“The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words.” – William H. Gas
CLeM is a narrative-focused puzzle game with sinister undertones. Players take on the role of a nameless ragdoll, awakened by a mysterious voice that gives it tasks rooted in alchemy and etymology.
Developer: Mango Protocol
Released: 6th February 2024
CLeM is primarily a puzzle game, offering a range of inventory-based, and logical puzzles as well as light riddles, mazes and mini-games. With the exception of one conundrum towards the end of the game that was uncharacteristically tricky to execute they are not too challenging, but highly varied and very satisfying. It is recommended to play the game with a controller, there does not appear to be mouse support and keyboard controls can be a little cumbersome for some tasks.
The game is divided into five chapters within which the protagonist is tasked with fetching a specific bug for a ritual. A new tool is obtained in each section, such as a lens of truth or a runic key. These add new mechanics or in some cases, such as with the teleportation charm, make the game more concise and enjoyable. As everything takes place within one house and its grounds there is a fair amount of back and forth, the ability to fast travel as well as adjust the movement speed prevents this from becoming tedious.
The player is provided with a journal, which contains a list of attributes with corresponding pages about bugs filled with educational information and their uses in different potions and rituals. The journal also contains notes about things the player has discovered as well as collected images, it also contains details about the various tools.
CLeM’s narrative is delivered slowly, mostly through items and information discovered by the protagonist ragdoll during exploration and gameplay. There is very little dialogue or narration. The mysterious voice that directs the player is clearly that of a young girl and the story focuses on her and her family. What starts as slightly spooky but ultimately whimsical gradually reveals itself to be a little more sinister and really rather emotive tale culminating in a moving finale that pulls subtly on the heartstrings in a gratifying way rather than recklessly yanking on them in a melodramatic and bungling manner.
CLeM has a cute, 2D art style with a cartoon-like aesthetic that uses mostly muted shades with pops of colour. The visuals, including the child-like font and crayon drawings that are included in the journal tie in nicely with the mysterious voice that delivers the player instructions as it is clearly that of a young girl. The lighting is very subtle and could maybe have been implemented more effectively to create more of an atmosphere but the various locations within the house contain a good amount of detail and the overall look is very cohesive and pleasing.
The music changes in each chapter and corresponds with the attribute linked to the bug that needs to be collected. For example, the track that plays went he player is collecting hope is much more upbeat and light-hearted than the song that plays while they are collecting strength. In general, the soundtrack is quite gentle and sits unimposingly in the background adding the overall vibe in a delicate and nuanced way. The sound effects are similarly modest and add to the immersion and overall feel of the experience without drawing attention.
CLeM is a wonderful example of a puzzle adventure game, offering a wide range of satisfying conundrums, and a thoughtful and whimsical aesthetic that ties in beautifully with the somewhat sinister but fundamentally emotional and touching narrative. The story and visuals provide a unified originality and while the developers do not try to reinvent the wheel with the gameplay the various mechanics are implemented very effectively creating an experience that is a joy to play. It will take around four to five hours to complete, giving a decent amount of playtime for the price and I would highly recommend CLeM to fans of story-driven puzzle games and point-and-click style titles.
Looking for more puzzle adventures? You may also like these reviews:
Children of Silentown – A Sweet and Spooky Point-and-Click Adventure – Lucy Dreaming – A Rather Spiffing British Point-and-Click Game –Intruder in Antiquonia – An Intriguing Mystery and Satisfying Puzzles!