“Clu Clu Land is quirky and different, but not necessarily in ways it should be commended for.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.
I don’t “get” Clu Clu Land. Yeah, it’s one of those games. I find it annoying, and feel no desire to play it.
I find myself wondering along the lines of game design questions, like: Why make the gems invisible? That may sound silly, seeing as how utterly crucial that is to the gameplay, but imagine if the jewels were merely faded into the background, and you knew where they were, and where you had to go. Maybe increase the enemy speeds, add some urchins, whatever, compensate for the ease of finding the rupees if you have to, but I would find that more enjoyable. It strikes me that the kind of people who would enjoy the thrill of utterly randomly happenstancingly coming across invisible hidden things might be the same type of people who love spicy food, those who actually really enjoy experiencing pain in their mouth for reasons I will never understand.
Why is there a time limit? Time limits can serve valid gaming purposes in design. In the case of Clu Clu Land, it is probably somewhat essential: It adds a sense of urgency, and forces the player to be as efficient as possible in order to succeed, especially considering the bonus points rewarded for extra “seconds” (ah, those old-school games where the seconds on the clock were more like third-seconds!). But imagine a Clu Clu Land without a time limit, just for a moment. I think I would enjoy that more.
What if you did not have that ray-gun weapon? What’s up with those stupid invisible bumper things? Why would you ever play this game ever again, after you had seen all 20 levels a few times? Even if you did it to try and raise your high score… why, of all games to compete on, would you pick Clu Clu Land?
I have so many questions. I am not even saying that these are good questions, but nonetheless, these are the queries that come to mind.
But there are things I like about Clu Clu Land, too.
It is bizarrely unique. How many other games have this core idea in mind, of a perpetually moving character that has to grab pegs in order to turn. There has to be one or two others, but there must not be many. And the oddly loose ocean-like theme seems so utterly arbitrary, especially in juxtaposition with the overly generic theme of gem-hunting.
But my favorite thing about Clu Clu Land is the enhanced glimpse it gives us into the inner workings of the Nintendo company at the time. You can definitely see commonalities between this cartridge and some of the other titles. You can sense the same people on those Research & Development teams, real human beings that contributed their own touches to this game and others. Unknowingly, they were contributing signature aspects of the Nintendo brand that would be seen in their franchises in years to come. It may sound dorky or overly sentimental or whatever, but really, to me it is really neat to take a historical peek and see the organic human effort that went into these.
Overall, though: To me, Clu Clu Land is more of a tech demo or a novelty than a real video game.
Read The Full Review For: My thoughts on the difference between artificially inflated difficulty and fair challenge, notes on the early NES games and some common elements they had which are nifty to consider in hindsight, and more specific critique in general.
NES Gameplay Tips for Clu Clu Land: Move over every peg gap in succession while firing rays at the urchins and quickly recovering from bumpers.