Blending together platforming gameplay with a point-and-click adventure may feel like a slightly unusual combination, but it’s something that feels uniquely special in Lair of the Clockwork God – the new release from the team at Size Five Games. It’s the latest title that features protagonists Dan and Ben (who are amusingly based upon the developers), though you don’t need to play their previous games to appreciate this gem of an adventure…
What would you do if all of the apocalypses were going to happen at once and only you could prevent it? Would you work as hard as you can to save the world or would you argue with your best friend about what is better: an old-school point-and-click adventure or an ‘indie darling’ platformer? Well, Dan and Ben, the protagonists of Lair of the Clockwork God fall into the latter category, and find themselves at odds in their opinions but still working together as they look to save the world from an impending catastrophe by solving puzzles and conquering platforming challenges.
One of my favourite things about Lair of the Clockwork God is its sense of humour, with the writing proving both clever and hilarious throughout. The relationship that Dan and Ben share in the game allows them to bounce off each other perfectly, whilst their distinct personalities allow for plenty of believable conflicts that stand out within the zany world they’re a part of. The game isn’t afraid to make fun of itself, other video games, or just about anything else you can think of, and it helps make the narrative all the more comical to be a part of. Think Saturday Morning cartoon-style humour, but with a bit more brains behind it…
Lair of the Clockwork God blends together two styles of gameplay: point-and-click adventuring and platforming. Ben embraces the old-school adventurer mantle within the game, meaning he’ll be the one collecting items, utilising them in creative ways in the environment, and solving the many silly enigmas that are found across the world. Don’t expect him to do any form of platforming action though… that’s beneath him. Luckily, Dan is willing to run, jump, and bounce his way across each location, with any potential hazards an afterthought as he speeds his way around.
When adventuring as Ben, you can expect typical point-and-click adventure-style gameplay (albeit with a modern control scheme that makes it easier to play). This means you’ll be doing the usual tasks such as looking at things, talking to people, picking up items, and then using them in all sorts of creative ways… you know… typical point-and-click gameplay. There’s some genuinely clever puzzles to be found as Ben that’ll see you use items and the environment around you in all sorts of wacky ways, with the moments spent as him easily standing out as some of my favourite in the game.
That’s not to say that the platforming gameplay isn’t enjoyable too though, with Lair of the Clockwork God not offering the intricacy seen in the likes of Super Meat Boy, Spelunky or Celeste (though it does utilise some of its gravity-bending antics) but still offering a fair amount of challenge and variety in each level’s design. Despite his resistance against platforming, Ben will even have to help out at times by using switches or solving puzzles to clear pathways for Dan. It’s simple but effective, whilst some clever inspirations from other video games and some typical platforming hallmarks ensure that Lair of the Clockwork God adds its own zany touch on its more action-orientated gameplay.
It’s the way that the two genres blend together that makes Lair of the Clockwork God feel special to play, with plenty of moments shared between both characters in the game where they have to mix up their repertoire of skills in order to progress through the adventure. Besides opening new pathways by solving puzzles, they have to GENUINELLY work together in order to simply get around – Dan will carry Ben on his back whilst traversing through platforming sections for example, whilst Ben will craft items for Dan to improve his platforming capabilities. It’s all designed in a nice and genuinely meaningful way that shows the blend of genre is more than just a gimmick.
Despite this, Lair of the Clockwork God does have some issues that do prevent it from striving towards genre-mixing greatness. For one, I encountered a few hiccups with the platforming where the framerate could slow down a little during busier sequences, which didn’t only hinder the flow of the level but also made it more difficult to time tricky jumps. Some may argue that the point-and-click puzzling could be a little bit easy too, with no enigmas really keeping me stumped for too long. I suppose that last complaint will be on a player-by-player basis so it can’t be held against Lair of the Clockwork God too much, but I was rarely in a situation where it wasn’t made pretty clear what I had to do.
Lair of the Clockwork God offers a clever blend of genres that come together nicely to make for one heck of an entertaining adventure. It’s like a jack of all trades in a way, but it’d be unfair to call it a master of none: the platforming is satisfying, the point-and-click adventuring is cleverly designed, whilst the narrative is memorable and full of silly antics.
It does have a few performance issues right now that can see the platforming feeling a little sketchy in places, whilst point-and-click aficionados might be a little underwhelmed by the difficulty of the conundrums on offer. Neither of these issues stop Lair of the Clockwork God from being a whole lot of fun to play though and an easy title to recommend for Nintendo Switch gamers looking for something a little bit different.
Developer: Size Five Games
Publisher: Size Five Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC