The nostalgic appeal of pixel art strikes again in Clan N, Creamative’s bold beat ‘em up that will no doubt delight fans of retro-style aesthetics from arcade games of old. From the classic opening sequence alone down to the character grunts and attack sound effects, Clan N definitely has that old-school feel down.
What’s the story of Clan N?The pixelated brawler starts with your typical malevolent force (insert evil warlord/sorcerer/tyrant here) looming over a peaceful town to bring death and destruction to innocent civilians for reasons unknown. From the panicked chaos rise four brave souls who stand up to the villain to defend the land in a heroic attempt to defeat the hordes of enemies and monsters unleashed by the big baddie to restore peace to their home.
There are no dialogues or cut scenes here, which I found a little disappointing (the story is the first thing that really draws me into a game), as even Streets of Rage or Golden Axe had a plot (albeit nothing too epic). But I suppose the point of it all is really the brawling, which brings me to my next point.
What’s the Clan N gameplay like?As opposed to typical side-scrolling, Clan N features a mix of both the flat 2D platform and a little bit of an isometric view. It’s essentially a zoomed-out version of your average beat ‘em up, so you can’t really see any actual gore from the battle, which is typical of the genre. But what the game lacks in visible action, it makes up for in more freedom of movement, as you can roam around the environment in a wider space for when you need to escape a particularly dangerous foe or step out of the organized chaos for a bit to grab HP-replenishing items on the side (which come in the form of delectable fried chicken, because what else could it be).
What makes Clan N even more unique is its unconventional controls as ported into the mobile version. Foregoing the typical virtual joystick, the game lets you control your character with just one hand, in a way, as you can both move and attack with a single thumb. You can choose from the “Right Hand” or “Left Hand” configuration from the settings to see which mode you’re most comfortable with. You hold your thumb down to run, then release to attack. You can also swipe across the screen toward the direction you want your character to attack. Apart from the typical melee slash, tapping once will let you throw projectiles (either a shuriken or a knife, depending on the character you choose) if you have them in your inventory.
As for your other thumb, you can hold it down to do a dodge-roll, or tap the lower right portion of the screen to jump (double-tapping lets you do a jump attack).
What’s the appeal?Ah, the appeal. There’s no doubt that the visuals of the game alone already score a solid 10/10 for me, but the thing is, looks aren’t everything. While I initially judged the game by its proverbial cover, getting into the gameplay gave me all sorts of conflicted feelings. For one thing, the mobile version currently only supports bot players as opposed to the co-op mode, which I was looking forward to. For another, the controls are just - for lack of a better term - weird.
Now, I do understand that the devs made this conscious decision to allow for a smoother, more seamless, and more natural gameplay experience, as you can simply swipe across the screen to attack rather than the typical button-mashing. I do appreciate and understand the effort, but the whole thing usually ends up with my character just zipping away aimlessly, scoring the occasional hit on a nearby foe just because he happens to be in my way. It’s a little difficult to aim the attack exactly where you want to, especially since no foe is going to just stand idly by, completely still, waiting for you to attack them. Once you land your first hit, you need to move to hit the enemy again - whereas if you had a virtual controller, you would simply need to stand still and keep spamming the attack button to make your opponent go down.
Clan N controlsThe unconventional controls do make for a more combo-friendly approach, but it’s just too wonky to work with right now. I did get the hang of it a little bit as I progressed through the levels, but my hands started to hurt after a while, and I had to stop and take a break.
That said, if you somehow get past the non-traditional controls, the game becomes all-too-enjoyable. I absolutely love the short levels per chapter, and the variety of the stages as well. There are really cool mini-games interspersed between stages, like a level where you need to dodge rolling boulders coming from all sides at once, and one where you need to strategically position yourself in between gaps to make sure you don’t get squished by the ceiling coming down on you. You can also replenish your health or boost your stats occasionally when you spot a resthouse in the distance on some levels. And if you do die, you can watch ads for a quick do-over. You can also simply just quit the game and re-do the level, and all of your defeated bot teammates will come back with a vengeance.
Speaking of teammates, it’s a shame they’re not more varied in terms of their regular attacks and move sets. The only thing that really sets them apart from one another is their Special Attack (which you can unleash by tapping the upper left portion of your screen when your move gauge is filled), so picking one character over the other is simply a matter of appearance. The enemies are more varied, to be honest - they all have different attacks and make for more interesting battles.
There are 7 chapters in totalClan N has seven chapters overall, and I’ve seen other gameplay videos where you get to battle giant sea creatures and even ride on a dragon ala-Flappy Bird at some point. While I do love the game and really, really want to finish it, I had to stop after I cleared the third chapter, because I decided I want to wait for the upcoming update that will supposedly introduce a virtual joystick option for mobile (I also tried to connect my Playstation 4 controller to my iOS device, but it only worked in the main menu and not in the actual levels for some reason). Because I’d love to enjoy the game to its fullest (it’s that good), I’ll just have to wait for the update to finish the game to the very end.
By the way, I glitched a total of five times throughout my whole playthrough. I disappeared from the screen after doing a bunch of jump attacks, got stuck in a bush and in a pile of rocks, and even got stuck after clearing the very first boss fight, so I couldn’t claim the rewards scattered all over the place and couldn’t move on. I had to restart the game and defeat the boss all over again, so here’s hoping the glitches get sorted out too after the update.