Game: Clan O’Conall and the Crown of the Stag
Genre: Action, Platformer, Puzzle
Developer|Publisher: HitGrab | Games Branding.com
Age Rating: EU 7+ | US Everyone
Price: UK £11.39 | US $ 14.99 | EU € 12,49
Release Date: April 28th, 2021
Review code provided with many thanks to Games Branding.com
Leave it to Indie Developers
One of my favourite games of all time is Rayman Legends. If you somehow missed this title, it’s an utterly brilliant 2D platformer released on almost every console under the sun (including the Nintendo Switch). Smooth and rewarding gameplay, a beautiful art style and a memorable soundtrack made this a game I still often replay to this day. But the game came from Ubisoft and I’m sure I haven’t seen another title quite like this from them since 2013.
Since Ubisoft clearly doesn’t want my money anymore it’s no surprise I often look into the indie scene regularly to fill that empty platformer void. While many don’t live up to expectations, every now and then you are greeted with the nice little surprise that just seems to come from nowhere. I feel Clan O’Conall and the Crown of the Stag is just that game. So please enjoy this review about why this game is Celtic brilliance.
Crown of the Stag
Clan O’Conall is a 2D action-adventure game set in the mythical land of Hibernia. Once upon a Celtic time, the humans and Fae Folk were at war. But peace was brought about and the two sides unified with a special crown made from both people known as the Crown of the Stag. Unfortunately peace never lasts forever and generations later the Mother of Demons Caoránach has kidnapped Chief Arden who is frozen in ice.
It’s up to siblings Swordsman Kilcannon, Huntress Clakshot and Haggish the Brute to get to Caoránachs lair and prevent her from getting the crown and plunging the world into darkness. The plot is mostly told in simple art panels which keep things nice and simple. It’s easy to follow and doesn’t outstay its welcome, letting you jump straight into the entertaining gameplay.
What strikes out most is the game’s design which is a colourful hand drawn Celtic work of art. Although we see green a lot in video games I don’t think I have been reminded how pretty you can make green look in a game until playing this. The world is based on Celtic Mythology and folklore from Ireland, Scotland and Wales. I said in a previous review that it’s unusual that most game developers seem to forget that there is a lot of rich untapped folklore that’s not Greek or Norse. It was amazing to see supernatural beings like the Sluagh (spirits of the restless dead) presented in this.
Additionally, you’ll encounter Dullahan, the headless horseman, and the giant hell-boar Twrch Trwyth. You also have the usual goblins and fairies. Everything has a beautiful Celtic feel to it and while the world is not safe, the 2D hand-drawn art style is really something to behold. On top of that, there is an utterly gorgeous Celtic soundtrack to accompany you on your adventure that fits perfectly with the tone. I was so inspired I stuck on some old Celtic tunes during the production of this review. You just can’t beat a good violin number.
A mix of Action and Puzzle
The game plays across 20 levels. You have control of all three heroes from the start and you switch between each of them instantly with a click of a trigger button. Every level balances itself with action areas where you have to fight enemies, and puzzle segments where you need to move blocks about or throw a sheep into a beast’s mouth to progress (yeah, not sure I approved of this but since the game is so good, it’s all good).
Each character feels unique; the huntress uses a bow and arrow to fight enemies and solve puzzles. She is also fast and can double jump but has reduced health. The swordsman is the round fighter best for taking on lots of enemies at once. He can deflect projectiles back at enemies. This works really well in this game and does a great job of making you feel like a Celtic warrior. He can also glide on air vents.
Finally, the brute can lift heavy objects, carry bombs, break down walls and has the most health which is handy in tough situations. Some segments of the game force you to only use a specific character. Such as in a puzzle segment, testing your mental skills before moving on to destroy some more baddies. Every character can also be upgraded between levels provided you have found enough fairies. These are dotted around each level. But you can also gain more by defeating all the enemies on a level and finding hidden secrets. These upgrades are highly effective and felt generally useful when using in future levels.
No Time for Boredom
I was never bored playing this game. I was pretty much glued to the experience from the moment I booted it up until I finally reached the game’s conclusion (which is pretty darn hard). Features never seem to outstay their welcome. One moment you’re battling lots of monsters. Things tone down for a puzzle segment, then you’re fighting a boss and running for your life from a giant boar.
While themes are repeated the game is constantly introducing new mechanics and features to keep you engaged through the 6 hour campaign. I can easily see myself replaying this game again in the future. The developers have done a terrific job of making every beat of this game count without wasting the player’s time.
I guess it’s only fair that I point out some niggles. The main one for me is this game is crying out for co-op. The whole time playing this I thought ‘my wife would sure like to play as the badass archer lady.’ By including co-op I can see that kinda breaking some of the game’s puzzle sections but if the developers ever do another game like this, that’s the feature I would want to see.
Another more valid niggle is the game doesn’t feature any difficulty settings. The overall challenge is moderate. But I could see some players really struggling with some of the fighting segments which can become quite hectic. I guess my other niggle was when the game ended. I really liked this title in case you couldn’t tell by now.
Conclusion – Celtic Brilliance
Clan O’Conall and the Crown of the Stag is one of the best games I have played this year. On the surface, it gives the impression of a typical action platformer. But with its unique Celtic design, tight controls, memorable soundtrack and awesome characters this is a game that just gets everything right. Clan O’Conall was a wonderful experience that I hope as many people as possible get to enjoy. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to buy a book on Celtic folklore and listen to absurd amounts of Celtic violin music.
For now, the game is only available on PC but let’s hope it finds its way to other systems very soon.
Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up