Sunday, 16 March 2014

Charly the Clown (MS-DOS)

Charly the Clown title screen
The first 'C' game I'll be looking at is... Charly the Clown: Run for Fun! There's so many games beginning with C in the world and yet I'm playing a 1995 DOS shareware platformer about a clown. Aside from that I don't know a thing about the game, but I caught a glimpse at the title screen and realised that it was meant to be. How could I say no to that face?

But there'd better be some amazing content in here Charly, you'd better not let me down!

Gotta love games that give you a password for level one.

This guy is Charly, he's a 3D rendered clown. He wears dark glasses, has sticks for arms, exists in some kind of nightmarish hellscape under a perpetual eclipse, and he wears boxing gloves. This is all I know. Though judging by the light bulb floating next to that white ball he calls a head he's apparently just had the bright idea to go on an platforming adventure taking place over 25 or so exciting levels!

The harsh purifying light of the sun has been obscured, so let the clowning hour commence.

I'm playing the unregistered version of the game though, so I get just five levels to play. I can only hope I'm able to form a fair opinion on the game by then!

Honestly I did not expect to see a loading screen this time; the game is apparently full of surprises. At least now I finally have an answer to the question 'do clowns need oxygen to live?' and it's not a reassuring one.


LEVEL 1:

Hey, this doesn't actually look so bad. It moves at a decent speed, the animation isn't terrible... I don't want to make any premature conclusions about the music, but it seems like something I could bear listening to. I'm not sure why the ground is so bubbly, but then I don't know why Sonic the Hedgehog's Green Hill Zone has a checkerboard pattern on it either. All I know is that the first level... isn't a forest level, though it's close.

I took a step forward and collected that powerup floating in front of me, and now I have the ability to throw deadly blue balls in a short arc, though only one at a time. I'm going to go try them out on that flappy thing on the right in the hopes that it'll shut him up.

Headbutting blocks for coins, why does this seem so familiar to me? There's no point leaving them intact to jump on in this though, he just falls right through.

Those bats over there are guarding a health pickup, though they're so easy to kill they might as well have not bothered turning up. My greatest threat right now is the edge of the screen, as when I'm moving I don't have enough space to see what's coming up in front of me. I have to keep tapping forward instead.


LEVEL 2:

Oh hey there lil' bomb guy. I like his boots; he must get them from the same place as me... plus I've just noticed he has a red nose as well. Is this a clown bomb?

Usually these things race at me and explode the second they're on screen (another reason why I can't run forward), but this one seems pretty chill. Wait, if these things don't hurt me and they don't push me back, then why am I even avoiding them? I could just run right through the things and ignore them and I'd be totally fine.

Bombs fired from a cannon are a little more harmful I guess. At least now I know that Charly screams like a wounded alien Xenomorph when he takes damage, and I have to give the developers credit for allowing me a few seconds of invulnerability afterwards so that I can get out of the way of what hit me. The cannon's invulnerable all the time though, so there's no point me sticking around and throwing stuff in its eyes.

Hang on, Charly's magic blue balls have shrunken, when did that happen? I guess he gets de-powered a little every time he takes damage. A couple more like this and he'll be defenceless.


LEVEL 3:

CACTUS!

I'd grab a mushroom and turn into Super Charly, but even though the things couldn't be more obvious if they glowed with the blinding glare of a million exploding stars, mushrooms are actually just part of the background in this game.

Whoa, that happened so fast. One second he was happily running along the logs, the next Charly hit the water and exploded like a dynamite salesman wearing caesium weave underwear; pieces of him flying all over the screen.

Fate seems to like the cut of Charly's jib though and has blessed him with five more lives, and fortunately I don't even have to replay much at all, as I'm put right back at the start of the water. It's like the developers actually wanted people to keep playing or something.


LEVEL 4:

It's weird how Charly only smiles when he's moving. If I leave him standing still he becomes a sad clown.

Well I'm at level four now and the music still hasn't changed. I actually started to like it after a while, it's a pretty catchy module tune using samples instead of midi synths, but at this point I'd very much appreciate being allowed to listen to anything else.

I'm really hoping that this arcade machine takes me away to some kind of bonus minigame, just so I can listen to the minigame music instead.

Whoa, it really is loading up a bonuslevel! I've escaped, I've escaped the planet! Farewell volcanoes and blood-red skies, adios ominous brick towers and endless jungles, sayonara bubbly dirt and endlessly looping music...


BONUSSTAGE:

Okay, this isn't a bonus level, this is just two question mark boxes floating in a very small version of a normal typical level. You'd find more than this at the bottom of an average pipe in Super Mario Bros.


LATER.


Juggling balls while riding balls over a pit of instant death spikes; that clown's got some cojones. I'm kind of surprised that the guy's even got idle animations to be honest, but it seems the developers have put some real effort into this. It can't have been easy to get everything scrolling so slick in DOS.

I'd talk about all the frustrations I've been having getting past these death traps, but truth is I just walked forwards onto the next ball and then stepped off again on the other side of the pit. It has not been a tricky game so far.

Oh no I'm in the dark, with next to zero visibility around me! You know what this means? It means that I have to edge forwards even slower.

Hey, pushable springs... that look a lot like the resolutely unpushable springs I came across already.

It's a shame I can't pull the screen up to see what I'm jumping into, but the way this game's been so far I'm not massively concerned. The game wants me to succeed and keep playing, because it wants to keep me hoping that I can ever reach a level with different music playing.

Whoa, that was nasty. He was fired straight up into ceiling spikes and now I've got bits of dead clown all over the screen.

It'd be cool if the game could find some middle ground between 'I'm literally walking through the enemies' and 'fired off into a spike I had no chance to see' in its level of challenge, because right now I have to say I'm not feeling it.


BONUS GAME:

BONUS GAME? BONUS GAME!

Didn't even need to find an arcade machine this time, I just completed the level as normal.

So the bonus game is actually just the regular game then... except now I'm flying a plane?

This really isn't the worst surprise shoot 'em up stage I've come across in a platformer (that would probably be the one in James Bond Jr.), but it suffers the same problem as the regular stages. There's no weight to it, there's no challenge to it, there's no speed, there's no variation, there's no inspiration and there's no fun in the act of navigating the level.

I'll be the first person to say that a game doesn't have to be difficult to be good, but this game definitely needs something.

Well I shot the things, collected the other things and moved my slow moving plane through all the gaps, and now I have reached the exit once again. I'm really hoping that the final level has a change of tileset; something to show off what else the full game has to offer.

Oh that's it? The bonus stage counted as one of my five free levels? Hmm.
"Please input your address and your personal registration key." 
Don't think I have one of those.
"If you don't have a registration key, order it for $50 now."
... no.

Charly the Clown is displeased at my lack of support for the cause. I think I want to turn this off now. Right now.

C'mon, just let me quit already!


CONCLUSION

Charly the Clown is a solid tech demo for a platformer engine, but I can't imagine many people bought this after playing the shareware version.

I could list so many things the game gets right, like not having a timer, letting me choose my levels (via passwords), giving me invulnerability after taking a hit, marking safe paths with coins, mid-level checkpoints, Charly's over dramatic ducking animation...

Basically, it's not a total disaster of a game and it's obviously been made by people who've played a platformer or two before, but I got no joy out of making my way across the platforms and there's no fun in dealing with these enemies. I spent most of my time just waiting for an excuse to turn it off, so I can't really recommend this one I'm afraid.


Anyway that's what I think, but maybe you disagree! Maybe you'd rather I'd start playing more games you may have actually heard of. Maybe you prefer that I play more weird obscure titles. Maybe you just want me to stop playing so many PC games. I'm always eager to read your feedback, so leave a comment if you've got an opinion.

4 comments:

  1. You should play more weird obscure titles!!!!

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  2. $50!?
    How much were Apogee/3D Realms games back then?

    Those were some good times, though. AOL kids section full of download shareware games.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could pick up Commander Keen: Goodbye Galaxy Eps 1+2 for $35 in 1991, Rise of the Triad CD edition for $35 in '94 (includes PowerPack expansion), or Duke Nukem 3D for $40 in '96 (includes Duke I+II!) Though you'd have to add $5 shipping to get all this, so is it REALLY a better deal?

      It's not an Apogee game, but you could also get 6 episodes of Jazz Jackrabbit and a comic book for $39 + $4 shipping in 1994.

      Charly the Clown on the other hand requires no shipping fee, as all the later levels are included in the shareware version, locked behind the registration code. I can confirm this as I renamed the level files and played a few of them (they looked the same).

      Delete
  3. I don't hace a microsoft OS, but you could try with this (i foud it on google)

    Charly The Clown Name: Manuel Reis Costa Address: Rua Andro de Castro,249 2 Dto City: Portugal, 4400 Vila Nova de Gaia

    It has empty key....

    ReplyDelete

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