Ayo The Clown Review (PS5)

Ayo The Clown Review: Clowning Around

 

Ayo the Clown

I’m a sucker for a 2D platformer. They’re the ultimate form of gaming comfort food, which, when done right, take me back to a simpler time in gaming where the only goal was to make it to the end of a level intact and maybe hoover up a few collectibles along the way.

Ayo the Clown was released in 2021 for PC and the Nintendo Switch and now makes its way to the PlayStation 5 (amongst other platforms). It is absolutely a love letter to those glory days. As always, though, there is a fine line between paying homage and cheaply imitating your inspirations, so let’s discuss whether Ayo the Clown walks that tightrope successfully.

 

Nostalgic Simplicity

 

Ayo the Clown

Upon booting up Ayo the Clown I was immediately all in on its simple premise. You jump into the oversized clown shoes of Ayo, as he wakes one night to realize that his beloved doggo has gone missing. Distraught and unable to sit idly by whilst knowing his furry friend is out there somewhere, Ayo sets forth on his journey which takes him across eight distinct worlds in search of man’s best friend.

If you’re reading this and thinking that it all sounds rather contrived, to be fair, you probably aren’t wrong. However, think back to the genre heavyweights that Ayo pulls from and you’ll see that Ayo the Clown’s light narrative is perfectly on point. 2D platformers don’t need anything more than an excuse to get from one end of the world map to the other, and on that front, Ayo succeeds perfectly.

Whilst I adored the straightforward narrative set-up for Ayo the Clown, I’m unfortunately slightly more mixed in terms of how I think the rest of the package lands.

 

Satisfying Progression, Lacking Controls

 

Ayo the Clown

 

The main issue that brought down my overall enjoyment is the somewhat unwieldy way in which Ayo controls. 2D platformers require a certain level of control and precision and unfortunately, even the carrying out the most basic of actions with Ayo brings with it a certain level of frustration. His jump feels floaty, which wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s exacerbated by the awkward collision detection that can see you bounce off the edge of a platform even when you were sure you had nailed your jump perfectly. The double jump you unlock a short while into the game feels equally unpredictable. Often, I would use it to perfection, only to attempt a similar jump moments later which would see my momentum going into the second jump immediately come to a halt.

More complex abilities like the wall jump and the slide are similarly unreliable. It’s not that the Ayo the Clown ever feels bad as such, but there is an element of randomness attached to the controls and movement which definitely impacted my overall enjoyment.

To Ayo the Clown’s credit, I did very much appreciate how new abilities are doled out. Rather than having access to Ayo’s full suite of moves from the start, they’re gradually introduced as you progress through the world. Often these are introduced as part of a cute little side quest, such as the double jump ability which is unlocked following a side quest that has Ayo hunting down balloon animals for an NPC in need. It lends the game an almost Metroidvania feel, as you unlock new abilities that will further assist in exploring already beaten levels.

This gradual approach to expanding Ayo’s moveset also had the side effect of keeping things feeling fast-paced and fresh. All too often in a platformer littered with collectibles, I find myself obsessing over finding everything in a level before moving on to the next. I’ve often found that this ends up with me feeling fatigued with a game long before seeing it through to completion. Knowing there was no point in combing through Ayo the Clown’s levels obsessively without a full moveset definitely alleviated this and helped keep things moving at an enjoyable pace.

 

Fiendishly Tricky

 

Ayo the Clown

Speaking of collectibles and combing through levels, the level design is also decent, with the usual scope for exploration and alternative routes that have become a staple of the genre being present. Collectibles are usually hidden away neatly, with subtle environmental queues letting you know when it’s worth veering off the beaten path. In the later worlds, these become seriously challenging to track down, requiring you to make use of Ayo’s full moveset.

Whilst I’ll never knock a 2D platformer for stuffing its levels full of secrets, I can’t say that I had much fun hunting them down. As I mentioned above, later secrets become quite demanding, and it’s in these sections where the sluggishness of the controls really becomes apparent. To the point where, a few worlds in, I basically stopped trying to completely clear levels and would only go for a collectible if it was in my path and I could see that it wouldn’t require too much effort to grab.

Difficult is actually a word I would use to describe the overall experience, even outside of the collectible grind. Far from the laid-back cutesy platformer I was expecting, there is a level of challenge present in Ayo the Clown that I think will surprise many. I would say that right from the second world, Ayo the Clown’s levels become complex obstacle courses that demand quick reflexes to a degree that will even trouble genre veterans. The worst difficulty spikes come in the form of the auto-scrolling sections which involve a lot of trial and error and there were a few occasions where I had to put the controller down and take a break to avoid frustration setting in.

I’m all for a challenge in games, and I truly appreciate the thought that went into crafting such tricky levels, but ultimately, I think this emphasis on difficulty and trial and error leaves Ayo the Clown suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. Young kids, the demographic I think most likely to gravitate towards the cute aesthetic and narrative, are likely to get disheartened by the difficulty. Whereas adults who appreciate a challenge are likely to get turned off by the awkward movement. It creates this strange dichotomy where I think the developers have tried to appeal to a broad audience but inadvertently created something that may struggle to stick.

 

Charming Art Direction And Bosses

 

Ayo the Clown

Continuing my trend of mixed emotions is the presentation. The soundtrack is inoffensive and chirpy, albeit something I would hesitate to call memorable. The graphics are also serviceable, though the developers have opted for that glossy, plasticky look that Nintendo opted for with the New Super Mario Bros. series. I really can’t stand that aesthetic, but I appreciate that is very much down to my own personal taste, so your mileage may vary.

In terms of the art direction, however, I was totally won over by Ayo the Clown. Each world brings with it a distinct theme, from a candy theme to a factory, right through to the circus theme which fittingly dominates the final levels. There is nothing hugely original here and everything is some sort of variant of a theme that you’ll likely have seen elsewhere, but there was always enough variety and attention to detail in each world to keep me compelled to see what the world map had in store for me next.

This variety also extends to the boss fights. Whether I was fighting an adorable-looking monster with a detachable head, or a frog who also happens to be a rapper, these encounters were frequently the highlights of the experience and made up for a lot of Ayo the Clown’s shortcomings. Honestly, there is a level of imagination on display here that even Nintendo would be proud of that makes the boss fights almost worth the price of admission alone.

 

An Adventure Worth Taking

 

 

Ultimately, despite my gripes, Ayo the Clown is a 2D platformer that I think does enough right to warrant checking out. With clever progression, tricky (albeit frustrating at times) level design and a delightful world with well-thought-out boss fights, there’s plenty to like for genre enthusiasts who can overlook the areas where Ayo the Clown stumbles. What developers Cloud M1 have created is a really solid foundation that could pave the way for a truly great sequel with a few lessons learned from Ayo’s first outing.


Final Verdict: 3/5

Available On: PS5 (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox Series S/X, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC; Publisher: Eastaisiasoft Limited; Developer: Cloud M1; Players: 1; Released: April 22, 2022; MSRP: $19.99; ESRB: E for Everyone

Editor’s note: The publisher provided a review copy to Hey Poor Player.

Shane Boyle
Shane's passion for gaming began many moons ago upon receiving his first console, Sega's Master System. These days, he games across a variety of systems, though he primarily sticks to his PlayStation 5 and Series X. Despite enjoying a wide variety of genres, he has a huge soft spot for RPGs, both Western and Japanese, whilst also being a self-professed Destiny 2 addict. Outside of gaming, Shane enjoys live music (as long as it's rock or metal!) and going to stand-up comedy shows, and is also Father to a little boy who he hopes will one day be raiding alongside him in Destiny!

Join Our Discord!

Join Our Discord!

Click the icon above to join our Discord! Ask a Mod or staff member to make you a member to see all the channels.

Review Archives

  • 2022 (188)
  • 2021 (523)
  • 2020 (302)
  • 2019 (158)
  • 2018 (251)
  • 2017 (427)
  • 2016 (400)
  • 2015 (170)
  • 2014 (89)
  • 2013 (28)
  • 2012 (8)
  • 2011 (7)
  • 2010 (6)