Claw is an arcade-style platforming game for Windows, developed and published in 1997 by Monolith, the creators of such games as F.E.A.R. and No One Lives Forever. The version available on Abandonia, and the one I am reviewing, is version 1.3, which has been made easier than the original version by decreasing the number of points needed to obtain an extra life, from 1,000,000 to 500,000, while decreasing the difficulty of non-boss enemies.
In Claw, you play as the feline pirate Captain Claw, Surveyor of the Seven Seas. Although he's recently been captured by Captain Le Rauxe of the Cocker Spaniard Kingdom, he learns of the legendary artifact known as the Amulet of Nine Lives, which is rumored to grant the wearer near-immortality. Naturally, Claw must have it for himself, so he decides to break out of his cell in the prison of La Roca, find all the pieces to the Amulet's treasure map, and recover all 9 pieces of the amulet.
The goal of each level in Claw (with the obvious exception of custom levels, briefly discussed later in this review) is either to collect a piece of the treasure map for the Amulet of Nine Lives, or to defeat the boss of that level in order to collect their piece of the Amulet. Typically, these objectives alternate between levels. In order to achieve these goals, you must run, jump, and fight your way through the game's levels. Claw's melee attacks include a short-range sword attack and point-blank punching and kicking attacks, all of which are engaged automatically based on the presence of enemies. He also has three different long-range, ammo-based attacks, all of which have the potential to kill off-screen foes: a pistol, whose ammo can be blocked by a number of enemies; dynamite, which can be blocked by very few foes; and the Magic Claw, a magical attack which can only be blocked by the most powerful of foes.
The levels themselves are very well laid out, with each level more difficult than the last. They are also quite colorful, attractive, and have their own suitable artwork. For example, La Roca Prison looks old and worn, with brick trellises, trap doors, and crumbling stone platforms; in contrast, the Shipyard, which you'll encounter later in the game, contains magnificent 16th century galleons, complete with cargo, cannons, and all the fixings of a real galleon.
Each level contains the usual platforms, lifts, and obstacles, both those that injure and the instantly lethal, all of which vary in appearance based on the level. The levels are filled with loot, and there are a variety of temporary powerups scattered in different places - some easy to reach, some not - such as catnip, which makes Claw move and jump faster; invincibility potions; and different powerups for Claw's sword which allow it to shoot various elemental bolts of energy at foes. Each level contains a plethora of secrets for the daring and the daredevil - the latter more so as you get towards the middle part of the game. Also, the levels continue to get harder and harder as you progress through the game, from the combination of more difficult level design and new, more powerful and more resilient foes.
Speaking of foes: They are just as varied and colorful as the levels themselves. La Roca Prison features wimpy Cocker Spaniel dogs as guards, all decked out in "Spanish" garb, while the coastal city of Puerto Lobos has sophisticated-looking Royal Guard dogs who are also armed with swords, and thus can counter your attacks. They all speak in a cartoony manner, with hilarious inflections on the simplest of statements, such as "Captain Claw!" and "Prepare to die!" They also have some outrageous dialogue - one enemy actually speaks the following line: "*burp* Excuse me!" As you get further in the game, the foes you must face (with the exception of the bosses) get harder very quickly. As you get to the halfway point, the foes become remarkably difficult, as they can block your attacks and counter-attack rather easily. Combined with the complex level designs, it can create a rather daunting gauntlet. Thankfully, the bosses aren't impossible. Although they can block your long-ranged attacks, they have an easily-spotted weakness which will allow you to defeat them with steady reflexes.
Fortunately, this gauntlet can be mitigated by the game's auto-save system, which saves your progress at the end of a level (levels with bosses consider the defeat of the boss to be the end of the level) and at two pre-defined points. (I say "can" because it doesn't help when your latest save has you on your last life before a difficult section of a level!)
In addition, it's possible to play with up to 64 different players in multiplayer battles over LAN, IPX, or TCP/IP; you can also build custom levels with an external map editor (it's included in the game's extras section here on Abandonia). Thankfully, Monolith has, starting in version 1.2 of Claw, included 16 different custom levels created by the community which you can both play and examine using the level editor to see how they work.
Overall, Claw is an engaging and enjoyable experience - provided you're willing to endure the grueling undertaking that is the game's later levels.
To ensure Claw was small enough to be uploadable to Abandonia, the in-game video has been ripped.
Claw has been confirmed to work on both Windows XP and the 64-bit version of Windows 7; however, there is no guarantee the game will run using either the 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows Vista.
Claw can become unplayable when run under a Windows XP virtual machine using VMware Player. The issue is Claw cannot jump high enough to reach ladders, some platforms, and other level elements which the player needs to use in order to navigate levels.