Clunky Hero Review – Just Too Clunky (PC)

Clunky Hero isn’t one for the ages. Although it is an okay choice if you’re ever in the mood for a Platformer Metroidvania, the game’s abundant frustrations, minimal immersion, and lackluster effort to engage the player make the game pale in its genre. For its own good, it’s just too clunky.

Clunky Hero Review Just Too ClunkyClunky Hero has one of the most straightforward plotlines and gameplay I’ve encountered in a while. The game is all about saving the damsel in distress as you make your way through a Medieval Europe-looking fantasy land. All the while, you solve quests and equip ever better items to unlock new areas, where you do the same. On the surface, the formula that dictates Clunky Hero doesn’t seem to be anything special or memorable.

The game was developed by Chaosmonger Studio, an award-winning multimedia production company that set its first steps into the video game world in 2019. The company has some experience with video games, particularly with its well-received first release, ENCODYA. Can the company replicate this success? Let’s dive right into this Clunky Hero review!

Clunky Hero is available on Steam, as well as on the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and PlayStation 4 for USD 14.79.

Clunky Hero - Narrative Trailer

Story – Once Upon a Time, There was a Pleasant Peasant

Clunky Hero stars Rufus, who is enjoying a pleasant peasant life in a Medievalesque fantasy world. One day, his wife, Brunilde, who the game consistently refers to as not the prettiest (to say the least) is kidnapped by a force that’s only described as “the Evil One.” This malevolent creature turns her into “some sort of hideous duck-faced girl.” It’s up to Rufus to save her. So armed with various appliances he found around the house, most notably a broom and a bucket, he sets out to break the curse that afflicts his wife.

At least he looks distinctive with his broom and bucket!

At least he looks distinctive with his broom and bucket!

This intro already greatly foreshadows the two main narrative elements of Clunky Hero. First – it’s completely shallow in its efforts to build a fantasy world. There’s an array of every cliché always hurled your way. There’s your “Once Upon a Time” 1-minute background story, narrated by a deep English voice, because of course there is. The townsfolk have a couple of shops, a tavern, and a church. Buildings like a mill, a barn, and a tower dot the background. It’s one thing to seem a little generic for a fantasy setting, but it’s another thing entirely if it’s nothing but clichés.

Clunky Characters

To its credit, Clunky Hero tries to alleviate some of the clichés by adding a little flavor to it with its characters and a strange sense of humor. These characters turn out to be equally shallow, however. They’re very prone to fit one of the many common fantasy tropes. Rufus is the hero, his wife is the damsel-in-distress, there’s the warrior girl in the tavern who gives you a quest that she can’t do herself just for Clunky Hero to have something to do, and the town itself is just full of helpless, passive poor villagers.

To make these characters a little more interesting, Clunky Hero tends to resort to meta-humor, fourth-wall-breaking, and obnoxious humor in a desperate attempt to get some laughs. The aforementioned “hideous duck-faced girl” refers to the selfie pose that was particularly popular 10 years ago. Another character’s comic efforts have her taunt Rufus as “the only other single girl in the town,” so that if he fails in his quest, he’d have to pick her.

It really tries to get some laughs, but Clunky Hero also lacks in the comedy department.

It really tries to get some laughs, but Clunky Hero also lacks in the comedy department.

None of the comedy stands out as particularly funny, and mostly just serves to reinforce stereotypes. But what’s worse is the fourth wall breaking, which completely breaks any immersion this game offers. Some characters even point out that their characters are lazily written by the developers, or that they don’t have in-game shops coded. Having an individual character fall into a trope or breaking the fourth wall can be funny, but the sheer amount that Clunky Hero offers makes most of the characters and the story flat at best and annoying at worst. Storywise, Clunky Hero isn’t off to a great start.

Gameplay – Rinse and Repeat

So, the narrative isn’t Clunky Hero‘s strong suit. Fortunately, the controls of this Platformer Metroidvania work just fine. The controls are pretty simple – press WASD to move, the spacebar to jump, and click to attack. You can attack in different directions, and when you are faced with an interaction you can do, the game tends to point out which button to press. As the game progresses, you’ll learn some more additional moves like the double jump, wall jump, and ground pounds, which open up new portions of the game. All of these continue to follow pretty intuitive controls.

It’s worth mentioning that these simple controls are also all that’s needed to defeat the very simple enemies and obstacles that the game throws at you. Although the enemies can be kind of funny, like a drunk bee, defeating them is not exactly a challenge. Click a couple of times, and they’re goners. Similarly, there are occasional jump sections that Rufus has to face that can be tough the first time, but become more of a nuisance over time. In a linear Platformer, this wouldn’t particularly matter. However, Clunky Hero is also a Metroidvania. There is a lot of backtracking to do, especially at the start of the game. And quirky obstacles become annoying very fast if you face them over, and over again. 

Even the hipsters have a really simple pattern.

Even the hipsters have a really simple pattern.

When you play Metroidvanias, you can expect some backtracking. However, Clunky Hero doesn’t offer enough variety in the areas you have to get through to make repeating a place interesting. I quickly found myself exhausted from jumping over the same pit and slaying the same goblin in the same way 30 or more times. It’s also pretty easy to get lost, especially when you haven’t found the map of an area yet. Walking around in the same area sucks the fun out of the game pretty quickly. Neither Rufus’ combat nor the enemies’ have inspired qualities, like Shovel Knight or Shantae. The combat is not gratifying or unique, it’s very generic. And due to that, Rufus’ travels feel very repetitive.

A Permanent Maze

Getting lost is a pretty common theme in this game. I’m not the greatest with video game directions – I’ll freely admit to that – but this game poses a challenge on a whole new level. The level organization is pretty chaotic, even maze-like.

The camera zooms in closely on Rufus, so it can be difficult to see the grand scheme of the area around you. Areas consist of many large rooms and paths, which all too frequently lead to dead ends. This wouldn’t be a problem if it was easy to map the area. The maps, to their credit, are extremely clear and make navigation very simple. The problem is that they’re very difficult to get. They’re somewhere in the area, but where? Paired with the repetitive hazards, this tends to make the game tedious. There is a fast travel mechanic, fortunately, so that alleviates some of the issues this game has with navigation.

The map is formidable! It's easy to read and to navigate.

The map is formidable! It’s easy to read and to navigate.

Maps are very strange to get to work. They won’t work when you find them, you have to manually activate them in your inventory. Which is a nice segue into the next section.

The Clunky UI of Clunky Hero

The UI is messy. It consists of a bunch of tabs that you have to cycle through one by one to get to where you want to be. There are inventory items in one tab, bonus items in the next, quests, skills, and a map. That in itself is not so strange. What is strange is the design decision to only be able to cycle through them. You have to get through a bunch of tabs to get to the tab where you want to be. Why aren’t the tabs just assigned 1 to 5 on the keyboard? It generally takes a few clicks and buttons to get to the menus, instead of being able to quickly gather the info you need with a single glare.

If there's one place in games I don't like spending time, it's in the inventory.

If there’s one place in games I don’t like spending time, it’s in the inventory.

It’s worth noting that the main chaos from Clunky Hero‘s inventory management and UI comes from one of the game’s more redeeming features – there’s a lot to do and collect in this game. Nearly everyone you meet has something for you to do. This means that although the gameplay can be a bit clunky, you’re always progressing in some quest. If not the main one, there’s always a side quest that you can progress in simultaneously, without going out of your way or massively deviating from the main path. There is a lot of content in this game.

Graphics – From Charming to Flash Game

Graphically, Clunky Hero has a strange combination of styles. While many elements in the background are lovely and detailed hand-drawn, the characters look like they came from an early 1990s PC game. I’m left to wonder if I find the aesthetic of the game charming, or if it should belong in a free online flash game, instead.

The church is gorgeous! The priest though...

The church is gorgeous! The priest though…

That said, Clunky Hero does try to set itself apart with some interesting design choices. Although Rufus’ broom and bucket are sadly little more than visual flair (they barely impact the gameplay), they do make him stand out, something the game in all its meta-humor happily acknowledges. The setting feels very Medieval rural and poverty-stricken, which aside from the occasional modern-day axe-wielding hipster present, does a good job to simulate the pleasant peasant vibe that Rufus loves so much. 

Sound – Great Music with Cringe Indulging Voices

Like with the graphics, the audio has a weird mix of good and bad. The background music is lovely. It has a nice, calm, but also beautiful atmosphere that fits the medieval theme of Clunky Hero. It’s not crazy special or memorable, but it’s the kind of music that adds to the atmosphere without being obnoxious.

There's a lot of dialogue. And the noise it makes isn't pretty.

There’s a lot of dialogue. And the noise it makes isn’t pretty.

What is obnoxious though, are the voice lines the characters repeatedly use in their dialogue. While the backstory is in English, the people of the universe speak in some weird, inconsistent, slurry Simlish. It was funny the first few times I heard it, but the game uses it all the time. It gets annoying very quickly, and I found myself turning the volume of this game to 0 pretty quickly.

Clunky Hero was reviewed on PC, with a key generously provided by Chaosmonger Studio.

Clunky Hero isn't a bad game per se. It's mostly just very clunky. In its story, its audio-visual presentation, its choices, navigability, and gameplay, the game takes its name a little too close at heart. It's a mediocre Platform Metroidvania at best, and there are simply many other games that do Clunky Hero's job better.
  • Responsive controls
  • Nice hand-drawn art
  • Poor story
  • Obnoxious voice lines
  • Repetitive enemies and obstacles
  • Clunky UI

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