Ayo The Clown
Upon first glance Ayo the Clown, developed by Cloud M1, looks like a game that is going to hit all the right notes to take you on that 90’s nostalgia kick for 2D platformers. It very much has the undertones of MegaMan, Super Mario Bros 3 et al, however I found out that nostalgia wasn’t enough to carry this game to a higher score.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Some fun special sections in levels|
|+ The music on some of the levels is great|
|+ Ability collection|
|Negatives||– Controls are somewhat janky|
|– Boss fights are long, slow and drawn out|
|– Main gameplay is rather ponderous|
|Our Playtime||4 hours 14 mins|
|Available On||Nintendo Switch, PC|
The game follows you, playing as Ayo, on an adventure to find your missing dog. You have 8 worlds to explore following the tried and tested format of 4 levels per world, with the final level finishing in a challenging boss battle. Set in a circus themed world, the game follows linear progression that requires you to beat each level before moving on to the next.
I think it’s fair to say that the style of this game did not personally appeal to me – it is very much set in an innocent world of cute characters and whimsical dialogue. If childlike and endearing characters and gameplay is something you enjoy then you’ll probably find much more enjoyment out of them than I did. Because of all this I initially I thought this game was definitely for young children, but after playing a few of the levels it quickly became apparent that the platforming was far too difficult for this age category. Which led me to ask myself, “who exactly is this game for?”
Starting up the game I found that the controls were already quite confusing and there was a little bit of bugginess/unresponsiveness from the get-go. Just having to press ‘B’ as your confirm button on the title menu set off alarm bells on the frustrating controls that lay ahead.
Into the game and the first level you realise that you have extremely limited abilities. You aren’t even able to jump, and have to navigate your way through the level by carefully timing your movement onto the shifting platforms. As you progress you meet and interact with various quirky and unusual characters who will send you on fetch quests to gain new abilities to help you in the game. Some of these fetch quests make sense, like collecting balloons for the balloon lady in order to receive a balloon ability upgrade that allows you to float, extending your jump. Some of these are a little bit confusing however, and leave you asking yourself why you are collecting anvils in order to gain the ability to wall jump.
These abilities seem to be introduced as a way of improving your platforming experience throughout the game, but I found that they were then rarely needed throughout the game apart from in the level in which they were introduced. I also found that some of the abilities were quite buggy, like the slide ability that would sometimes leave me stuck under a low ceiling and unable to move, leading to me having to restart level; and others were just really badly implemented – the wall jump ability for example, was incredibly frustrating, leading to long drops and having to start the climb all over again.
Focusing back on the main gameplay, the basic premise is very similar to that of a Yoshi’s Woolly World type game from recent memory. Explore each level, look for the main two different collectables and several special collectables, and do it as quickly as you can to get as high a grade as possible at the end of the level.
I did find myself skipping the collectable side of the game as there was no incentive to do it other than the grades, and sometimes the exploration required to find them could be quite laborious and just not satisfying enough to put the effort into getting them.
You can also collect gems which are the in-game currency, but with no clear reason to do so, I found that I wasn’t overly eager to collect these either. The only purpose I found was after World 1 you enter into town where you can buy a balloon upgrade – this upgrade was 25,000 gems and I only reached that total after World 7 and completed the game without purchasing it at all. Another slight criticism of the gems was that when enemies were killed, they would drop a higher value gem, but the physics would have already carried you far enough away from the defeated enemy to not bother turning round to go back and collect it.
Ayo can collect various weapons as he explores the different levels which are all clown themed and help add to the overall feel of the world you’re in. An inflatable sword (with satisfying stereotypical clown honking sound effect), an oversized squeaky hammer, and a water balloon are your main ways of attacking enemies, and you lose the use of these weapons if you were to take a hit from an enemy or hazard. This led to me hardly ever using the weapon upgrades as enemies were simple enough to avoid and almost never needed to be interacted with. And on the odd occasion that you did need to kill an enemy, it was easy enough to just jump on them rather than worry about the weapons.
Overall, I didn’t find that the main aspect of the gameplay was enjoyable for me, and in-fact, I’d even say it was unnecessarily punishing to the player. I would often find myself wanting to make a jump over a gap or onto an enemy and either the jump wouldn’t input or the enemy’s hitbox was slightly off, leading to me falling to my death or dying on the creature’s spiked protrusion.
There were other parts of the core gameplay that would punish the player too. There would likely be an unfair, unseen hazard near the end of each level that could kill you unexpectedly, and if you entered the level low on lives then you’d have to restart the entire thing after losing the few lives you had. Ayo the Clown desperately needed to allow you to pan the camera on a duck down so you weren’t forced into making blind jumps leading to this forced replay of a level. And this restart punishment is also no more acutely felt than in the boss fights. The bosses regularly have long drawn-out processes that require you to learn how to defeat them following a trial by error process. This would be fine if you were to run out of lives and you were able to restart at the boss but sadly, it takes you back to the beginning of the level to have to slog through all over again. And yes, you have to sit through all that boss dialogue each and every time too.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the random special sections in various levels were really quite enjoyable. There were several chase sections in the game where the music was excellent and really put the pressure on you to get your skates on. Whether it was bees or an angry grizzly bearing down on you, you made sure you moved fast and had to time your jumps and moves right to ensure not to get caught by the impending doom behind you. Another of these secondary aspects sees you take over a new vehicle to traverse in an entirely different style to the main gameplay. You take control of three vehicles in various parts of each world, one is a jumping tank that fires shells into your oncoming enemies, another is a helicopter with a machine gun shooting the robots out of the air that are trying to bring you down, and finally, and my personal favourite, is the fire breathing boot…yes you have a boot on your head that turns you into a fire breathing dragon-type creature. You stomp through the level, annihilating everything in your path and this is by far the best part of the game.
To wrap up I would say that the game is in need of a patch to eliminate some of the bugs on menu screens and ability uses, and also the occasional wall or clips that lead to unfair and untimely deaths. Ayo the Clown is definitely going to be one that will split peoples opinions based on personal preference on a couple of different gaming aspects. Do you like challenging (sometimes through bad controls rather than good level design) platforming and exploration for collectables? Do you like cutesy-wootsey characters and visuals? Are you a dog person? If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above then this is a game for you, and one that you should enjoy. If you answered ‘no’ then avoid at all costs.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.