Claw was my first shipped title as a game designer. There was a hole in the industry portfolio at the time for high quality side-scrolling platformers. The only competitor we had at the time was Epic’s Jazz Jackrabbit.
And what better way to make a splash in the space than with a swashbuckling cat pirate in a colorful world of “cocker spaniards” and other dog pirates?
When I first started contributing to Claw’s game design, the game was hard. I mean REALLY hard. The very first level had tons of “death spikes” that would kill you in one shot. I distinctly remember a conversation with the level designers that went something like this:
- Me: “Guys, the game is way too hard.”
- Level designers: “No it’s not. It’s challenging, but fair.”
- Me: “Dude, there are death spikes all over the first level.”
- Level designers: “And?”
- Me: “IT’S THE FIRST LEVEL!”
- Level designers: “I mean, if you want a game for children, we can make it easier, but it’s totally going to be a kids game.”
So the level designers made every level easier and, if you played Claw, you know how difficult it was. You’re probably asking yourself, “Dear lord, how hard must it have been BEFORE they made it easier?”
Okay, but I can’t in good conscience pin *all* of Claw’s unforgiving difficulty on the level designers. I worked on some of the levels and I designed all the boss encounters. This was my first professional game and I felt like a final boss encounter should be tough and satisfying when you beat it.
The final fight with Omar required near-pixel-perfect jumps, impeccable timing, and was soul-crushingly difficult. Just after the game shipped, Jason Hall came into my office and said, “Lambert, I want to see you beat Omar.”
I did it in front of him, but it took me around 30 minutes across several tries.
In retrospect, it was amusing how I ended up contributing to both sides of Claw’s difficulty problem. On the one hand I convinced the level designers (begrudgingly) to make all the levels easier. On the other, I created one of the most ridiculous final boss fights in a side-scroller.
Claw released in 1997 and received an 8.8 out of 10 Metacritic user score. The game is still played today by speed runners and enthusiasts who set up a Discord Server that is still active today.
One thing I get asked a lot by Claw fans is, “What ever happened to the Claw 3D sequel?” which can be seen in the video here:
This was one of a few game prototypes I made in Monolith’s LithTech engine when we were deciding what games to work on next.
Unfortunately, the platform game enthusiasts at Monolith were far fewer in number than the first person shooter folks and therefore other games continued to show a higher perceived ROI in internal pitch meetings than Claw 3D, all factors considered.
Admittedly, I’m a bit biased since I worked on the game, but I honestly believe that Claw’s art style and presentation still hold up today. Especially with the resurgence of indie pixel-art platformers like The Messenger, I think a Claw game would be right at home.
I have tons of awesome ideas for a true Claw sequel and I would love to work on it if the opportunity were to ever present itself. 😉
Here’s a full list of games I’ve shipped over the years.