Clockwork: review

  • Format: PC (version reviewed), OSX, PS4, Xbox One
  • Unleashed: Out Now on PC, other platforms TBA
  • Publisher: Gamesoft
  • Developer: Gamesoft
  • Players: 1
  • Site: http://www.clockwork-game.com/
  • Game code provided by PR

Clockwork is a puzzle platformer and of all the games that probably influenced it, it feels most like Abe’s Oddysee. It also feels a little like The Misadventures of P.B Winterbottom. It’s not as polished or engaging as the former, but is more fluid and approachable than the latter. Clockwork deals with time manipulation in a way that offers far more opportunities than other games with similar mechanics. It’s also paced quite well and all the puzzles are usually quite lenient, so finishing the game should be manageable. The biggest problem it has is that it’s janky and a little buggy.

It begins with Atto, a small “boy” robot coming home from his day out trying to find work in “Grindtown” only to find that the pocket watch he’s owned for the past 400 years can now talk. Only it isn’t a watch talking to him but rather Milli a “girl” that inhabits the watch and needs Atto to help her. What she needs help with she’s not really telling but Atto is naïve and willing to help her achieve whatever her goal is anyway.

Luckily, Milli is more than just a talking watch. She can also manipulate the fabric of time and space to create echoes of things that happened/will happen and replay them in the current timeline. Basically that equates to us making a load of Atto echoes all over the place; jumping around, pulling levers, picking up boxes etc. It means that while you can never be in more than one place at the same time, you can let an alternate version of yourself play out the same movements and actions at the time and space you recorded it to.

It makes for interesting interactions with objects and enemies. Echos of Atto can be used to lure enemies who never saw him originally; leaving the current Atto to pass by undetected and free from harm. Boxes can be moved by echoes and, again, the current Atto can reap the benefits, using the box as a platform to reach new heights. The possibilities are quite vast; unfortunately there are very few levels where much forethought is needed. Instead, lifting boxes and using switches & levers tends to be the usual course of action. The levels that require planning are the ones that shine brightest but they are also too few and too far between.

It can’t be said enough that the mechanic of making echoes is great. While you can only ever have three sequential portals open to do this, it still allows many, many, many echoes to be made. In some of the more difficult and interesting levels, you’ll be expected to have a minimum of six echoes working concurrently to your own actions just to get it done. Usually though, we had in excess of 10-15 echoes running about the place doing various things at various times. Some of those were echoes whose sole purpose was to undo a mistake that we made by another echo, or to prolong the length a switch was stood on because the echo we left there wasn’t on it for long enough.

While the echo powers are great it does take a little too long to get hold of them all. A few of the more advanced things don’t come in until after you’ve done about three or four more levels than were needed to solidify our understanding of how it all works. Also, the addition of these new powers make mistakes made far easier to erase, meaning that we had to restart the level far less often.

The only issue we had with making echoes is that we weren’t able to delete any of them or go back to a prior point in time without the echo portals. There were quite a few times where we missed a jump or fell down a hole without having a portal to escape back to. A couple of times this was right at the end of a puzzle and as we had no way of escaping doom/entrapment, we had to restart the entire level.

The biggest issue with the game is that it is quite buggy at times. Most of the time it relates to physics, other times it involves pressure switches and echoes. Physics specifically relating to boxes is one of the major issues we came across. There were times where boxes that were pushed off ledges wouldn’t fall, or would fall but not all the way. It made some puzzles impossible to solve until we managed to manually push the boxes rather than using the contraptions that were supposed to do it for us.

Pressure switches on the other hand occasionally got stuck “pressed down” if we were mucking about with echoes standing on it. Sometimes this is helpful; say, if we needed a bridge to be closed or a door opened. When enemies are standing behind said doors, not so much. It’s still only a minor issue but it does make some puzzles fiddlier than they need to be.

Clockwork is fun and doesn’t outstay its welcome. It’s a little janky and buggy at points, but generally comes across as fair and well-paced. The ending is a cliffhanger that just… ends rather than wrapping things up like it’s supposed to, but the dribs and drabs of story throughout the rest is fine. It’s not as cinematic or as fluid as Abe’s Oddysee but, if you like your puzzle platformers, Clockwork is a perfectly good one.

critical score 7

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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