Review- Umbraclaw Difficulty Can Feel Self-Inflicted 1
Image via Inti Creates

Review: Umbraclaw Difficulty Can Feel Self-Inflicted

I wish I was better at Umbraclaw. I want to know what happens if I manage to preserve Kuon’s sense of self. I want to be able to go farther with her as a teeny, cute cat in a dangerous world. However, this is a challenging Inti Creates adventure designed to test someone. Yet because I couldn’t let go and felt a drive for perfection, it often seemed the restrictions I’d place on myself were what really made it feel difficult.

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Kuon is dead. She’s a small, black cat who was raised and loved by her owner, Tsukumo. Upon awakening in the Soulplane as a fiend. Not satisfied to remain, she is determined to fight her way back to Tsukumo and reach the boundary to the human world and return. However, she is just a cat in a world with many hazardous enemies. If she falls, she can come back and gain an Anima Revive ability tied to another animal’s skill. However, this transforms who and what she is to her very soul. 

Umbraclaw is essentially a platformer, but it can almost feel a bit Metroidvania-ish in the way abilities affect gameplay. Someone incredibly skilled, who is trying to challenge themselves, might actually get pretty far as-is. Though Kuon is a relatively ordinary cat, the character can dash through enemies with temporary invisibility, do a wall cling for a double jump there, crawl through passages, and even damage bosses if you dodge enough to build up a “stomp.” If someone is observant and plays carefully enough, they could impose their own “rules” of trying to not need extra abilities. 

The way in which Anima Revive power doled out can make it potentially challenging. I’m not quite certain if it is random or based on behaviors, but in one normal difficulty run, the first skill involved an elephant ability that allowed Kuon to guard. In a run I started to test out the easiest difficulty level, Kuon’s first death involved my getting the ability to double-jump. It seems you can’t guarantee that she will get something you really want with her next death, which again can affect the difficulty.

However, choosing the degree of challenge you want when you start also lets you determine how punishing Umbraclaw could be. There are three levels you can choose from at the outset of the adventure, following the tutorial. Eternity gives you endless revives, and you can reset the Anima counter. Anima Mode is more traditional, with players restarting at beginning of stages and more limitations on survival. Novem is essentially permadeath. You can’t reset the death counter. If you fall, you restart at the beginning of a chapter. It’s punishing and designed to force you to be your best. Given there are sometimes “cheap” deaths, due to encounters with unfamiliar enemies or stage elements, I’d say it isn’t good for a first run. 

The thing is, endings being tied to Anima Revive and your progress also means how far you push yourself once you get to the end affects the degree of challenge. If you decide to keep running through until you complete Umbraclaw with minimal or no Animal Revive usage, then that’s on you. You took the difficulty of the experience into your own hands.

I’m also a little split on the art direction for Kuon. I love the general character designs for her and her evolutions. The story cutscene images are great, and Tsukumo are adorable. The Soulbeasts and other major entities are amazing. However, I’m not a fan of some of the more general enemy designs for the typical encounters in stages. Also, while the style is unusual and stands out, I also didn’t really care for the direction used in the stages. They seemed a little too similar at times or even generic, even though the major characters stood out in fun ways. 

Even though I really enjoyed my time with it and loved when I managed to get through areas without needing to lose more of Kuon’s sense of self and initial nature, I also felt like maybe Umbraclaw felt a little too difficult to try and survive as-is? I fully acknowledge it could be a skill issue on my part. My second attempt through it to sample the Eternity option did seem to go easier. But in some stages it seemed like Inti Creates purposely imposed some situations that would require prior knowledge of the situation or above-average skills to get past without resorting to an Anima Revive ability.

I love the idea behind Umbraclaw and its character designs. However, the demanding nature and restrictions I place on myself while playing and some design choices keep me from savoring it as much as other platformers. The idea of growing stronger via deaths for second changes is so refreshing, though, and people who really enjoy a challenge may relish the chance to see how far they can go without faltering.

Umbraclaw is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC on May 30, 2024


Umbraclaw tells the story of Kuon, a house cat who has died in the mortal world, after she awakens in the Soulplane, a realm of the dead. She must challenge the perilous underworld to return home to her owner in this 2D action adventure. Switch version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

The idea behind Umbraclaw and its character designs is amazing, but know going in it can be challenging and demand perfection.

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Image of Jenni Lada
Jenni Lada
Jenni is Editor-in-Chief at Siliconera and has been playing games since getting access to her parents' Intellivision as a toddler. She continues to play on every possible platform and loves all of the systems she owns. (These include a PS4, Switch, Xbox One, WonderSwan Color and even a Vectrex!) You may have also seen her work at GamerTell, Cheat Code Central, Michibiku and PlayStation LifeStyle.