Should you have a high detection rate, you will notice that the above banner shows a game with a different title than the post topic. That is because Open Mic is but a snippet of another, larger upcoming game. Provided as a sort of sneak peek into the general structure of Clam Man 2: Headliner, Open Mic is the quintessential opening night act to a future, hopefully-successful daily entertainment venture.
Lasting the player between 1 and 5 hours (reading skills vary), this prologue introduces the changes to the standard Clam Man formula established in the first game. Now an RPG, Clam Man 2 travels into a sanctuary of text-based absurdity to re-invigorate what it means to roleplay. Combining witty writing and luck-based, multi-faceted outcomes, the future of Clam Man (from Clam Man) seems rife with extraordinarily ordinary circumstances. Live out all the dreams you never knew you had, and maybe be a pal to your neighbors along the way.
Clam Man 2: Open Mic is available for free on Steam.
Story – I Sea London, I Sea Snacky Bay
It will take some time to adjust, but for those who played the first game, the second has the same setting: good ‘ol Snacky Bay, except in the future. Set several years after the fallout of the events before, Clam Man still sells mayonnaise for a living. His lovely pal, Pete, directs his attention to an elevator shaft that becomes the topic of conversation for about ten minutes. Through adrenaline-filled mundanity, the two stumble upon a(n out in the open) secret club, stowed away in the ground level of their company building. Further investigation reveals a comedy club struggling to gather attention for its grand opening. It’s up to you, assuming the skin of Clam Man, to help them find their footing, as they blackmail/coerce you into lending a hand.
Whatever narrative whimsy follows arise through little winks via conversation and references. The first question one may have before diving into this is whether playing the original Clam Man is required to understand the situation. I would say yes and no. Yes, it references characters, situations, and makes no secret that it’s a sequel. Even still, a lot of things are strictly organic in this game, and some events are explained in detail should one choose the correct dialogue options. One will not be lost playing this first, but for the extra “oomph” provided by the inside jokes and little winks, playing the first is definitely advisable. Seeing Bill after so long, and especially as he is here, was such a giddy contrast to the first game that it made me reminisce fondly.
What may be the most interesting development decision is to keep things relatively up in the air. All that was described in the first paragraph of this section is all there is for overarching narrative. Sure, Clam Man performing stand-up at the end (oops, spoiler) is good to note, but otherwise, what’s contained are a bunch of micro-adventures that (seemingly) don’t add up to much. This is technically an “adventure” game, emphasized by having a set-up introduction, then a giant middle phase of whatever one desires to do, and then an ending set piece. With the RPG elements and dialogue-heavy objectives—offering different outcomes—it says a lot for replayability and diversity of opportune moments of hilarity. Almost choose-your-own-adventure-esque, with a returning overworld that further develops immersiveness. Open Mic almost accidentally makes for prime, albeit short-lived, homely feels.
Gameplay – RPGee, thanks
The original Clam Man was more within a realm of reality expected of point-and-click games. Comedy-based? Cool. Puzzles? I can see that. Lots of dialogue? Yep, typical stuff. Open Mic allows for massive experimentation in the form of RPG mechanics, the likes I’ve rarely seen before. A point-and-click RPG? On a casual basis? That’s odd. One’s main statistics, evaluated during the intro section, determine a large number of outcomes through dialogue and events… all by chance. Indeed, one “rolls” for chance outcomes, with the percentage of success rooted in one’s base statistics. They are admittedly not too involved, and are not as complex as, say, Dragon Age, but it’s something of a nifty tool to provide the game some spontaneity and identity. I was not aware how much fun chance-based answers would be in a dialogue-heavy game about clams and comedy.
One should be warned (should such a descriptor be necessary) that the intro section is quite long, and wordy… and a touch convoluted. One can spend quite a while just trying to wrap their head around what all the new statistics are for and how they affect gameplay and what must do with them… before even moving an inch. Almost a half-hour into my first run, I feared the game would literally be a static-image adventure with text elaborating on everything. Thankfully, one will eventually be allowed to indulge in the point-and-click goodness of moving, after about 3,000 words of text. Such a crowded, static intro could spell doom for those trying to find their balance in this new venture, and I fear not everyone will. I was looking forward to this sequel, and I ended up enjoying what came afterwards, but there were definitely parts of the set-up where I just said, “Come on! Get on with it!”
What else does a typical RPG game entail? Talking to lots of NPC’s, right? Exactly. That, and rummaging through one’s dialogue options for certain quests, makes up a large chunk of Open Mic‘s course. There is a clear non-priority in establishing a big, crowded hub world, as one can explore all the map has to offer in a matter of minutes. What is the meat of this wordy stew comes through conversing with characters and solving their issues/queries. To its credit, I never grew bored of this, as every character has a distinct purpose for comedic purposes, and the options for vocal exchanges were near-guaranteed to carry some charm and agreeable chemistry. Wanna play along with the random gibberish of an insane person? Get them going. Wanna be a snarky asshole for no reason? Own it. The options carry opportunity for a wide array of responses and jokes. And some situations… well, I’ll just say that your fridge is an interesting place to get yourself involved with.
All activities eventually lead to the “boss fight” of the game: performing stand-up. By completing quests, one can collect joke topics to use for the stand-up portion by the end of the day. One’s statistics will determine which jokes and which joke types will most likely prove successful. Even if one fails at the delivery, extraneous details will provide extra opportunities to save oneself from total humiliation. With three jokes required for one set, it’s a chance-based factory of possible glory or potential crash and burn. Ironically, my first time had two lower-chance jokes working and the highest-chance joke failing, so it’s definitely not a guaranteed failure if you collect jokes not suited to your statistics. Yet the build-up to the first night, referenced multiple times throughout, definitely gets one antsy enough when the time comes. Even with a 2/3 success rate, I felt I barely managed to scrape by, yet learned from the experience to end the prologue feeling confident.
Graphics & Audio – Is This Thing On?
With only a year separated from the first title, I wasn’t expecting Clam Man 2 to have a completely upgraded color palette. Nevertheless, there’s an intriguing distinction to its overall scenario that just fits. Hard to explain with complicated words; all I can say is it is nice. Seeing the way characters change after multiple years was kind of interesting, considering the only one I noticed with substantial change was Nat, the cute turtle from the first game. Open Mic (and consequently Headliner, likely) incorporates an isometric perspective, which is unique to the CMCU (Clam Man Cinematic Universe). Part of me has a certain soft spot for the varied camera angles of the first, admittedly, which Open Mic doesn’t allow too much of. Nevertheless, it’s a solid, if not game-changing presentation for a suitable sequel.
Another new feature to the CMCU is the pleasures of voice acting! Certain NPC’s will feature spoken lines… in part. Kind of like a Fire Emblem: Awakening / Shantae and the Seven Sirens situation, only parts of dialogue are given vocal performances. Mostly in the beginning, then it eventually fades to just the hum of the background OST. Kudos to the development team for getting it to happen, yet the random drop-offs are very distracting. I would like to listen to the voice acting, so when continuously reading and it eventually stops, I believe I shouldn’t expect it anymore, only to have it pop up again at random points. Most of the performances are fine, with only one I found a little off-putting, but the big thing is that it should go big or go home.
And as for the background OST—like the vocal performances, it’s fine. Very relaxing, with a slight preference for both ambiance and catchiness that can serve to fill the silence. Not particularly memorable or invigorating, it exists within a realm of pleasantry that helps the experience without urging the player to listen outside the adventure. I’d suppose it wasn’t much of a priority, or it could just be part of the “free prologue” aura that comes through in some sections. Nevertheless, there will likely not be a CMMF (Clam Man Music Fest).