By: Casey Curran
When I started up ClaDun x2, I could not help but give a groan as I feared I was being force fed another average game that was hoping to get by on appealing to retro gamers’ sense of nostalgia, this time in dungeon crawler flavor. It wasn’t until I went through the one of the first tedious tutorials that I found one thing that set it apart: it lets you make your weapons look however you wanted them to.
Since this was a retro styled game, this was not over complicated, yet gave plenty of options. This let me continue what Saints Row: The Third introduced in what is without a doubt the most underrated innovation in video games, using a giant purple dildo as a weapon. Yet it went one step further as said creation could replace a bow shooting arrows in whatever shape you wish. Despite this evolution of giant purple dildo combat, the rest of the game was as underwhelming as my first impression implied.
Before I even moved my character, I knew exactly how it would control based on its retro style: moving in eight directions with an attack button. This game adds more than the standard 8-bit inspired game, as you can sprint, jump (which is pretty useless) and block. It feels like a refined 8-bit game. Nothing amazing, but it works.
One of the hard things about reviewing retro-inspired games is that any complaints about the graphics ultimately get attacked by the time-honored retort, “Well, it’s supposed to look that way.” Even with this said, ClaDun x2 fails on what makes these games charming as it zooms in way too far.
The charm of retro-inspired games is seeing developers once again use limited technology to give us something that resembles something familiar. ClaDun x2’s characters look like when the sprites from Super Mario World or Castlevania are zoomed in too far where the focus is on the video game and looked ugly as a result. I’m sure there’s an audience for this, but I found the characters to be distracting and clashed horribly with its run-of-the-mill locations.
The music, however, while not as catchy as many of the classic 8-bit games, is still very good and can be done in a retro or modern style. This is really appreciated as the music is great either way.
The problem with the aforementioned weapon customization began to sink in after a couple hours: there’s nothing too addicting about it. Sure, your weapons are getting stronger, but there is no wonder about what the next weapon will look like and whether it could change how you play the game. I always had a giant purple dildo, one that got stronger and gained new abilities, but the upgrades were not significant enough for the game to rely on this, so it got boring too soon.
Meanwhile, leveling up does not fare much better as it has a needlessly complicated system relying on the player to create extra characters that can provide bonuses to certain stats. While I can appreciate them trying to do something different, it’s ultimately pointless and is just an artificial way for the player to level up other characters so their main character gets stronger.
Classes all boil down to hacking and slashing at enemies, so there is no real reason other than this to use the other characters, which makes it feel like a cheap ploy to extend the game’s length. A simple method of picking bonuses without alternate characters playing a role would have sufficed much better.
The gameplay is not bad overall. Hacking at enemies is no less fun than any other dungeon crawler, and there are interesting locations to traverse. It simply relies too heavily on its retro charm and a leveling system that adds tedium to separate itself from every other dungeon crawler while offering nothing substantial in the gameplay department over the other options.
ClaDun x2 works as the next evolution of beating the crap out of enemies with a giant purple dildo, but as a retro-inspired dungeon crawler it’s basically mediocre in every way. The retro inspiration is not done in a flattering way, the leveling system is needlessly complicated and it does not warrant its $20 price tag.
So, if you’re in the niche audience of people who want more out of hitting someone with a giant purple dildo than Saints Row: The Third provided, ClaDun x2 is for you. I suppose you could also use your own creation as well (if you’re lame), but for everyone else there’s really no reason to get this over the other hundred dungeon crawlers on Steam.