Review: Lair of the Clockwork God
Blending genres in video games is a really tricky thing to pull off. Add too many different types of gameplay and you end up being a jack of all trades and master of none. But do it just right, and you can create a really compelling game like Lair of the Clockwork God, which mixes traditional platforming with point and click adventures.
As the game opens you find yourself in a jungle controlling Dan and Ben who are searching for a flower which will cure cancer. Dan is a no-nonsense kind of guy who likes to run, jump and push crates. He has a childlike energy where he is happy to jump straight into a problem to try and figure it out. Ben on the other hand to put it bluntly is a bit of a ponce! He refuses to run or jump anywhere, and prefers to use his intellect to solve problems. Dan and Ben bicker with each other, but ultimately (although they wouldn’t admit it), they need each other to survive. So now I’m sure you can see where the two genres begin to work together.
Ben has an interaction wheel which means he can look at objects, pick them up and carry items in his bindle. Ben can also do different things with his inventory including, wear items, examine them more closely, combine items, or use them on certain objects. Whereas Dan is a lot simpler to manage as he can run, jump and pull/push objects. The platforming in general feels responsive, and I never died as a result of the controls being at fault. Switching between Dan and Ben is done with a click of a button, and the game does a good job of keeping track of where they are.
Lair of the Clockwork God features a lot of puzzles which were initially baffling, and had me scratching my head on more than one occasion. A lot of the time you are faced with something really simple, such as Ben is unable to climb a small step because:
- He can’t be arsed.
- Why should he demean himself by jumping, or even walking up a small step?
- He’s too heavy for Dan to carry him.Yes, Ben can’t even be bothered to walk!
This is a bit of a spoiler, but also a perfect example of one of the puzzles you face. Ben is too heavy for Dan to carry. Firstly, you have to empty Ben’s bladder, but he will only piss in a toilet, or on a grave!? Once you figure out how to do this, Ben is still too heavy to carry because he says his lungs are too full. Wandering about you discover entrails on the floor from a dead clown who is suspended in the air by some helium balloons. Dan must pop one of the balloons so the dead clown falls to the ground and Ben can suck the helium, therefore making him lighter so Dan can carry him. Simple!
The solutions are usually very logical when you figure out what to do, and aren’t as obscure as some point and click games I’ve played in the past. There are usually only a finite number of things to do and Lair of the Clockwork God manages to strike the right balance between “how the fuck do I do this?” and “oh my god that’s so clever!” When you figure out a puzzle you feel great and it usually involves something clever and witty. In some ways it reminded me a Portal and Portal 2, where the puzzles were challenging, but not frustratingly difficult.
As you can tell, humour plays a big part of the game and would often make me smile, and in some cases laugh out loud. It is also very self-aware and referential, making fun of different gaming genres and the video game industry in general.
The graphics and sound perfectly suit the tone and style the game is aiming for. It evokes memories of point and click games from the 90’s, but also has its own distinct design. The music in particular is really nice.
Another area that deserves praise are the options. This isn’t something I normally go into much detail about, but kudos to the developers for providing lots of different options to make the game as accessible as possible. This is especially important as I’m playing the game in handheld mode on Nintendo Switch. So many times, developers forget (or don’t bother to change) that text can look tiny on the small screen and you end up squinting which takes you out of the experience. The developers of Lair of the Clockwork God go even further giving you the options to choose:
- Dyslexic friendly font
- Font size adjustor
- Black behind dialogue – displays a solid background behind speech to make it easier to read
- White dialogue – change the brightness of the dialogue
- Type speech – change how speech appears on screen
- Show speaker name – display who is chatting
- Auto progress speech – you have to press a button to move the speech on
- Colour blind mode
- Camera noise – remove camera wobble
- Screen shake – remove screen shake
- Interact toggle – change how you open up the interaction wheel
- Rumble toggle – remove rumble
- Platforming assistance – for those who might need a bit of extra help
I should point out (no pun intended) I’m not the world’s biggest fan of point and click adventures, so I wasn’t sure how I would get on with Lair of the Clockwork God. But I’m really pleased to say I’m thoroughly enjoying everything the game has to offer. The different gameplay styles, witty writing, challenging (but fun) puzzles are keeping me coming back for more.
For me, Lair of the Clockwork God is the perfect Nintendo Switch game. You can pick it up and play for 20 minutes or a couple of hours. The ability to tackle a puzzle or two on the go adds to the overall appeal of the game. Thoroughly recommended!
Lair of the Clockwork God is available now for Nintendo Switch, PC, and Xbox One.
Review by Chris.