Life sure has a sense of comedy when it comes to me. I’ve long been fascinated by the video game Glover, as I have often seen it being used a punching bag when criticizing early 3D platformers. I wanted to buy it for a long time and finally did so last week… just in time for a PC re-release to be announced. Slightly frustrating to be sure, but since this game is about to become relevant again, now seems a good time for a review.
Glover is a 3D platformer in which you play a big, white glove that has been brought to life in a magical accident. 7 magical gems have been turned into balls and bounced off through portals to other worlds. You must track them down and return them to the wizard’s tower, while your evil counterpart Cross-Stitch will try to stop you along the way.
The goal of Glover is to find your ball, pick it up, and then move it through the entire level, dodging hazards and enemies along the way. In similar games, having to move objects from point A to B is usually quite frustrating. It sucks being slowed down or having your movement options limited while carrying something, and if the item you’re escorting is fragile, then the slightest bump could cost you minutes of your time. Glover is fully aware of these frustrations and tactically avoids all of them.
Movement is about as fluent as you can expect from the Nintendo 64. You have a good amount of control over where the ball goes, so while it doesn’t control exactly like other 3D games, I got used to it within minutes. You can hold A or B to slap or throw the ball in any direction, you can use B to rhythmically dribble the ball, and you can also magically change the type of ball you have. This leads to some interesting gameplay moments, like changing the rubber ball into a bowling ball to slap into enemies or changing it back into a gemstone for extra points at the risk of an instant game over if anything hits it.
By comparison, Glover’s moveset when he isn’t in contact with the ball feels kinda useless. You can press a button to have him point in the direction of the ball, which rarely sees any use. If the ball is ever knocked away from you so far that you’d need this ability, then chances are 99% that it’ll fall off the stage or into a hazard anyway. The somersault move is only needed to bypass a single obstacle in the entire game and pressing Z to lie down has basically no purpose at all, besides making it look like Glover is having a mental breakdown.
Each world has 3 levels to it and a boss-fight + a bonus level if you manage to find every collectible in that world—usually about 60 per level. You don’t need to collect any of them to finish the level, you only need to get you and the ball to the designated exit.
Besides rolling, bouncing, and throwing your ball through platforming hazards, there are also some puzzles to solve. This usually entails reaching switches that open up new paths, which require skillful movement or clever use of the different balls to pull off.
This is usually a fun gameplay loop, though there are some levels that take the puzzle elements too far. The first stage of the circus world is a great example, as it’s a convoluted, non-linear stage with switches that don’t correspond to nearby doors, and which requires you to play a bunch of mini-games without instruction.
This is actually the second-biggest flaw of Glover; it’s often not clear at all what the game expects from you. Some obstacles look like puzzles but just require some crafty platforming, whereas some difficult platforming bits are actually puzzles. Sometimes you lose a dozen lives trying to get the ball through a difficult part, except it leads to a switch at a dead end which you could have activated with just Glover alone. It makes you feel very stupid when you finally realize your “mistake”, but not in a way that feel gratifying.
So what is the actual biggest flaw of the game? The wily nature of its physics.
Glover is quite impressively programmed for such an odd game, but it does have a tendency to freak out on you. You sometimes need to be incredibly precise with your platforming to land you, and your ball, on platforms so tiny that they leave you with little leeway. The ball then often bounces off in ways you didn’t expect, rolls too far, or gets pushed off when you try jumping after it.
Throwing and slapping also don’t quite feel right. There’s a big wind-up, followed by a weak little hit that only gets the ball a meter or two from where you started. I really wish you could extend this range like how you’d throw a grenade in a modern game, because the added precision would solve a lot of the game’s frustrations.
This lack of power gets especially annoying when dealing with enemies and bosses, because it’s a crapshoot if hitting them with the ball will do anything at all. Maybe it does damage as you’d expect… or maybe it just bounces off them. Sometimes the game might even decide that the enemy damages the ball instead!
The worst boss-fight of all was against this monkey that you have to hit while it swings from a branch. The hit box that you’re expected to strike is tiny, but if you get too close then the monkey will start chasing you instead. This turns the entire boss fight into a guessing game where you try to feel out how close you can get, with a minute of wasting time between each failed attempt. You also can’t take your time with any of this, because two smaller monkeys chase after you to steal the ball if you don’t keep moving.
On the upside, the game is remarkably pretty. Its levels use fun themes like pirates, space, and a horror world, all of which have unique art assets, creatures, and gameplay elements. I might have complained about the circus level earlier, but it has a bouncy atmosphere and a fantastic boss fight at the end. I am also fond of the HUB world, which starts off dark and sinister, but gradually becomes brighter and more fantastical as you return more crystals. What a great way to mark your progress.
Should you play Glover? If you have a fondness for retro platformers, then I’d certainly keep an eye out for the upcoming re-release. It’s not a masterpiece and I can guarantee that it’ll frustrate you at times, but the sheer originality made it worth playing. Gotta love The Glove.
2 thoughts on “Glover”
For me, Glover is held in the same regard as games like Katamari, Super Monkey Ball and Kula World. I love the simple gameplay and generally find them fun. But I struggle to go back to them, they just don’t have replay value. Hopefully the addition of achievements on steam will fix this for me!
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I remember renting this one back in the day. I didn’t like it at all, and I assume I wouldn’t look at it more positively if I played it nowadays. =P