Lair of the Clockwork God Review

Richard Walker

Lair of the Clockwork God is a genuine one-off. A point-and-click adventure game and platformer rolled into one, it's an experience stuffed with offbeat humour, properly funny cultural references, wonderfully bizarre characters, brain-mangling puzzles, and a riotous, infectious sense of fun. Following in the footsteps of Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen, Please!, Clockwork God is the latest anarchic journey from best mates Ben Ward and Dan Marshall, and like those two games, it's brimming with smart ideas and witty dialogue.

Serving as protagonists, Ben and Dan find themselves at opposite ends of a video gaming spectrum, the former resolutely committed to the measured pace of the old-school point-and-click, while the latter embraces the platformer and all of its trappings. While Ben refuses to run, jump, or collect useless trinkets like rings or coins, Dan is able to bound around, acquiring upgrades like double jumps, wall grabs, and even a rifle for blasting away enemies and obstacles alike.


Racing through various emotional stages (as in emotion-themed, from Joy, to Suffering, Hope and so on), you'll solve an array of conundrums while cracking wise as Ben, using more than a modicum of lateral thinking, as Dan embarks upon his own platforming odyssey. One level even sees you leaping through a Sonic the Hedgehog-style level, complete with a soundtrack that riffs on the SEGA classics, as you whizz past palm trees and traverse amber beer waterfalls.

Few games – if any – are as self-aware and referential as Lair of the Clockwork God. There's even a mock in-game store with fake microtransactions, jokes about checkpoints and respawning, piss-takes of indie game tropes and daft video game traditions that have never made sense (like the humble fetch quest). But perhaps one of the best things about developer Size Five's hybrid game is that it does both adventuring and platforming exceedingly well, and switching between Ben and Dan on-the-fly keeps things constantly interesting.

Brilliantly, both puzzles and platforming alike are expertly intertwined in an incredibly fresh way, as genres are deftly lampooned and 'The Mechanic' at the centre of the game's story simulates new Constructs in its bid to assimilate emotional data. Each level plays out as a different Construct, with various platform-jumping challenges to overcome, which encompass changing gravity, wall-climbing, running and performing huge leaps as Dan; while solving occasionally obtuse point-and-click brain-teasers as Ben, using a variety of objects, some of which may not seem to have a use – initially, at least.

Some of the game's platforming sessions can be a little too challenging at certain junctures, especially when gravity-shifting and multiple hazards like lasers, spikes, and tentacles all come into play. Puzzles, meanwhile, follow standard adventure game logic, in that they sometimes don't, which is, of course, all part of the charm. As new abilities are introduced, the game becomes faster and more fluid, too, as Dan can piggyback Ben around, and later on, even teleport to one another's positions, unlocking further puzzling possibilities in the process.

While puzzles and platforms are good fun, much of the joy to be had during Lair of the Clockwork God is elicited by interacting with the game's eclectic cast of bizarre, idiosyncratic characters – not least in the interplay between Dan and Ben, as well as encounters with oddballs like a vaping 'Yoof,' who talks in incomprehensible lingo, or a xenophobic Daily Mail-reading brain in a jar that spouts outrageously offensive drivel (yes, the game does tend towards Anglocentric humour). It shouldn't be hilarious, but it is.


Even the game's bold pixel art is irresistibly appealing – the icing on the cake in an adventure packed with wry, sometimes bitingly satirical observations, daft jokes, delicious puzzles, and tricky platforming. Everything in here is deliberate and cleverly constructed, too, like a persistent bug that isn't a bug at all, as it happens – later revealed as something essential to progress; and conundrums that involve accessing the pause menu options for a solution. Lair is an experience that never fails to provoke a smile, whether it's in response to the sharp chatter or the ingenuity of its mechanics – there's a hell of a lot to enjoy.

Lair of the Clockwork God is by no means perfect, and there are some segments that will have you tearing your hair out, like the intentionally annoying Anger stage (complete with apt bursts of profanity from Dan each time you die) or a strange glitch – this one’s not intentional, sadly – that sometimes crops up when you attempt to load in to the game but can't, for some reason. These are mere blemishes on an otherwise excellent adventure, though, and do nothing to detract from how thoroughly endearing and singularly memorable Lair of the Clockwork God succeeds in being.

Lair of the Clockwork God

We need more games like this, please. Funny, irreverent, varied, and utterly superb, Lair of the Clockwork God is definitely worth snapping up.

Form widget
85%
Audio
70%

Garbled nonsense sounds make up the speech audio, while the music is suitably epic at times. We're not sure whether the two scores laid on top of each other are intentional, but let's assume that they are.

Visuals
70%

Incredibly endearing pixel art that beautifully homages both the point-and-click adventures and side-scrolling platformers it's riffing on. The game also isn't above taking the piss out of itself and its artistic affectations.

Playability
90%

Taking on retro platform games and the classic point-and-click, Lair of the Clockwork God could have quite easily fudged both. But it doesn't, instead managing to be really good as platformer and adventure, albeit ever-so-slightly fiddly at times.

Delivery
80%

An amply-proportioned story (and a visual novel prequel called 'Devil's Kiss' that tells the story of how Ben and Dan met at school) make up a generous package. The writing is great, too, so don't be surprised if you fancy playing it more than once.

Achievements
65%

A serviceable list, but one that demands use of a walkthrough. There's no way you'll work them all out on your own. There are inventive achievements here, but the majority are far too easy to miss altogether.

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