14 years on, it might say more about me than about games that I automatically want to reference Portal when I play a game like Claire De Lune. It's a bit unfair to compare everything in the first person physics puzzle subgenre to one of the best games ever made as a default.
You have a zappy non-violent gun necessary for navigating a series of platforming challenges. That's... actually where the similarities end. Instead of the increasingly sinister laboratory and wry humour, Claire De Lune crashes you into an alien planet and asks you to reunite with your daughter while periodically getting a flash of sad backstory.
But it's not quite a sad dad game, nor is it the maudlin exercise in self-recrimination that games about confronting your past mistakes and character flaws often are. It's... nice. The game that comes to mind during its story bits is the derelict-exploring Stardrop, not any of the snark-filled pretenders to GladOS's throne. It's warm and low-key, with a relaxing vibe even when it's telling the sad parts of the story, in which you experience brief flashbacks to you and your daughter's shared bereavement, and the slow reveal of what exactly you did that got you stuck out in space to begin with.
The puzzles are based around your not-portal gun, which assembles technomagical things where you point it. There's nothing as revolutionary or captivating as portals here, and in fact its abilities are rather humdrum. Your basic power summons a cube, and you soon get a trampoline, then further additions tend to introduce powers that modify those two in some way. If I disliked the game I'd say the powers were underwhelming and really just platforming with extra steps. But the environments are pretty, and your interactions with your radio support AI carry just enough light humour to be likeable without veering into tedious Zany Robot Buddy territory. There's an early moment where you temporarily upgrade said AI, and it cackles "Oho! Shit!" with such joy that it pretty much won me over on the spot.
The obstacles you face change and interact without outstaying their welcome. You're usually alternating between rock jumping and distracting or avoiding horrible alien nasties, with periodic encounters with an electronic device you'll need to repair or reconfigure with a variety of logic puzzles. It flirts with, but generally avoids the clichés I'd feared would weigh it down when I started, and it changes things up at a brisk enough pace to never feel boring. It’s all… decent. I hesitate to open up the pricing debate, but the worst thing I can say about it is that I don’t like it enough to recommend it without going “oooh, but eesh, oof, et cetera” about paying £30 for it. But even if some of its constituent parts are a bit underwhelming, Clare De Lune adds up to a good time.
Apart from the skittering spider monsters, that is. Jesus christ, the first 20 minutes of this are not for arachnophobes. Brrr.