Clid The Snail Review: Shell Shocked
Set in the distant future, where humans have long since passed, and mutated animals roam the world, Clid The Snail puts players in the combat boots of a heavily-armed gastropod on a mission to save the world from the Slug Plague. After running afoul of his fellow snails who live a peaceful life in their secluded citadel, Clid is banished and left to fend for himself in a hostile world. However, he isn’t alone for long. After encountering a flamethrower-wielding rat who torches the grasshoppers’ citadel, he meets a mysterious bat named Haelsy. Next thing you know, he joins the ranks of Alastor, a team of outcasts for hire, where he hopes to start a new life and hopefully toss back a few frosty mugs of bamboo juice along the way.
Clid the Snail is the debut release from PlayStation Talents winners Weird Beluga, a team of five young Spanish developers who left school to work on the game full time. It’s a twin-stick shooter with a flavor all its own. From its deliberate gunplay to its expansive worlds full of puzzles to solve and hidden items to collect, it does a lot to stand out from its contemporaries like Xeno Crisis and The Ascent. But is there enough here to satisfy fans of the genre, or is Clid the Snail a hollow shell of a game?
Get Ready For A Slugfest
What really sets Clid The Snail apart from other games in the genre is its pacing. While most twin-stick shooters rely on lightning-fast gunplay and laser reflexes, that’s not the case here. Both Clid’s movements and his arsenal of weapons feel slower and weightier than you’d expect. Just try to imagine controlling the cast of Gears of War in a top-down shooter, and you’ll have a good idea of what taking Clid into battle feels like. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, but it does take some getting used to as you come to grips with the game’s focus on stamina management and mastering the timing of your dodge roll.
At the start of the game, all you’ll only have a blaster. Its standard shots are unimpressive. However, charging it up for a few seconds unleashes a beam that can punch through enemy shields and kill your average slug grunt in a single blast.
As you make your way through the game, Alastor’s crafty hedgehog Marti will design a variety of new and exciting guns for you. The game’s seven weapons include genre staples such as shotguns and grenade launchers to more exciting implements of destruction like flamethrowers and a rifle that bleches arcing bolts of electricity that can fry swarms of baddies.
In addition to guns, Clid the Snail also allows you to customize your playstyle a bit with a variety of shells you can purchase with sap hidden around the world. These upgraded shells can do things like surround you with a cyclone of ice boulders, rain down cluster bombs, and temporarily shield you from damage. Add to this a handful of grenade and turret types, and Clid the Snail puts a sizeable arsenal at players’ fingertips.
Blimey, He’s Slimy!
Another thing that sets Clid the Snail apart from other twin-stick shooters is its puzzles. There are tons of them scattered across the game’s sprawling stages. Thankfully, they’re much more than padding to slow you down. Sure, they essentially just switch puzzles. But the way the game handles them is quite clever. So if you’ve ever wanted a splash of Zelda-style dungeoneering to go with your brutal gunplay, then chances are you’ll probably be happy with what Clid the Snail brings to the table.
And you know what? You’re going to want to explore each environment thoroughly. Clid the Snail is surprisingly challenging, and just a few hits can send your intrepid gastropod to an early grave. So keeping an eye out for treasures hidden in each area is the best way to keep you ready for what lies ahead. For example, as I said earlier in this review, the precious sap you collect produces new shells. And each with its own unique abilities that you can unleash after you kill enough enemies. That said, it’s smart to collect as many shells as you can so that you can adapt to what the game throws at you.
Add to this seeds that can permanently upgrade your health meter and treasure chests filled with cash to buy new gear and replenish your health kits and ammo, and you have plenty of reasons to explore every corner of the game’s meticulously crafted maps.
See You in Shell
Clearly, Clid The Snail has a lot of good ideas going for it. From its imaginative world to its wealth of weapons and satisfying puzzles, it’s clear the team at Weird Beluga put a lot of love into making the game. That’s why it hurts me to say that some pretty glaring issues really get in the way of what could have otherwise been a superb first effort for the small but unquestionably passionate studio.
The most glaring problems actually have to do with the game’s presentation. I know this sounds fickle, but hear me out. This is less about graphic snobbery and more about aesthetic choices actually getting in the way of the action. For some reason, the developers decided to use an effect that darkens and muddies the edges of the screen into an indecipherable mess. Unfortunately, this effect can make it incredibly difficult to see what’s going on around you in the heat of a battle. And, as a result, you’ll suffer a lot of what feels like unfair deaths. It’s obvious this aesthetic is intended to enhance the game’s gritty atmosphere. And in another game, it probably would have been a great choice. But for a title where situational awareness is key, it’s simply doesn’t work and can make the game feel borderline unplayable at times.
Other areas feature such low color saturation that they’re a washed-out mess. This can make it incredibly challenging to spot enemies, NPCs, and even enemy projectiles. Just look at the screenshot above, which I captured today, and you’ll have a pretty good example of what to expect.
Clid The Snail Is A Solid First Effort For A Studio With Promise
Finally, if I have one last gripe, it’s that Clid the Snail could have used a few more interesting bosses to spice things up. While the game starts on a high note in this regard, as the story progresses, you’ll keep on fighting the same enemy lairs over and over again. I was dying to trade shots with enemies with more personality rather than these big, meaty enemy dispensers. Still, when the game does throw an actual boss your way, they’re consistently fun. It’s just a shame these encounters are just so few and far between.
At the end of the day, Clid the Snail is a fun but flawed first effort for Weird Beluga. I enjoyed the game’s more deliberate approach to its gunplay, and the weapon variety and shell customization options kept the action feeling fresh. Add to that some excellent puzzles and fantastic worldbuilding, and there’s no denying that there’s a lot to love here. That’s why it’s such a shame that things become so frustrating due to the developer’s artistic choices. After all, it’s hard to focus on a firefight when it looks like half of the screen has been slathered in vaseline. Perhaps the developer will add a patch down the road to remedy the muddy visuals. And if they do, Clid the Snail will be a much more playable experience. As for me, I’d probably wait and see if they clean things up before taking the plunge.
However, if those issues aren’t enough to dissuade you, escargot ahead and give Clid a shot.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PS4 (reviewed), PS5, PC; Publisher: Koch Media; Developer: Weird Beluga Studio; Players: 1; Released: August 31st, 2021; ESRB: M for Mature
Full disclosure: The publisher provided a review copy.