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Clan O'Conall And The Crown Of The Stag

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Platformer
Developer: HitGrab
Release Date: April 15, 2021


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PC Review - 'Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag'

by Cody Medellin on Nov. 25, 2021 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag is a 2D, art-driven puzzle-platformer inspired by Celtic mythology.

When it comes to the use of mythology in games, most tend to take their inspiration from the same wells. Norse mythology is currently the big thing, and Chinese mythology is getting more recognition. Japanese mythology has been in games before most people in the West realized it, while the Greek and Roman mythologies have gotten the lion's share of attention throughout the gaming generations. Seeing the mythology of another culture get any representation at all is cause for joy, and that certainly applies to Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag. It also helps that the game is pretty good.

In the land of Hibernia, a war has been raging between the mortals and the fae folk. After realizing the cost of the bloodshed and fighting, a peace was brokered between the two that would last for generations and be symbolized with a magical artifact known as the Crown of the Stag. However, not all were happy with this peace, including the Mother of Demons, Caorànach. After hearing of an attack on the village, the three O'Conall heirs make it in time to see the fae folk witch sacrifice herself to save their father, Chief Ardan, by encasing him in ice. Unable to procure the crown from his frozen state, Caorànach kidnaps Chief Ardan and banishes the children while she figures out how to take the crown safely.

As you can tell by the name, the game uses Celtic mythology as its backdrop, and it does the job well. You get some name drops for otherwise well-known creatures, like the zombies being called sluagh. Some bosses also come straight out of Celtic mythology, such as Jack-in-Irons or a large demon boar, Twrch Trwyth, that rampages through some of the levels. In short, don't expect this to be a method to learn more about Celtic mythology, but those who are somewhat familiar with it will be pleased to see it in a game.

The game introduces you to the idea of constantly switching between the three O'Conall siblings to use their specific abilities and progress through the levels. You start with Kilcannon, the basic all-around hero who's proficient with melee weapons. He's also the only one who can cut vines, and while he lacks a double-jump, he can use his cloak to float down and cover great distances before landing. He can also reflect projectiles at enemies, and that comes in handy when you have a few foes that are just out of reach. Then you control Haggish, who lacks weapons but makes do with his bare hands. His combos hit hard, and he can break floors, shields and walls. Finally, there's Clakshot, who may sport the lowest pool of health among the trio but can perform a double-jump. She can also roll through low crawlspaces and fire arrows in any direction to harm enemies and activate switches to uncover platforms.

Clan O'Conall is both equal parts standard side-scrolling adventure and puzzle-platformer. On the action side, there's quite a bit of enemy variety, and while it takes more than a few hits to kill anyone, the interactions are fun because you can juggle enemies and hit combos. You can switch between siblings at any time, and their fighting styles are different enough that you'll quickly find your favorite, but letting one person get drained of their health spells death for the whole group.

Puzzles require constantly hitting switches or activating blocks to open passageways, and some need you to switch to Haggish to push heavy blocks to their proper places. Other puzzles have you switching siblings to use all of their special abilities to get through the area. For the most part, the puzzles are easy to figure out, and the only time you'll feel pressured to solve anything quickly is when Twrch Trwyth is chasing you down. The platforming is strong; the basic move set of wall-jumping and movement speed are shared among the trio, and none of the leaps feel impossible or cheap, so you won't land blindly on a bed of spikes or have enemies knock you into an abyss.

Like many platformers, the game provides a number of collectibles in the form of fairies and imps carrying sacks of gold. Collecting those things and trying to kill every enemy in the level translates into experience that can be used to build up a hero's stats and grant them new abilities, such as extra sword slashes in a combo or leaving behind a bomb as they perform a dodge roll — something that made Clakshot formidable in fights. Even if you don't do these upgrades, the game automatically gives each character new abilities when the level calls for it. An overhead ceiling break from Haggis, a grappling hook for Clakshot, and an air dash for Kilcannon keep things fresh and give you a reason to replay earlier levels if you're trying to uncover the secret areas and stashes.

Clan O'Conall plays well overall and is enjoyable even when it changes up a few things on you, such as limiting the characters you can choose from in certain sections or requiring stealth. There are a couple of things that players may take issue with. The first is the lack of multiplayer. The game is giving off some Trine vibes, so being a single-player-only title might disappoint some players. Secondly, the title has no difficulty modifiers. Aside from a timer meant for speedrunners, Clan O'Conall has no other modes. The lack of a difficulty modifier means that after taking roughly six hours to finish the adventure, there's no way to incentivize the player into going back for another run. Its omission isn't a deal-breaker, but it is something to keep in mind if you enjoy replaying games for a challenge.

The presentation is quite nice. It may lack voices, but the soundtrack is filled with classically inspired Celtic tunes with a hint of modern ones. It makes for some good listening for the puzzle-platforming moments and the more action-packed segments. Visually, the title features a hand-drawn style that is reminiscent of the duo of Guacamelee! Games, as heroes and villains look rather angular. The animations are good overall, and there are some minute details that can be seen on the characters when the camera zooms in. Most of the time, the camera is pulled back far enough that all but the biggest of bosses look quite small, which places more focus on the backgrounds. Luckily, the backgrounds are quite lavish and sport Celtic style with flourish, making this a looker of a game.

Clan O'Conall and the Crown of the Stag is a fine title. It isn't a very long experience, and it doesn't feature multiple difficulties, but the balance between combat and puzzle-solving is well done, and it helps that both elements are quite good on their own. If you don't mind the lack of multiplayer and you wanted an experience like the classic Trine offerings, give this one a spin.

Score: 8.0/10

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