Review: Clash Force

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Review copy provided by developer

Plenty of games try to capture that magic of classic console titles and end up falling short. There are so many elements that have to fall right, from the graphics to the controls to the enemies and levels, that something is bound to get lost in translation. Clash Force is one of the rare ones that actually manages to thread that needle, bringing the quality running and gunning of yesteryear into the modern era. It has only an extra layer of polish to distinguish itself from actual classics, in fact, and that authenticity extends all the way down to the brevity of the experience.

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Let me start by saying that I swear to God I am not making this next part up. The evil Crackman has descended upon the city with a legion of robotic menaces, and only the mutant commandos of Clash Force can stop him. Voom the rhino, Scorpido the scorpion, and Echid the obviously not a hedgehog are each armed with blasters that let them blast their foes across forests, caves, fortresses, and more in search of their nemesis. You’ll face off against Crackman himself every four levels or so to scrap one of his diabolical death machines, hopefully with the aid of some spreadfire or lasers picked up during your tumultuous journey.

Purple prose aside, Clash Force plays like a classic platforming shoot-em-up somewhere between Mega Man and Contra. Levels are straight shots full of moving platforms and deadly pits to negotiate, hordes of enemies to blast, and the occasional weapon or shield or health pickup. Three hits will put your mutant down and force you to start the level over, but levels are only a few minutes long and death is unlikely until the later stages of the game. You’ve got no lives to worry about either, so flub all the jumps you want.

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Enemies tend to go down to a single shot or take a healthy number of bullets, and you’ll see some common types across stages so you’ll know what to expect. The boss encounters are more endurance tests, requiring several dozen shots but generally don’t attack in very challenging patterns. Really it’s not a very stressful game to get through at all until the very end, where it can get pretty punishing from the missile ride on through the finale. It’ll also take you anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes to finish, owing to how easily you’ll blast through most of the levels. And don’t expect any dramatic or eye-catching setpieces, either. Aside from a ride on some flying missiles you’ll have seen pretty much all the action this one offers before.

I know I’ve slugged other games for lack of ambition but I’m not going to hit Clash Force with that same bat. It’s ultimately a very familiar game but not for lack of ambition, rather for the reverence it has for classics of the genre. Ancient NES games weren’t long or complex in most cases, and simply put you up against ever-tougher levels full of baddies to dispatch. Clash Force does this admirably, complete with graphics just a shade above traditional 8-bit and some action-packed tunes. It’s a simple platformer because it seeks to capture the magic of a simpler time, and it does just that even if the experience is fleeting.

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