"Embedded in the mud, glistening green and gold and black, was a butterfly, very beautiful, and very dead. It fell to the floor, an exquisite thing, a small thing that could upset balances and knock down a line of small dominoes and then big dominoes and then gigantic dominoes, all down the years across Time. Eckels’ mind whirled. It couldn’t change things. Killing one butterfly couldn’t be that important. Could it?"
So wrote Ray Bradbury in the classic short story "A Sound of Thunder," the roundabout inspiration for The Clumsys 2: The Butterfly Effect, the second game based on the adventures of the time-traveling Albert Clumsy and his family.
This time around, the elder Clumsy has returned from his adventures with a prehistoric – and very dead – butterfly in tow, immeasurably altering the course of human history. Once again it’s up to his daughter Helen to go back in time and set things right, by traveling to locations like Thomas Edison’s workshop, Galileo’s study, the household of Abu Alhazen and many others to help complete famous inventions and make sure that no "improper objects" are left behind to throw the course of history into further disarray.
Each level of the game features a half-dozen or so hidden objects as well as two or three "closed" areas such as drawers, cupboards or other locations that must also be searched for hidden objects. Most can be opened at will, but occasionally players will have to find a key of some sort to get inside.
The object searches are relatively simple and unlike most games in the genre, The Clumsys 2 shows players images of the hidden objects rather than simply describing them, removing any ambiguity about what the game wants when it asks for a "nut" or a "candle." Die-hards may be put off by the lessened challenge, but I think the majority of players will be pleased by the drastically reduced potential for frustration.
Visually, the game is a treat. Each level is bright, colorful and cleanly illustrated, and the hidden objects, while often very well disguised, are distinct enough that most will be found with very little use of the help options. Which is almost a shame, because The Clumsys 2 does a great job of making its help options a part of the actual game. The usual "look over here" hints are provided, but a small number of items found over the course of the game can be combined into "gadgets" which provide different kinds of clues. The "fire gadget," for instance, creates a flame that brightens dark levels and burns higher when it’s near an area of importance. It’s very effective as both an aid to and component of gameplay.
Among the objects hidden on each level will be a small number that must be assembled in order to complete an invention like gunpowder, Gutenberg’s printing press or the first submarine. Once the invention is completed – a simple but still oddly rewarding process – and technology is brought one step closer to normal, all that remains is a clean-up of objects that shouldn’t be present at that time and place.
Most of them are at least tangentially related to the completed invention – following the invention of the phonograph, for instance, Edison’s workshop was littered with items like a microphone, modern LP and portable CD player – but, as in the original Clumsys, there are a few head-scratchers, too. Despite requiring some guesswork, however, it won’t add up to anything worse than a few extra misclicks as players figure out what does and doesn’t belong.
And unlike games that punish too many errant clicks of the mouse, The Clumsys 2 lets players click as much as they like. In lieu of the usual penalties, players are greeted at the end of each level with a statistics screen that tracks information like mission time, used hints and, of course, a "bad click ratio." I’ll admit that my ratio was a touch on the high side, but the specifics will remain my private shame forever.
Aside from that gentle humiliation, my only real complaint about The Clumsys 2 is that it can become repetitive after awhile. A few levels break things up a bit with brief mini-games but these are relatively rare distractions, and for the most part each level is a fairly constant routine of "search, build, search." In the same vein, hardcore HOGgers will probably find The Clumsys 2 a bit too easygoing for their liking; levels have no time limits, there are typically fewer than a dozen items to be found in each area and the game is scrupulous almost to a fault about hiding them in fair, findable locations.
Overall, however, these are minor quibbles that shouldn’t distract from the fact that The Clumsys 2 is a very good game. There’s even a slight educational benefit to be found, as each level includes small tidbits of information about where and when each invention was made, and with 30 of the world’s most famous inventions waiting to be completed, it’s not something most people are likely to finish up very quickly. Sadly for Mr. Eckels, Bradbury’s short story finished on a very dark note, but with your help, the Clumsys, and the world, will have a much happier ending.