A hysterical meta blend of platforming and adventure games.
Comedy in general, but specifically in video games, is always hard to pull off. After playing Size Five Games’ Behold the Kickmen earlier this year, the developer struck me as an outfit that can do game comedy well. It’s why I was excited by news of their early 2020 game Lair of the Clockwork God coming to Switch. The hook is weird and the structure is daffy, but the end result is something imminently enjoyable and hysterical.
You play as Ben and Dan, avatars for developers Ben Ward and Dan Marshall, as they try to prevent all of the apocalypses while also bickering with each other a lot. It’s the third game in the studio’s Ben and Dan series, which have customarily been point-and-click adventures. Clockwork God, however, is a blend of adventure and platformer. You see, Ben hates platformers, so he won’t do any jumping, instead interacting with the environment, maintaining an inventory, and solving puzzles related to the previous two things. On the other hand, Dan sees platformers as the right direction for indie games, jumping around all over the place. You switch between controlling the two to progress through the side-scrolling world, using both of their genre powers to move along.
To that end, the two gameplay styles are an enjoyable juxtaposition. Personally, I’m not a big point-and-click adventure fan, but the way the tropes of that genre interplay with the platforming elements is fun. A clear formula definitely forms as you advance, with Ben’s adventure game segments leading to getting upgrades for Ben that do things like give him a double jump or outfit him with a gun. That progression sidles into a pleasant routine, never focusing too much on one aspect for too long.
The point-and-click side is stronger, as it draws definite inspiration from the wackier side of old LucasArts games, but is a lot gentler with inventory maintenance. Chiefly, I never ran into a moment where it felt like I needed preternatural knowledge of what to use for the solution. Typically, the tools you need are always a glance away. The platforming, on the other hand, is a little stiff. Thankfully it never gets that frustrating, but it’s overall not that fluid to move around. It’s clear that the developer’s strengths are in adventure game design and writing. That being said, I applaud the robust accessibility options for platforming. If you want it to be easier so you can just roll with the adventuring and the writing, that’s easy to do.
The overall triumph in Clockwork God is the writing. The jokes come fast and furious, running the gamut from clever video game gags to broader gags that certainly earn the Mature rating. I laughed out loud several times while playing. Going into too much detail about the jokes will soften the humor, but the bits here are funny. The drive here is to see what cockamamie nonsense is going to happen next.
Lair of the Clockwork God is a welcome trip off the beaten path, filled with stellar comedy and a wealth of lighthearted, enjoyable puzzles. The sum is greater than its parts, as I can easily poke holes in the platforming, but that total is still filled with goofy fun. Check out Clockwork God if you want to laugh a lot while controlling two adversarial pals in a quest to, I guess, save the world from certain dooms.