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Lair of the Clockwork God Review


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134627386_LairClockworkGodlogo.jpg.812b126baf4948aeea6737b08f46564a.jpgPart point-and-click adventure, part platformer, and all irreverent humor, Lair of the Clockwork God is a satirical, self-aware blend of video game genres that delights in breaking the fourth wall just about anywhere it can. By switching between the two protagonists, you'll tackle either classic adventure game puzzles—find items and combine them to progress—or traditional 2D platforming with all of the spikes and hazards that entails. Although the experience gets undeniable points for originality, the execution of this premise leaves something to be desired.
 
You play as Ben and Dan—caricatures of the developers Ben Ward and Dan Marshall—who are clearly genre-savvy about the video game world they exist in. But while Ben insists on behaving as a classic point-and-click adventure protagonist, Dan wants the speed and action of a platforming star. The result is the two characters play completely differently and constantly lob jokes at one another over their chosen genre. It also means that the two need to work together to progress—Ben refuses to jump over even the smallest ledge, so Dan's platforming prowess is needed to find switches or blocks that allow Ben to move forward. Clockwork God is a full-on comedy game, from the puzzle solutions to fourth-wall-breaking jokes about game structure. There are definitely some stinkers in the joke lineup that play on tired or just cheap laughs, but overall the British sense of humor works well throughout the story, culminating in a surprising little twist at the end.
 
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As mentioned, the two protagonists play completely differently, and you can swap between the two at any time. It can be a little jarring and even a bit frustrating to go from Dan's speedy platformer movement to Ben's plodding walk, but overcoming obstacles by combining both of their skills makes for some clever and engaging challenges. Clockwork God is at its best when a solution requires a smart combination of each person's abilities, which is what makes it a bit odd that the two end up spending quite a lot of the game separated. These separated parts of the game do feel a bit more fleshed out, since it allows the game design to just focus on puzzles or platforming, but the unique hook of the game is combining them, so separating them feels like a bit of a waste.
 
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And even while separated, neither genre feels quite as polished as it could be. For the platforming, this comes down to some unimaginative hazards and a choppy frame rate that has trouble keeping up with Dan's movements. The former is mildly disappointing but the latter is a significant problem, and can make parts of Clockwork God a literal headache to play when the graphics so poorly keep up with the flow of gameplay. The point-and-click half of the game is overall stronger, with a good variety of puzzles and relatively few convoluted solutions. The only small issue here is that the controls feel awkward. You hold Up on the D-pad to bring up a wheel of command options such as Talk, Use, Inventory, etc. but the action is just weird, especially when there are so many buttons on the controller that aren't used at all. Ben's controls easily could have been polished to suit a standard controller a bit better.
 

The game's presentation is fun but at the same time nothing too special. The visual design is charming but the art style does have a habit of obscuring details, which is a shame since some of these characters could clearly be a bit more expressive. The music isn't much to speak of either—a decent soundtrack, but nothing memorable.

 

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Lair of the Clockwork God takes a big swing at originality by combining two familiar genres in a comical setting, and in that regard the game's a success. The finer details of both halves of the game leave something to be desired, but taken as a whole, the meta-joke about game design and structure lands nicely. Of course, that joke doesn't mean that the small quirks and issues with the gameplay can be completely ignored. The joke itself is worth hearing, but the gameplay required to hear it could have been better polished.
 
Rating: 7 out of 10 Lairs
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