won’t he? Every stage breathes a fresh and unique air: a big fort, a wide forest area, the ship yard, … The music tunes on the background are very pirate-ish and are quite suited for the game.
During your search for the jewels, you will of course face several different enemies. Claw comes equipped with a pistol with a finite amount of ammo, little dynamite bombs you can throw at platforms and a very powerful (but very limited) spell Magic Claw which literally rips trough all enemies directly facing you. Hmm, did I forget something? Oh yeah, and of course one to rule them all: your blunt, crude but shiny pirate sword! When Claw attacks and the enemies are too close to use the rather big sword, he’ll kick and punch instead. Very funny animations by the way.
Enemies drop loot after being defeated. Coins, golden crowns, King Staves, you name it. Next to treasure you’ll also encounter some powerups throughout the level. A weapon powerup for your sword like Lightning Sword or Fire Sword usually has the same effect as your powerful spell.
My cat against yours, Let’s do it.
A feature of this game which stands out is the multiplayer possibility. Claw even has a built-in netplay module so you’ll be able to battle or co-operate with your friends via the Internet. Sadly Captain Claw still uses rather old methods to setup the connection: the out dated IPX method. But it’s not impossible to play with your friends thanks to various wrapper scripts found on your beloved friend Google. Bored with the standard levels? No problem, just make your own! Yes indeed, like in Jazz jackrabbit 2 you can make your own fully-featured levels and distribute them via the Internet. By fully-featured, I mean fully: powerups, treasure, all kinds of platforms, background whistles, etc. Sadly, it is not possible to smash different levels into one complete package called an Act like the main game. Since there are only nine main themes available, the level tool might get boring after a while.
Oooh, a cut-scene.
Between the different acts, you’ll be rewarded with an impressive cut-scene. These little videos are animated which expand the story of Claw’s past and future. The scenes are very well animated and of high quality, after a while you really have the feeling you’ve entered a pirate world and you’re being chased by the inquisitors. After finishing an act, you can re-watch each cut-scene via the Main Menu. Maybe Monolith should have made this game into a series of multiple ones… Ah well.
Now, what’s less good about this game? Quite a difficult question. Except for the noticeable short single-player adventure of course. The game does play easy at the beginning, you’ll breeze trough the first few acts. But once you reach the Harbor, you’ll encounter much smarter enemies and especially much trickier platforms. It’s a platform game after all, don’t forget. The bosses are generally tough nuts to crack (except the first few) too.
What has Captain Claw to offer? To a platform lover, everything. To a general gamer, an unique pirate experience with nice animated cut-scenes and catchy tunes. Let’s not forget the multi-player possibilities and the custom map editor. And above all: ‘treasure, arr!Too bad this game is very hard to track down these days, thanks to Wizard Works, the lousy publisher. The demo is still available at the official Website!