Get yer brooms! Get yer buckets! It’s time for adventure! Clunky Hero by Chaosmonger is a goofy parody on the Metroidvania game design. Never taking itself too seriously, Clunky Hero can be enjoyably funny at some moments and un-enjoyable in others. Looking for a couple of laughs from gross potty-humor and interesting exploration? Clunky Hero might be the game for you.
Clunky Hero purposefully leaves deep story telling to other games. Your ugly wife, Brunilde, has been taken by the Evil Ruler and made into a duck-face glam lady (yes, this is how they phrase the opening of the game). With your trusty bucket as a helmet and broom as a sword you’re ready to go save your wife. There is no more depth than that. I would’ve made it appear more interesting if I could. The humor is crude and often repetitive. It constantly acknowledges that it has no story because the “developers are lazy.” The first instance of this garnered a smirk, but it continues this incessant, bland joke throughout the game. Ironically enough, however, the conversations with NPC’s are way longer than they need to be. NPC’s feel randomly scattered across the levels, with no exact rhyme or reason. Their side quests feel tacked-on, mainly because there was no deep storyline to begin with. If there was time put in to create lame banter, why not put in the tiny bit of extra effort to have an understory to the game?
The gameplay in Clunky Hero feels… clunky. Buttons can be sluggish to generate a reaction. Hit boxes are all over the place, platforming feels insecure at best. There were times where I was stuck on a moving platform or behind an air duct and had to restart from the last save. The only difference between overworld monsters and bosses is taking more hits than usual. While there are interesting potions and foods to eat that gain you special powers and it helps encourage strategy to save and hunt for items for boss fights, the fights themselves require no real skill besides jumping out of the way every now and then before you get back to spamming the attack button. Using a broom as a weapon makes the whole act of fighting feel more of a chore.
The game itself is fairly linear while trying to act like it’s a Metroidvania. The different areas are split into multiple sections, sometimes numbered in ways that don’t make sense. There is no pacing in the level design. Obstacles are placed in uncertain locations, becoming more of an annoyance than a challenge. Scenery of the levels can be good reference points seen on maps. When journeying to a boss area, there should be a gradual build up of difficulty. It’s okay to introduce some lulls here and there, but the environmental storytelling should get the player more anxious as they traverse. The boss might have tore up the environment, or some toxic ooze is leaking and ruining the foundation. In Clunky Hero, there could be no challenge leading to the boss fight, feeling like it’s suddenly appearing in the scene, and immediately afterwards there are monsters aplenty. After a big boss battle, there should be a calm area where the player can wind down, test their new ability and reassess their next goal. Clunky Hero provides no pacing, just continuing mild blandness.
I can’t seem to find the right description for Clunky Hero’s art style. The models feel slightly out of place, like they were bought from multiple different assets from the Unity asset store. The NPC’s have a strange polygonal face that all resemble the same person wearing different clothes. It can make it confusing who is requesting what quest item, or have interest in chatting with anyone. Some NPC’s feel completely out of place, like a wizard mouse or a Fox McCloud look-alike. The world design feels congruent at the least, but as mentioned before, there’s no environmental storytelling involved. Items in the world are the same size as displayed in your inventory, meaning they’re small. Really small. They typically appear in the corners, but hide behind vines or other world elements. Not being able to fully see these items and not wanting to miss a good one, I started jumping into every upper corner that I saw so I didn’t miss losing out on an important item.
Clunky Hero’s music is fine for the most part. Themes continue when going in and out of buildings. The thoughtfulness to the background music is nice and portrays the mood of the location that you’re in. Silence could have also been used to simulate anticipation and spookiness, like when you’re creeping around in the Dark Forest. The problem is the choices made for the sound design. When chatting, there is a small blip of gibberish, but it seems to go off randomly throughout the conversation, not during important parts when the player should be paying attention. Obstacles strangely make sound when they both enter and leave, like spikes coming in and out. These extra noises that sound similar makes it seem that there are more obstacles than they are, and because the same sound and sound level is being played for multiple obstacles at slightly different times, audio phasing happens and causes unwanted noises. Enemy noises weren’t terrible, my favorite was actually the bubbly ghosts that followed you around, but other noises, especially the death cries, were loud and obnoxious.
In summary, it feels like Clunky Hero is arguing with itself. It has mild dialog and quirkiness, but the monster design, music, and lack of environmental storytelling are deftly dissimilar to the lighter tones the writing is trying to portray.
Jordan played Clunky Hero on Nintendo Switch with a key provided by the publisher. Clunky Hero is also available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.