Linux Gaming: OpenClonk

Until recently, I had presumed that a Clonk was the sound that my hard drive made just before I realized that I hadn't backed it up properly. However, in this case, a Clonk is a tiny chap who can jump, climb and fire weapons in the service of reaching his goal. OpenClonk runs on Linux and is the latest in a series of side-view platform games that started life as a DOS shareware series.

Although, superficially, OpenClonk could be classified as a platform game, the pace is thoughtful rather than breakneck. It borrows its control system from first person shooters, and the familiar WASD key cluster is teamed with mouse control for movement and aiming respectively.

The graphics make use of 3D hardware rendering even though the view is strictly side-on and 2D. Although it makes use of 3D acceleration, it doesn't need a powerhouse graphics card to run, and it rendered perfectly well on my Core Duo with integrated Intel graphics chipset. I suspect it would have run even more smoothly with a lesser processor and a more powerful, dedicated graphics card.

The tutorial levels are essential due to the variety of ways in which you can manipulate objects and interact with the game world. At the moment the main campaign of the game consists of a hodgepodge of levels, some of which exhibit a rather experimental feel. The game also supports multiplayer on the network with levels that offer combat and capture the flag style scenarios.

When the Clonk jumps, if it hits a wall or an overhang, it immediately grabs on in order to climb. The grappling hook, one of the many tools that can be equipped, is another way that a Clonk can reach otherwise inaccessible areas of the game world. One tricky area was negotiable by alternating the use of two grappling hooks to move across the roof of a cavern. When carrying out maneuvers such as this, the physics simulation that pervades the entire game is on display. Many game world objects react realistically according to mass and inertia when interacted with. Coupled with the other distinctive feature of the game engine, destructible scenery, this gives an environment that is extremely malleable.

At the moment OpenClonk is clearly unfinished. However, I suspect that it offers the kind of diversion that many a Linux user will find appealing, relying as it does playful experimentation, puzzle solving and humorous, forgiving gameplay.

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