As far as gaming genres are concerned, the classic point-and-click adventures are experiencing something of a resurgence these days. That being said, it’s still tricky to wrestle gamers away from the likes of adrenaline pumping platformers by offering a chilled-out adventure full of exploration and witty conversation. But what if I told you that British developers Size Five Games (The Swindle) had a desire to merge platforming with pointing and clicking. Would this bizarre mash-up, titled Lair of the Clockwork God, be able to pull it off and be a success, or will it result in an adventure that nobody wants to go on?
Well, Lair of the Clockwork God’s certainly like no other game out there and ultimately it’s a refreshing, satirical take on both genres that deserves your attention.
The heart of the story sees best friends Ben and Dan going on an adventure together, but they don’t quite have the same outlook on how their escapades should play out. Old school Ben adores the point-and-clickers of yesteryear, like Sam & Max, Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island. Dan, on the other hands, gets a kick out of jumping about and running in the hopes of becoming a platforming icon. As such, you’ve got two different characters at your behest offering two entirely unique abilities and styles of play.
It introduces you to the core mechanics through a tutorial level in which the duo are on a quest to find a magical flower that supposedly cures cancer. During this section, you learn how Ben can interact with things, pick up items for his inventory, hold a conversation and the like, while Dan just wants to leap across gaps, activate pressure switches and move anything obstructive. Naturally it presents the need to switch between the two regularly in order to make progress, moving each character in tandem. This is actually the single tedious aspect, but as more gameplay quirks are added, the chore is eliminated completely.
Once the main narrative kicks in, Lair of the Clockwork God really comes into its own with an apocalyptic undertone and an ancient computer in dire need of our double act’s assistance. The computer constructs a variety of levels for Ben and Dan in the hope of invoking particular emotions from them. This leads to a great selection of well-designed levels, including one that’s reminiscent of Sonic the Hedgehog, which also delves into the inner-workings of the age-old respawn. It wonderfully mocks the platforming tropes and typical protagonists, but also proves an enjoyable challenge in terms of problem solving and actually navigating the environment.
Surprisingly the two genres blend together greatly, with the character of Ben being the driving force behind the storytelling and inventory-based predicaments. His conversational skills enable the humorous writing to flow and it’s genuinely going to make you chuckle – perhaps even burst out laughing. There’s a real mixture of silly, slightly rude jokes alongside a raft of clever digs at gaming in general, so something will hit your sweet spot. It’s not all light-hearted though and credit must be given for actually giving me goosebumps at one stage, however the momentary sadness is soon flipped into sheer hilarity. Every line of dialogue is worth reading to ensure no laughs, nor any clues regarding solutions, are missed.
As for the puzzling moments that require something from the trusty backpack, and well, they are very unconventional for the most part. Without spoiling too much, you will have to find a way to defrost a detached hand in order to use a scanning machine, or load a cannon with sherbet in the midst of a boss battle. No matter how many point-and-click games you’ve played, you won’t have experienced problems like these. There’s one solution that will linger in your mind for an eternity because it’s so unique, utterly gross and perfectly timed on the comedy front.
On the contrary, Dan is there to deliver those skill-oriented instances by putting your reflexes to the test. Slowly, but surely, he acquires new abilities to tackle the increasingly complex layouts filled with environmental dangers and enemies. This keeps the adventure fresh as a simple jump is soon joined by the likes of a double jump, the option to sprint, shoot, and the infamous wall-grab. The latter is only possible thanks to Ben gifting him a pair of incredibly sticky gloves – just don’t ask why they’re so sticky, please.
Even though the platforming is a little rough around the edges, it works well on the whole and the frequently placed checkpoints ensure frustration isn’t a regular occurrence. For anyone that does struggle though, there’s a setting to alleviate the difficulty, which certainly comes in handy when trying to time jumps and fire off the gun simultaneously.
While the levels will take you to some interesting places that range from the mildly frightening to the totally futuristic, there’s also added variety in the gameplay. Obviously not satisfied with conquering the two huge aforementioned genres, the developers have managed to squeeze in a visual novel and a VR themed portion. Once again, they’ve captured the spirit of such game types and sprinkled their humour on top to make it even more fun.
Despite the joys and hilarity brought about by Lair of the Clockwork God, there are a couple of minor issues that should be addressed. For some reason, the game had a hissy fit and corrupted my most recent checkpoint, leading to a restart from an earlier chapter. At times, the spiders were a bit glitchy in the fear-inducing level as they would randomly disappear and then reappear. The final odd thing involves Dan sinking into the ground for a few seconds if he jumps where Ben is situated.
Such minor irritations can be overlooked though when a game is as great and fresh as Lair of the Clockwork God on Xbox One. The consistent introduction of new mechanics, the well-balanced increase in difficulty and the sheer variety of levels, all combine to create an experience that’ll dig its claws into you – and you’ll not want it to let go. It’s a mash-up that shouldn’t work, but it absolutely does and the fact that a hilarious narrative is woven in is merely the icing on top.
You could experience fits of laughter, you may even shed a small tear, but most importantly you’ll have an adventure like no other with Lair of the Clockwork God.