Clam Man 2: Headliner PAX West Impression

In such a game where failure is not an option and comedy is at the center, making a bad build can be more fun than making a good one.

Video games evolve in interesting ways.  A sequel to a point-and-click puzzle game has added so many new elements that the puzzles are gone, and instead a series of dice rolls occur to move the plot forward.  In Sideby Interactive’s cRPG Clam Man 2: Headliner the dice represent the heart of improv, as whether a roll is good or bad the show must go on.  Comedy is at the heart of every decision so sometimes success doesn’t always mean the best result. RPGamer takes a look at how this charming and funny title is shaping up with a PAX West demo.

In Clam Man 2: Headliner there is no combat, just a simple office employee with the name of Clam Man, trying to find a way to quit his job to pursue a career as a stand-up comedian.  How close he gets to these goals depends on the dice rolls of the player as they explore the office building and make quests progress by conversation and exploration.  The game is primarily driven by its text, with only an isometric view for walking from place-to-place breaking things up.  Each time a dialogue tree appears there’s a few options for any character build, while hidden choices are only unlocked with high enough stats in any of seven categories.  With some options hidden, it makes replaying to see the different answers and jokes very satisfying.

Clam Man is best min-maxed and specialise in one or two stat categories, as staying in an average build will make a lot of dialogue options not appear.  He can be rude or mean to characters by design or poor luck, and as a result some characters may shy away from him in one playthrough, while being a best friend in another.  To help guide on which stats to max out there are a few pre-made classes to just hop in and play, but simply picking two at random and increasing away isn’t a bad way to go about it either.  In such a game where failure is not an option and comedy is at the center, making a bad build can be more fun than making a good one.  There are a few quests where Clam Man will have someone temporarily join him, when this happens they can alter the quests and dialogue in other nearby quests as well.  Additional dialogues and commentary will appear, broadening out the script even further.

Players can use Clam Man’s stats to outdo any character.  An alpha character trying to be a tough guy, can be taken down a few pegs by Clam Man no problem, but Clam Man might also meekly surrender immediately; it’s all up to the dice and the character build.  There’s a lot of absurdity tossed in as well.  One quest features a colleague, a crab named Herman, who explosives to blow up his desk because it’s wobbly. It’s not because he’s mad at work or necessarily angry at the desk, he just can’t stand it anymore and the only answer he’s got is to use explosives in his cubicle.

Some key moments of Clam Man 2: Headliner that are voice acted, but the rest is inferred by the player as they read through the next part of the adventure.  Characters are made to look like moving artwork, with hand-drawn penciling and shading making it feel like a Sunday morning comic strip.  Many of the side quests wrap up on their own, giving there’s plenty of different resolutions and jokes for those specific encounters.  The total game is aiming for around ten-to-fifteen hours in length with plenty of dialogue options, quests, and at least three different endings to wrap it all up.

Using both dice and dialogue options purely for comedy is very intriguing and presentation already shows a variety of results with the characters that leads to multiple playthroughs.  Clam Man 2: Headliner has an updated demo now available on Steam titled Clam Man 2: Open Mic, allowing players to see for themselves how silly these situations are.  Experiencing the full story is a little while away, as looks set to release in 2024 or 2025 on PC, Mac, and Linux.


Ryan Costa

Friendly neighbourhood reviewer that thinks every RPG should be discussed, because one never knows where a hidden gem can appear.

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