Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Claire De Lune is a sci-fi puzzle game that takes us on a journey through an alien planet full of hostility, acid, and terrifying beasts. The puzzles range in difficulty from logic gates to portal-esque solutions. Not only do players need to players need to survive the harsh environment through cunning wit, but they have to save Claire. And yes, the famous Clair De Lune song by Debussy is part of the official soundtrack.
When new puzzle games appear in our review list, you better believe I’m not far away. Claire De Lune is a neat sci-fi game that has a plethora of different puzzles to solve.
We begin with a dialogue between John (you) and Arturo (the computer) on a ship while sitting in a restricted zone. We get a sense of business as usual when Arturo chimes in with his ‘fun facts’ that come complete with a little fanfare. Claire, your daughter, joins you on the bridge. After getting some food and exploring the ship we get a sense of the characters. We live on a ship, we’re on the run, and we have a teenager with us. Before we can digest this information, our ship is hit by space debris or something, and we have to act fast. We tell Claire to head to the emergency escape pod before we crash on an alien planet. After landing successfully, we must fix the ship before finding Claire who is stranded somewhere nearby.
In the beginning puzzle section, Arturo and John banter back and forth. It left me wondering how important Claire is to John. Anyways, despite that, I enjoyed solving logic gate problems and stopping coolant from flooding the ship. Though, that is where the game’s uniqueness ends for me because as we leave the ship, we unlock a Nanogun.
Here’s the thing: Claire De Lune is a puzzle game that relies on solving environmental puzzles, similar to Myst, Portal, or Antichamber. Each game requires observation and understanding of the world around you. And unlike the three mentioned games, sometimes titles miss the mark by imitating too many elements of others. For example, the Nanogun is a modified Portal Gun that forms matter into different shapes. So let’s talk about the puzzles.
I enjoy the puzzles but I have two points to make.
- Puzzles are easy to solve but can be inconsistent and
- Puzzles easy to spot but difficult to execute
Once you leave the ship, the path to Claire is straightforward. We can produce matter to reach difficult places but sometimes the objects don’t appear. Other times the cube or trampoline will appear too far away allowing the aliens to get to you. Even then, if you’re trying to use the trampoline with the cube, one of them may not appear where you intend. Plus, walls need to be flat so that players can use the beams, but not all walls work. And even if you are targeting the ground, a location can be invalid because the ground is *slightly* slanted. This is particularly frustrating because it requires players to have pinpoint accuracy.
The second challenge is that puzzles are easy to see but are difficult to execute. Players can only create one block, trampoline, and gravity beam at a time. One can use the cube, trampoline, and beam together to solve puzzles, but cannot spawn two cubes. (Technically, there is enough matter to use the three in combination.) While it is easy to see your destination, being forced into using one object each presents its own challenge.
These two points showcase my issue with Claire De Lune which is that it needs a hint system. This could be achieved through Arturo’s database of knowledge or it could be a cool gadget that highlights useful surfaces. Maybe the devs could implement a radar or a compass. Anything to help players would really elevate the gameplay experience. And while some of the puzzles (like the slingshot one) are innovative, the difficulty ramps up too quickly.
This planet is evil. When we start, there’s nothing to worry about (other than falling to our doom.) We quickly discover alien spiders that remind me of facehuggers. Yep. These little bastards look like spikey rocks that burrow underground. And Arturo’s ‘fun facts’ are all but useless other than for comedic effect. Facehuggers, or whatever they are called, are obstacles for the player and they happen to be fast! I can’t tell you the number of times I died to one because the game doesn’t think that a broken leg would slow them down. True story. Plus, they jump at your face and are accompanied by the most unnerving sounds. Let it be known: THIS IS NOT A HORROR GAME. Still, these suckers had me on edge throughout the game. (Also, why’d it have to be spiders? Can we move away from spiders? WE DON’T LIKE THEM!)
Thankfully, once you pass the spiders, there are other alien lifeforms to be afraid of. There are KILLER PLANTS that remind me of spine crawlers in Starcraft 2. They stab at you if you happen to be on the ground, and I don’t even want to know what that death animation looks like. I’d rather jump off a cliff, thanks.
If we aren’t dying to face-hugging spiders, plants, acid, or chasms, there is THE BEAST and some ridiculously powerful turrets that will melt you in a fraction of a second. So while Claire De Lune is a really neat sci-fi puzzle game, the alien lifeforms are smart, fast, and sometimes terrifying. I humbly give this aspect an A+. The deceptively dangerous atmosphere is extremely well done.
Claire De Lune has some excellent graphics for a puzzle game. The alien planet has a rocky landscape that showcases its beauty. It’s green and lush with familiar flying wildlife. And while I didn’t think of it at the time, there are no land creatures to speak of, presumably due to the spider things, acid pools, and bloodthirsty plantlife.
While the game is graphically pleasing, there is one thing to note about the game. Its minimum specs require an NVIDIA GTX 660 or AMD Radeon 7850 for graphics, which isn’t bad. The thing is that my Radeon RX 570 can run Claire De Lune on max settings with the exception of the shadows. They had to be on the lowest setting so that the game wouldn’t look like this:
Sure, that is a minor issue, but since this was an issue at the start of the game, I’m going to notice it. Otherwise, the graphics were only a problem in terms of being able to shoot the Nanogun at specific locations. It’s not that anything is wrong, it’s that matter can only be created on certain surfaces, which as we’ve discussed is inconsistent. So take that as you will.
That said, the rest of the aesthetics are wonderful. Despite my best efforts, I was not able to make it off the map, nor was I able to glitch through any walls. This is a high mark when it comes to environmental puzzle games.
Music and Audio
The music and audio are Claire De Lune is extremely well done. I’ve already mentioned how unnerving the facehugger sounds are, but there are other elements of the audio that is wonderful. The soundtrack artist is Colm R. McGuinness who is an Irish composer, although you wouldn’t be able to tell from the game audio. Claire De Lune’s soundtrack sets the tone as a sci-fi futuristic game. Many of the compositions have a blend of a grand piano, violin, and synthesized reverberations. Not only do the calming effects of the piano sound creates a serene atmosphere, but the addition of reverberations add the impression of danger lurking around the next bend.
When the music is combined with the audio of the skittering facehuggers, conveniently placed birds, and deadly plants rustling, Claire De Lune shines. One shouldn’t be surprised as Colm McGuinness has his master’s degree in music composition and has not only worked on this title but is featured on Critical Role. Mr. McGuinness composed the theme to Exandria Unlimited, a short 8 episode tabletop RPG run by Aabria Iyengar set in Matthew Mercer’s world of Exandria.
For more details about Colm McGuinness and his musical masterpieces, check out IMDB, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, and YouTube. He can also be found on social media like Twitter, Facebook, Ko-Fi, and Instagram pages!
Claire De Lune is a great sci-fi adventure puzzle game that could have done much better with more options for puzzles, more emphasis on Claire’s well-being, or more player assistance. The puzzles themselves were great and interesting but were sometimes either much too easy or much too difficult. The narrative story with Claire left me uncertain about John’s abilities as a father. There didn’t appear to be any focus on the moral questions about his job. Finally, players are left fending for themselves without any real sort of direction. After Arturo gives his usual fun facts or explanations about the Nanogun’s new features, players have no hint system or indication of what needs doing. This is particularly frustrating when players reach the section of gameplay that requires using the beam and gravity as a way to slingshot themselves over a large chasm.
Overall, Claire De Lune is a fun experience that could have used a little more edge. The core gameplay loop is good and it is occasionally terrifying when dealing with aliens, which is why I give it an 8 out of 10. It has some amazing graphics and musical accompaniment which adds a lot of value to the title. The fact that there aren’t any real bugs to speak of gives the game a higher rating. The game is not a bad title by any means, but it’s not a stand-out performer in the puzzle genre for me. However, since Claire De Lune was created by a small indie studio, this is a great start for Tactic Studios. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.Score: 8/10