Clover: A Curious Tale Platform: Xbox Live Indie Games (Xbox 360) Price: 400 MSP / $5 A rewarding experience if you're willing to explore the wonders of trial-and-error. Gameplay: If you've ever played one of those point-and-click adventure games you shouldn't have a problem understanding Clover: A Curious Tale's gameplay which combines that genre with that of traditional 2D platformers except that you'll have to settle for your 360 controller rather than the traditional mouse/keyboard setup. The game takes place in the "Dark Ages" when the king still called the shots, you take on the role of a guy named Sam who's recently become an orphan as a result of his mother's death on a ship that was supposedly the work of the enemy. In order to uncover the mystery behind this event, you'll have to do explore the town and beyond to acquire the items necessary for the task along with a great deal of socializing with the locals in order to discover what you should do next since the game does not spoon feed you the objectives. As a result of this, trial-and-error is often required. At times you might "accidentally" solve a puzzle while other times you'll be hitting your head against the wall trying to figure out what you should do with your current inventory. Luckily, the first couple of puzzles are fairly straight-forward to get you acquainted with the mechanics of the game but rest assured that it will become challenging later on, creativity and critical thinking will both be required. This does not mean that you have to be genius to enjoy the game though as once you've figured out all the puzzles, you'll be shocked at the actual simplicity of some of the more challenging puzzles but due to the vague hints that are extracted from the locals, things aren't obvious so it's quite easy to overlook even the simplest solution. In addition, certain items can be combined which the game fails to mention which is certainly useful to know as it's necessary for certain puzzles. My advice is to keep on exploring/socializing as well as turning on hints which enables you to spot important things that you might have thought were not interactive as there are quite a few scenery items that appear to be usable when in fact they're not. Prepare yourself for occasional frustration as well unless you're really good at these type of games. No, you don't count sheep in the game. Instead, you must figure out a way to make them less hostile. Returning to my point-and-click adventure game reference, to those of you unfamiliar with this genre, the idea is to basically collect and properly utilize items/information to solve certain puzzles that lead you one step closer to completing the adventure. Unlike certain titles where there are sometimes multiple ways of solving a puzzle, Clover: A Curious Tale only offers puzzles that have one correct solution with the exception of a few unintended loopholes that some players have discovered. Aside from the lack of descriptive hints, forgetting about the existence of an item can often be problematic too due to the game's limited inventory slot as you can only carry 2 items at a time when you start the game and can later carry an extra item once you've solved a particular puzzle which lands you this extra slot as a reward. As for death, while it is possible to "die", you don't actually die and instead wake up in the gaol (commonly referred to as a jail in modern times) where you're surprisingly able to freely exit/enter the area as you please. Drowning or being hassled by guards is a nice way to encounter this form of punishment. Ending up in there will also save the game so it's a strange but effective way of saving the game as well although ideally you'll want to trigger the saving by correctly solving a puzzle instead. Heard this rambling before? SKIP IT. Just make sure you didn't ignore any hints... Lastly, to those worried about the excessive amount of dialogue sometimes found in such games, I'm happy to say that this game did not suffer from this although the prison guard's voice does get rather old as each time you end up in there, it triggers his speech when you pass him. Instead of being lengthy, most of the dialogue is relatively short and to the point, it's also voiced well so you don't even have to read it! Graphics & Audio: The game features a hand drawn art style that compliments the game's "storybook" look. It won't cause your jaw to drop but it's certainly not the work of an amateur artist either. However, I will admit that I was quite impressed by the visuals of a "secret" level that is triggered via a particular item. Since it would spoil the game a bit I won't describe it any further but I will recommend boarding the boat with something that can keep track of time to experience this. As for the music, although it is quite nice and atmospheric, it does get a bit bland after a while. This is particularly noticeable in the frustrating moments of the game where you're disoriented. As mentioned before, there is spoken dialogue in the game and it sounds pretty good. Each character has a distinct and appropriate human voice which is something that's often not found in XBLIG titles, so props to the developer. Replay value: After you've completed the game, there's not much of a reason to go back due to the nature of the game unless you want to attempt a speed run as once you've completed the game, it will tell you how long it took. Since there are no leaderboards, you'll be competing against your own record keeping though. Also, there are some relatively hidden newspapers that are not mandatory to collect but do lengthen the playtime due to the extra effort required to get them. Overall: Without spoiling the game, it's hard to describe some of the clever puzzles found in the game that make the experience worthwhile so they're best seen with your own two eyes. With that said, Clover: A Curious Tale is indeed a curious tale of adventure and exploration that's certainly worth the 400 MSP asking price if you're a fan of point-and-click adventure games. To the non-fans of the genre, if you've never experienced it, this game is still feasible to an entry level player, and to those who typically dislike such titles, I honestly doubt it will change your mind but considering that the price isn't as high as similar titles, it might still be worth looking into. There is a free trial available after all. The game isn't very long but depending on your skills, you should be able to get at least close to an hour from it if you're good at solving the puzzles or even several hours if it's been ages since you've played sometime similar (took me about 4 hours or so as I overlooked several things, these games aren't my strong point). Due to the nature of the game, I believe it's a fair lifespan. As for the ending, it's nothing that will win any awards but is somewhat inspiring to say the least if you agree with the main political theme behind the game (don't worry, it's none of that Democrat/Republican propaganda). Pros: +Nice artwork & music +Voiced dialogue +Clever puzzles +While heavily based on the point-and-click adventure concept, there is some platforming involved which creates a nice genre mash-up Cons: -Ending wasn't as good as expected -Alternative solutions to certain puzzles would have helped boosted the replay value -The player was confined to predetermined choices throughout the game, a bit of freedom and significantly different outcomes would have made the game much more interesting Clover: A Curious Tale encounters a 8/10 for bringing the fun of point-and-click adventure games to the XBLIG platform with some clever puzzles and a nice presentation in the form of a 2D platform. As disclosed in the review, I hadn't played a similar title in ages so keep this in mind. A review copy was used to evaluate the game.