Umbra Claw endeavours to weave a dark and enchanting tale of a house cat named Kuon who must navigate the eerie Soulplane—a realm of the dead—to return to her human companion. Sounds enticing, right? Unfortunately, while the premise is rich with potential, the game struggles to deliver a cohesive and engaging experience, especially for a retro gaming aficionado like myself who expected the familiar Inti Creates magic.

Punishing Difficulty

The game’s most glaring flaw lies in its punishing difficulty. As a fan of challenging games like Mega Man and Metroid, I usually relish tough gameplay, but Umbra Claw takes things to an extreme. Any hit leads to instant death for Kuon, pushing the “try, die, and retry” mechanic to unbearable heights. While it does introduce an innovative “Anima Revive” system that powers Kuon up with new skills after each death, the novelty quickly wears thin as frustration mounts. When a game feels more like a chore than a challenge, it’s hard to stay invested.

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Gorgeous Visuals

I’ll give credit where it’s due—the hand-drawn, paper-cut art style is hauntingly beautiful. The Soulplane is lavishly rendered and laden with intricate details, showcasing Inti Creates’ artistic prowess. Each enemy and environment is crafted with meticulous care, creating an atmosphere that’s creepy and captivating. However, gorgeous visuals can’t save a game if the core mechanics don’t hold up.

Disjointed Narrative

The concept of a cat navigating the afterlife to find her way back home brims with emotional and narrative potential. Umbra Claw explores themes of life, death, and rebirth, promising a multitude of endings based on player choices. Yet, the storytelling comes off as disjointed, with underwhelming character interactions and narrative progression. The stakes should feel high—and touching—but the execution lacks the depth needed to make Kuon’s journey memorable.

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Underdeveloped Characters

Kuon is essentially the only fully developed character in the game, which is both a strength and a shortcoming. While her struggles in the Soulplane are empathetic, the lack of compelling secondary characters or intriguing dialogues leaves the story feeling hollow. Encounters with other souls in the underworld could have enriched the narrative but typically fall flat with minimal development.

Conclusion

Considering Inti Creates’ track record with titles like Gal Guardians and Luminous Avenger iX 2, which had their fair share of flaws but were enjoyable nonetheless, Umbra Claw is a letdown. The gameplay is unforgiving to the point of frustration, the storyline is unremarkable, and the characters are lackluster. This game seemed promising on the surface, but it’s sorely lacking beneath the pretty visuals.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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Pro Tip for Beginners

Utilize the “Anima Revive” system to experiment with new skills and abilities. It can help alleviate some of the frustration and add variety to your gameplay experience.

Final Verdict

Unless you’re desperately looking for a new game and have set your bar low, skip Umbra Claw. Turn your sights to some retro classics or even revisit past Inti Creates titles you might have missed. This game simply doesn’t make the cut.

Want to check it out yourself? Click here to see it on Steam.