The Clockwork Man from Total Eclipse Games
Travel in time to the curious alternate world of London 1889 in the “epic” Steampunk game The Clockwork Man wherein you follow the copper robot Sprocket and his ward Miranda through an adventure to find her grandfather. Through every level in this hidden object game, you are given tasks to complete that most often involve, well, locating hidden objects amid a cluttered, but nicely illustrated, Victorian-themed tableau.
Whenever the seeking becomes too frustrating, you can defer to your pal Sprocket to help you find or identify an object, which uses up some oh his energy. Each request you send Sprocket will deplete his energy supply, but have no fear – the energy points are restored over time.
What I liked about the game was that it didn’t simply rely on object-finding, but also included other puzzle games and brain teasers that could actually be quite challenging and required some sober logic to solve. At first glance the game might appear overtly childish or simplistic, however I found I rather enjoyed my experience in the world they presented.
After the “cliff-hanger” ending at my first complete play-through (so-designed to encourage you to buy the second installment), I decided against whipping out my credit card, as I wanted to go through the game once more to see how much a different set of decisions might change the story…and behold, they did!
A nice design touch is that the rooms will scroll gracefully beyond the edges of the initial screen, using a nice parallax effect. Animation is typically handled through cross-faded still images. Also, speaking to its replayability, the positions of objects appear to be randomly generated, as they change from game to game – likely Sprocket’s hint engine is tied directly to the object sprites as opposed to the background location which help make the game more dynamic.
So while it is more of a Zen exercise, I found the game had some replay value, coupled with solid voice actors (who mercifully did not sport poor approximations of their respective British accents but instead sounded quite authentic), an interesting enough storyline (although it is no nail-biter), and colorful, “hand-painted” graphics. The puzzles average out to a fair challenge, testing one’s tenacity and logic and so it essentially gets all the important things right for a hidden object game and then some.
There is also a freeplay mode that allows you to revisit any “room” and find objects anew. If this is what spins your wheels, well, you will have a lot of options, what with the relocation of objects every time you go in for a new round.
Perhaps if I must find some fault, it is in the very lack of suspense I mentioned above – hidden object games often tend to lean towards the dark and foreboding, and I found Clockwork Man a little too saccharine for my taste. Even old Sherlock Holmes always carried with it a sense of dread, mystery and true intrigue, as did Emily Bronte, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe or Mary Shelley.
For a Steampunk setting, this one certainly plays it on the puerile side. It is rather trendy these days to paint some rivets and copper on things and call it Steampunk, and simply placing a robot in a Victorian setting with Zeppelins flying about overhead does not a Steampunk title make. It looks like one, maybe even smells like one, but the set dressing must be supported by innovation, mythology and atmosphere. So here is hoping that the following installment(s) crank up the proverbial gears and explore the true imaginative possibilities that the genre upon which they are leaning to sell this title offers.
Is the game worth the ten dollar asking price? Considering you will pay another $17.00 for the sequel, it begins to seem inordinately high, especially when most competing titles are half the price. If the first and seconds parts were put together then it would be the true epic it threatens and better justify the price tag. It is here that the title fails to score higher marks.
Having said that, it is cool to have a point and click that at least dresses up in one of my favorite settings. (I will always be a sucker for Steampunk, even when it’s name is Suckerpunch). It is like being read a gentle bedtime story from a really cool pop-up book.