Ayo the Clown is something of a rarity; a pure 2.5D platform game set across bite sized linear stages. It owes a lot of its core gameplay ideas to classic Mario titles — and quite explicitly takes inspiration from various entries in the Yoshi series — with cute character design, levels that promote exploration and verticality, and a host of enemies and obstacles to halter your progress. With rather simple graphics and kid-friendly presentation, Ayo the Clown would be quite easy to dismiss, but the gameplay here is pleasingly tight, making this a great, accessible alternative to a Yoshi platformer.
The story starts with Ayo and his beloved dog sleeping peacefully, before the clown is rudely awakened to find that his best friend has mysteriously disappeared. It’s a simple story, to be sure, but one that suitably drives the narrative to the end. As you progress through the levels, you’ll meet a range of friendly NPCS, some of whom request Ayo help them out, and others dishing out new abilities for you to utilise.
In the initial stages of the adventure, Ayo is without most of his signature moves; the poor clown can’t even jump until the Shoemaker fixes his jumping shoes. As you progress, however, you’ll gain more abilities, including using a balloon to reach higher ground, and a headbutt ability that lets Ayo jump and slam back into the earth, defeating enemies and breaking obstacles in the process, much in the style of Mario's green dino buddy. Some moves can be a bit tricky to pull off at times; the balloon, for example, can be difficult to manoeuvre in tighter spaces.
The level design is particularly strong here; there’s plenty of opportunity to explore, but the game never lets you stray too far as to get lost. It’s an incredibly accessible title, in that sense; almost anybody can pick up and play Ayo the Clown and enjoy their time with it. Those who wish for a bit more of a challenge can crank up the difficulty, adding more enemies and obstacles to the mix, whilst those who want a bit of a gentler experience can lower it, boosting Ayo’s health and removing certain dangers.
Regardless of which difficulty you choose, we can’t help but wish the game was just a touch more challenging at certain points. It’s got all the hallmarks of a good platformer, including some decent boss battles and even a section where you jump in a tank and wreak havoc on any poor blighter who gets in your way. Needless to say, though, it’s a bit of a breeze to complete, and the only other way to boost the difficulty is by going back and collecting all the optional items lying around each level.
Despite the lack of any real challenge, Ayo the Clown is nevertheless a nice alternative to the usual go-to platformers on Switch. It’s got a wonderful, uplifting soundtrack, with several tunes you’ll be humming long after completing the game. Granted, if you’re a Coulrophobic and the mere thought of playing a game featuring a clown causes you to break out in a cold sweat, then you might want to steer clear. For everyone else, though, this is well worth picking up if you’re a fan of breezy, easygoing platformers.