Clockwork is a still unpublished game, which I mistakenly thought I was lucky enough to receive the code for. Still in beta, I went into this game with an open mind, and a higher level of tolerance than I usually allow, and yet I still found it very unenjoyable.
Clockwork is set in the 400-year-old city of Watchtower, the only remnants of a civilisation eradicated by plague. The citizens of Watchtower were once flesh and blood themselves, but after the disease spread through every corner of the world, they built themselves mechanical bodies which could never succumb to illness or death. Atto, the character you play as, was an eight-year-old boy at the time of his transformation into his mechanical body, and has no memory of his parents, or the world before the plague. One thing Atto is sure of though is his pocket watch, which he has had for as long as he can remember. While every other object around him constantly breaks and requires fixing, his pocket watch has never stopped, and still keeps perfect time even all these centuries later.
Clockwork is essentially a side-scrolling puzzle platform game. It’s gorgeous, and I personally loved the steampunk-esque art style, and the contrast of the dark and heavy machinery backgrounds versus Atto’s little glowing pocket watch. I played it both pre-update and post-update, which to be fair did make a vast difference in terms of assistance and tutorial, but sadly not the gameplay, which I feel is the game’s biggest let-down. I played through the first of Clockwork’s total three acts, in order to get a good grasp of gameplay by getting to the first act’s boss level at the end. Sadly, I wish I could get the few hours I spent on this game back.
Each level tasks you to get from one end to the other. Obviously there are obstacles preventing you from reaching the other side, which requires you to make one, two, three+ clones of yourself. These clones are essentially ghosts which repeat the moves you just made. So, you need to stand on a switch to keep a door open? Stand on that switch for however many seconds you’d need to make it to the next area or the exit, then press a button to take you back to a checkpoint where yourself and now a clone will appear. Your clone will go to the switch and stand on it for however long you stood on it, allowing you enough time to go through the door. And… that’s it.
Let me paint you a picture: level 14. 3 levers, 2 ladders, 1 gas fire, 1 elevator platform, 1 wheel, 1 teleport, and 1 exit. It looked complicated and interesting, and I got a little excited thinking that this level would actually require some thought, and a few clones to get the timing right, etc. Nope. I just went through and did everything in order as I came to it, went back to the cloning checkpoint, and then just stood by the exit for a minute while my clone re-did everything I just did, until it finished and I was able to exit the level. In case you couldn’t guess, I found the gameplay INCREDIBLY boring. I played through to the boss level of the 1st act before I called it quits, because when I realised that the boss level was just the same gameplay as all the other levels, clones and switches etc., but with the added annoyance of some mechanical creature trying to kill you making timing incredibly difficult, I was done.
There were lots of other little niggling annoyances as well, but I don’t want to be too negative about these because these issues might be ironed out by the time the game is released. But there were things such as the noises the characters make; they don’t speak, instead the game provides text to read, while the characters make odd mechanical-ish noises to represent speech. Now, this would be perfectly fine and would raise no qualms with me, if the sound loops weren’t maybe 1-2 seconds long and replayed for each sentence the character says. It is very repetitive, and subsequently very annoying.
Essentially, this game is just far too linear for me. Start here, go here and flip that switch, then exit the level. It calls itself a puzzle game, but it’s not. Maybe the levels get more interesting past the first act, but I can’t even see how complicating them will help that much, as in general there just isn’t really enough going on or happening to make the game interesting. That point in itself makes me feel rather sad, as the art style of this game is completely wasted on the simplicity of it. If the artists maybe wanted to group off and make Atto and co. in 3D, with more interesting and interactive levels and puzzles, possibly a la Tomb Raider, then I would buy that game in a heartbeat.
I’ll check back in a couple of months or so maybe, see if any other updates have been rolled out, and how Clockwork plays because of them. However, as of now, the game is average at best, and generally poor all round.
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