Okay ladies and gents, boys and girls, it's that time again with yet another review from your pals at Player2Reviews!
Today ya boi will be taking a look at a title that's been out on PC for a few months but has recently just dropped on Xbox and Switch, with a PS version also arriving soon.
The name of the game? Lair of the Clockwork God by Size Five Games.
So, what's it all about? Well, the game has a pretty unique and different mechanic at its core, one I've not experienced before in any other title I can think of. You see it's really two games at the same time, or more accurately it's a hybrid of two genres that you wouldn't usually think to put together: Platforming and Point and Click adventure.
This unusual mix works surprisingly well, with both of the characters you control being completely locked into their own gameplay style, but having to interact to find solutions to the various obstacles they'll come across as they go through the story.
Speaking of story, it's definitely one of the best parts of the game and the writers have done a great job of making the interplay between the characters both funny and entertaining. Ben and Dan are a pair of hipster millennials and make all the video game references, fourth wall breaks, and nerd cultures jokes you expect, without ever becoming annoying or know-it-all. Having starred in two previous games, "Ben there, Dan that" and "Time Gentleman, please" (you don't need to have played these to get the story btw), our duo are well accustomed to the point and click life but, as mentioned earlier, things are slightly different this time around. Ben has decided to stay true to the formula and when playing as him the game is a side scrolling point-and-click game. Dan, however, has decided that point-and-click is old fashioned and he's going to be a platforming hero. He's the jumping, running, and exploring character. The opening tutorial section is set in the jungles of Peru, and we get introduced to the interplay of the two genres as the hero's search out a rare flower with the power to cure cancer. This is just an introduction though and we quickly find the item we seek and return home to good old London town...
Only to find that the proverbial crap has hit the fan. London is destroyed, wrecked, smashed, and currently has not just one, but multiple apocalypses happening simultaneously. Aliens are invading; Kaiju are stomping; reality is tearing; Lovecraftian creatures rampaging and almost every other type world-ending catastrophe is happening all at once. As our heroes try to make sense of it all, they stumble into a buried bunker and, after a little puzzle solving, make their way inside...
Which is where the "proper" game begins.
Here we find a giant, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful computer: One whose entire purpose is simply to stop any world-ending event from ever occurring.
We've discovered the Lair of the Clockwork God but, as there's currently a ton of world-ending events going on; things are obviously not going well.
Something has wiped the memory of the giant computer. It can no longer understand or feel human emotions and, without this information, it can't activate the necessary protocols to protect the planet. So of course it's up to Dan and Ben to help out by entering a variety of computer-generated worlds and to recover the needed emotional software to fix our planet's guardian.
Across the whole adventure though, gameplay remains the same. Entertaining, with good puzzles and fun platforming sections where you'll need to switch back and forth between the two protagonists to get the job done. Both characters have their own play style and stick to it, meaning something that one character finds easy, might be particularly difficult with the other. Take Dan, for instance, he's the platforming specialist. He can run and jump, getting to places that the other simply can't reach. He's great for exploring the side-scrolling levels and you'll use him to see what's ahead most times. He does have his limits though. As a totally platforming focused character, he can't interact with any of the ton of objects you'll come across on your travels. He can't pick them up, can't study them, or use them in any way. He can't even pull levers or press buttons, although like many platform characters he CAN stand on pressure pads to activate those.
Ben on the other hand is the opposite. He walks along much slower than Dan and point-blank refuses to jump, no matter the situation, with even the smallest step being too much of an obstacle for him. He won't walk off surfaces to fall to the level below, even if it's a tiny drop and perfectly safe or even hop across the smallest of gaps between platforms. What he CAN do however is extremely useful. He can examine any of the objects you'll come across, whether environmental or something he's picked up, getting a description of the item and usually some sort of hint about its use too. He can also manipulate objects, opening doors, pressing switches, using computers, and so on. He's also the only one of the pair that can pick up things and place them in his inventory for later use. He can then use these in other locations to solve puzzles, like using the acid from a leaking battery to melt thorny bushes blocking the path, or even combine useless items to create all new ones. Success lies in utilizing the skills of each character and using their individual skills to help the other one advance.
For instance, there are many places where Ben simply can't reach because there's a pit or high platform in the way. Here you'll use Dan to step on pressure plates that move platforms up and down, or left and right, and through careful positioning, movement, and timing you can get Ben to where he needs to be, which is usually somewhere where his abilities are more useful than Dan's are. Needs a way through that retinal scanner? Perhaps the decapitated head Ben found could come in handy. A rotting tree blocking the route? Bet if you started the engine of that nearby crashed plane something would happen, but what can you do to fire it up? These are just a couple of early examples but, believe me, they'll become more complex as you advance. One of the best ways this plays out is in the way you can combine simple objects to create more complex ones that grant new abilities to Dan. Maybe your progress gets blocked by a weird inflatable land octopus thing? Get Dan to jump on it, popping it's air sack and making it no longer a danger. Then you can get Ben to collect it. Get a couple of these, combine them with a pair of boots you acquired from that corpse earlier, and suddenly you have a pair of double jumping boots! Give these to Dan and now he can clear bigger gaps and jump to higher platforms. Getting a little sick of Ben's inability to move around quickly? Maybe you can find some way for Dan to carry him around?
There's a lot of these types of obstacles to overcome or puzzles to solve and working out the solution provides a load of "So THAT'S how you do it!" moments and can create true feelings of joy when you work them out. The solutions are usually logical (in their own internally consistent, weird in-universe type of way) and I was able to puzzle them out with deduction alone. Sometimes in these types of games, the puzzles can be obtuse and you only find solutions by using every item, on every object, in every combination. I didn't find that here though, point and click fans should find enough to satisfy but newcomers shouldn't get frustrated either. It's a good balance and one many point and click games don't get right.
I did however come across a few bugs that did mar my experience a little although nothing that amounted to more than a minor irritation. One of the most notable for me was a problem when trying to skip to the next section of text during conversations. You can press Y when a character is talking to move the conversation onto the next line but, whenever I tried this, I would get a bug where the game's very first line of text would appear, covering every subsequent line of the conversation. There's an obvious solution, don't skip text, but I did find this annoying when I wanted to skip story sections when replaying levels. Another noticeable bug came later but was actually mentioned on the title screen and is already known to the Devs. It involves jumping. When Dan jumps onto the head of Ben's character he should just pass through him with no effect. Instead, Dan will spawn underneath the feet of Ben, underground, and will then glitch for a few seconds before respawning where he should have been originally. Again it's nothing major, hardly game-breaking and, as the Devs already know about it, I imagine a patch should be incoming soon.
So Lair of the Clockwork God is an interesting fusion of two genres that you wouldn't normally think of putting together but one that makes an interesting mix. A smart and intelligent script, funny jokes and references, with a pair of good characters combine with a cool pixel art style and loads of interesting puzzles to create a fun and enjoyable experience. Although there isn't much replayability, it's a game where the gameplay is good enough to satisfy veterans of the point-and-click genre but accepting enough for newbs to enjoy too. A few inconsequential bugs do little to detract from a witty and intelligent title. Definitely worth a look for fans of the genre!
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 8/10
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