Cling! is a precision based game stuck on an imprecise platform. Championed as a “pegformer”, replacing traditional platforms with pegs that the sticky hand-like characters grip, Cling! is an unfortunate lesson in decent game, wrong platform.
Controlled via fingertip drags or virtual stick, neither is an especially satisfying method to maneuver the purple protagonist Edgar. On an iPhone, your fingertip is likely large enough to not only hide Edgar himself but also each of the sticky appendages that surround him and cling to the nearby pegs – and this isn’t even taking into account the dilemma of the rest of your finger obscuring a significant remainder of the screen. Without being able to see each of Edgar’s grippers it’s easy to lose track of what sort of peg you’re currently attached to, plus the ones you’re quickly moving towards. This becomes a problem during the 90 odd levels in the game, as certain pegs are actually hazardous to Edgar’s carapace, but not the grippers.
Using the virtual stick, Cling! is far more tolerable, and on the rarest occasion, enjoyable. Without any of the relevant screen real estate covered it’s much easier to pilot Edgar, fully aware of the immediate environment and the hazards approaching. However, once you’ve got Edgar moving at a good clip it’s incredibly difficult to direct him. Momentum plays an enormous part in Cling! and managing Edgar’s speed with a virtual stick is about as fun as pulling your own hair out.
If the controls aren’t enough to spook the average player, the level design might be the final nail in the coffin. Though stages are short the difficulty ramps up quickly, often asking players to negotiate tiny passages lined with instant death walls, slingshot our hero across vast bottomless pits and continually make split-second direction changes. Did I mention this is all expected with touch controls?
As a fan of games like Super Meat Boy, I’m no stranger to dying repeatedly, which is something you will absolutely do in Cling!; a lot. The fundamental difference between those two experiences is you’ll rarely feel like you’ve learned anything with each and every death. And you’ll also have to sit through unnecessary death animations, some of which can last several seconds, which add an unwelcome layer of frustration between restarts. Without the feedback of an actual thumb stick it’s nearly impossible to make the tiny adjustments necessary to steer Edgar to safety from one run to the next, which often leaves you flinging him into the same exact death block over and over again.
To add insult to injury the in-game store allows you to buy items that deactivate the death blocks, or even skip a level entirely. The catch is everything costs gumdrops, which is for all intents and purposes a premium currency: either you can buy them, with real money, or you can pegform your way into some truly devilish nooks and crannies. Gumdrops are sporadicly placed across the campgain but once you’ve grabbed one, you’ll be relieved to find that you retain the gumdrop following your next death, because that’s the only way you’re getting back out of its hiding place. However, then you’ll realize you’ve bought yourself exactly one level skip, so use it wisely.
I could likely go on at further length at how mystified I felt playing Cling!, but I feel that would be an unnecessary disservice to the title. What’s here is a potentially charming little game, but what you’ll likely experience is a maddening exercise in what doesn’t work as an iOS title. Without the tactile use of a proper analogue stick, or a significantly more forgiving sense of level design, Cling! is a game only suitable for the most dedicated masochists. And, before playing this, I might have included myself in that distinguished fraternity.