Braid ushered in an entire era of puzzle platformers; in particular, puzzle platformers with a gimmick became especially popular thanks to Jonathan Blow’s creative use of time manipulation. Along with various Super Meat Boy-inspired frustration platformers, puzzle platformers made up a significant chunk of the indie-stry’s output for several years, and even today we still see a few show up every now and again. Clockwork is one of the more recent examples of the concept, and ironically it uses a time-manipulation gimmick just like its great-granddaddy.
Clockwork follows Atto, a young boy who has been converted into a machine after his home city of Watchtower succumbs to a deadly plague. Atto’s able to rewind time and in the process create copies of himself that repeat his actions; if you’ve played the classic Flash game The Company of Myself, you’ve pretty much got the idea. Clockwork’s gameplay revolves around using those clones to solve simple puzzles; holding down a switch to keep a door open, for instance.
That’s pretty much the whole game, really! Every so often there’s a nice change of pace, like fleeing from a boss robot while using clones to solve puzzles at the same time, but the majority of the game is spent working with the main gimmick. You’ve got around four hours of this, and your reaction to that is going to tell you how much you’ll enjoy Clockwork; it’s never especially difficult or taxing, which says a lot coming from a puzzle-deficient sort like myself.
That means that Clockwork’s strengths are going to lie in its presentation, then. It’s not an ugly game by any means, though the animation does seem to be a little janky; it’s another way that Clockwork brings to mind classic Flash games. The story is interesting as well, though it kind of meanders about and doesn’t really go anywhere by the time the curtain falls. Still, the character and environment designs are interesting, with Atto in particular being fairly charming for a robotic newsboy.
I’ll have to admit that I was kind of done with the whole puzzle platformer thing about a week after indie developers started cranking them out like it was going out of style, so I didn’t find Clockwork to be the most inspiring game out there. Still, it’s competently made, and I know there’s an audience for this sort of thing that eats gimmicky puzzle platformers up. If you’re part of that group, then go ahead and drop your $10; you could certainly do worse.