Mango Protocol’s CLeM, is a puzzle adventure game with a dark, Tim Burton-style storyline based around alchemy. We wake up in the cellar of a mansion. We’re a creation of sorts, a toy-like form that’s been haphazardly stitched together. On the ground is a notebook titled ‘CLeM’, inside is a list of attributes next to strange symbols, pages about insects related to these attributes and a note that says “Bring me BEAUTY”. A child-like voice enters your mind, demanding that you bring them beauty, this must be the voice of your creator. Your creator requires five attributes for her next project, the aim of CLeM is to collect the insects associated with these attributes by exploring the mansion and solving puzzles and bringing them to your master.
The majority of the puzzles in CLeM consist of inventory puzzles but there are other types too. As you progress you’ll also be able to craft magic toys which you can use to help you solve puzzles or travel to new areas of the mansion. As you explore the mansion, you’ll take note of puzzles to solve and certain clues on how to solve them – I found this to be incredibly helpful and a great way to keep track of the unfinished puzzles around the house.
The puzzles in CLeM are well-designed and diverse, there were plenty that I found myself scratching my head over. However, I did find that I spent a large amount of time on one or two of them because the notes in the notebook weren’t very helpful. The biggest example of this would be the rune key that you pick up later in the game which allows you to open any storage or door in the house. The notebook suggests that you must adjust the runes on the key to line them up with the pins in the lock, but there’s no indication of what part of the pin you’re lining the runes up with. Is it the head? Certain grooves in the pin? Where the spring begins? In the end, I needed to use trial and error to eventually work out how the game wanted me to solve these puzzles.
CLeM‘s hint system comes in the form of your creator telling you that there is nothing helpful in your current room, or prompting you to check your notes again or go to a certain room. This is my favorite way to do hints as rather than just telling you how to solve the puzzle like some puzzle games do, CLeM merely points you in the right direction to check again for what you’re missing. The one problem I had with the hint system is that hints are only prompted by you standing idle for a certain amount of time, and it would be far more helpful if the player could prompt for a hint when needed.
CLeM uses hand-drawn, 2D graphics with 3D environmental navigation. Again, I felt like the art design tapped into those Tim Burton elements, with our cute patchwork character in a gothic-style derelict mansion. The mansion hasn’t been looked after, but is lived in with a messy kitchen filled with used, unwashed dishes. Is this little girl alone? I also liked the mellow soundtrack which works well in a puzzle game by not becoming repetitive or intrusive while you’re brainstorming over puzzles.
With an enigmatic beginning, CLeM’s storyline does take a dark tone towards the end. However, despite the mystery behind our creation and our purpose, I didn’t feel as immersed into the storyline as I could have been. While navigating the mansion, we get snippets of what’s going on behind the scenes and also the family who owns the mansion through the form of notes, diary entries and memories which can be uncovered using a toy crafted in the late stages of the game. But I felt as though CLeM doesn’t delve into its story enough during its six-hour runtime for it to feel that captivating. Despite this, the gameplay is strong enough for CLeM to hold its own without its storyline.
Despite a storyline that quickly loses itself in its mystery, CLeM is a challenging and well-designed puzzle adventure game with a Tim Burton-style aesthetic that makes for an enjoyable playthrough that will surely put your puzzle-solving skills to the test.
Jess played CLeM on PC with a review code.