Lair of the Clockwork God – Review
Follow Genre: Platformer, Adventure Game
Developer: Size Five Games
Publisher: Size Five Games, Ant Workshop
Platform: Switch, PS4, PC, Xbox One
Tested on: Switch

Lair of the Clockwork God – Review

Site Score
8.5
Good: A love letter to classic games and pop culture tropes
Bad: Difficulty could have been increased
User Score
10.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)

It’s not often that a game as original and unique as Lair of the Clockwork God makes its way into our hands. Blending old-school platforming gameplay with a classic point and click adventure doesn’t seem like a combination that would work on paper but Size Five Games promises us just that. Not only that, but the developers have modeled the player characters after themselves. Everything about Lair of the Clockwork God has the words “bold move” written over it, but can Size Five Games actually pull this one off?

Story

It’s actually not easy to summarize -or even explain- the story of Lair of the Clockwork God, simply because it’s filled with lots of twists and meta-humor. While there are no cutscenes, the game’s story is delivered by a barrage of speech bubbles, even as you are in the middle of playing through the action. Protagonist Dan and his sidekick Ben are two seasoned adventurers. Ben’s preferred video game genre is point and click adventures but Dan has grown tired of the genre, much to Ben’s dismay. Dan is seeking a shift in video game genres and wants to become a platform character. At the start of the game, the pair finds themselves in Peru, where they are seeking a flower that can cure cancer. The opening chapter turns out to be a red herring though, as chapter two actually details the real plot: all apocalypses are happening at once and it is up to our two heroes to stop them and save the world. 

What follows is a humorous adventure that sees you encounter bureaucratic dinosaurs, video game developers inserting themselves into their own games (including our protagonist pair actually) and all kinds of other zany shenanigans. The overall writing is top-notch and you can feel Lair of the Clockwork God is both a parody of and love letter to the games that the developers used to play when they were younger. It also tries to sell itself as a much larger experience than the small indie game it actually is, and surprisingly, it works for the most part.

Not every joke lands, and the game can even get a bit too meta at times. There are a few occasions where it’s clear that the developers are trying to make the player the butt of the joke. An example is when you boot up the game. After the usual developer logos, the game will keep showing fake logos for fictional companies that were supposedly involved with the creation of the title. It turned out that you actually have to press a button to continue to the menu, as these logos will keep looping infinitely, to the point that there is an achievement for watching 100 logos in a single setting. 

Graphics

It’s been a while since we enjoyed a game with pixel-art graphics as much as we did Lair of the Clockwork God. Character designs are fantastic and the colorful world is filled with visual jokes and tiny details that really amp up the fun factor. The Devil’s Kiss bonus feature -more on that in the gameplay section- goes for a dramatic shift in art style, eschewing pixel-art for anime-like drawings. While these don’t have the same charm as the pixelated versions of our heroes, the characters remain recognizable. We should also mention the amount of accessibility included here as there is a multitude of options to aid visually impaired players to enjoy the game. Not only is it possible to adjust text legibility in a variety of ways, but the game allows for a colorblind option as well in order to aid players in two puzzles that would be unsolvable otherwise. 

Sound

Just like the graphics, it’s obvious that a lot of care has gone into the sound design for Lair of the Clockwork God. This is especially apparent when it comes to character voice work. While there is no actual voice acting in the game, character voices are replaced by gibberish that captures the characters and emphasizes the speech bubbles that deliver the dialogue. These also match the speed with which dialogue is displayed on screen -if you opt for solid speech bubbles rather than “typed out” text, you’ll turn off the voices. The game’s music then is carefully matched to the chapters. We particularly enjoyed the Green Hill zone-esque tunes that accompanied Dan’s first real platform section and the music often takes cues from what is being parodied. Overall, Lair of the Clockwork God’s carefully crafted soundscape is the cherry on top of the cake. 

Gameplay

Lair of the Clockwork God manages to blend two unlikely genres together seamlessly, resulting in a unique experience. Ben embodies classic point and click gameplay in the style of the Monkey Island games, and is unable to even jump. Meanwhile, Dan refuses to engage in picking up and combining items (or crafting, as he insists) but will live through this adventure as a platformer. The result is a game that has both platforming elements and point and click adventure gameplay, and lets players swap between the characters in order to clear the challenges that make up the chapters. While this provides a unique and fun experience, the game never gets difficult if you’re somewhat experienced in these genres. Playing Lair of the Clockwork King is more about seeing how these characters interact with each other.



That’s not to say the gameplay was an afterthought. Some of Ben’s puzzles will still have you scratch your head and the game pulls some clever tricks with its platforming sections that involve changing the direction of gravitational pull. Overall, Lair of the Clockwork God feels like a very polished game. While there is a prominent glitch present, it’s also mentioned on the game’s menu and we’re not sure whether the mention there means the glitch was deliberately put in as a joke or if this is an actual acknowledgment. Either way, it doesn’t really affect gameplay so kudos to Size Five Games for how this was handled. In addition to the 20 chapter story that makes up the bulk of the game, you’re also getting the visual novel Devil’s Kiss. This bonus feature presents a fictional origin story for Dan and Ben. It’s a short experience and we suspect it’s another joke inclusion but it was a fun distraction for the 15 minutes that it takes to play through. 

One thing that is notably absent here is the lack of co-op multiplayer. While the game is perfectly serviceable as a single-player experience, and some of the sections even see our heroes split up, we do feel that having a multiplayer mode where you can team up with a friend could have benefited the experience. Of course, adding a co-op mode would have required extensive reworking of some parts of the game so we understand Size Five Games’ decision to stick to a single-player game, but hopefully, multiplayer mechanics are considered for a possible sequel.

Conclusion

You’re looking at a fantastic love letter to both classic adventure games and platformers with Lair of the Clockwork God. If you have an affinity for either genre, then the game will put a smile on your face. While not every joke is good and the difficulty level could probably have been cranked up a notch or two, this is still a title that is well worth checking out. 

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Lair of the Clockwork God - Review, 10.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
Sebastiaan Raats


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