Every few days we seem to get somebody claiming the point-and-click adventure is dead. Which is weird, considering we’re constantly getting games like Kentucky Route Zero, Thimbleweed Park, and basically anything Wadjet Eye does. And look! Here comes yet another game to prove that point-and-clicks are well and truly still alive, Size Five Games’ Lair of the Clockwork God. While far from perfect, its novel take on the genre lets it stand alongside the adventure game greats.
Size Five has a history in the point-and-click space, having developed the excellent Ben There, Dan That! and Time Gentlemen, Please! way back in the late 2000s. Lair of the Clockwork God marks its return to the genre, but it’s also brought a few new ideas along with it.
Clockwork God’s main hook is that one of its protagonist duo, fictionalised versions of the game’s developers Ben and Dan, has decided that instead of being an adventure game protagonist, he now wants to be a platformer mascot instead. And so you must swap between the two to solve the various puzzles: one playing as a standard point-and-click and the other controlling much more like Super Meat Boy.
What’s surprising is that neither genre feels diminished by the other’s presence. The platforming feels quick and responsive, with some death-defying jumping required, while the adventure game aspect has all the combining random objects and talking to everything in sight you could possibly want.
Often, the interaction between the two genres is as simple as doing a bit of platforming to carry the adventure guy to his next task, but there are some flashes of brilliance – particularly when the influence goes the other way, and you have to adventure-game-logic your way around traditional platformer obstacles. One sequence sees you examine/combine inventory items, and chat to NPCs to get around the ‘platformer afterlife’, where all platform protagonists go before they respawn. Moments like that are absolute genius.
The humour won’t be to everybody’s taste. Sometimes it swings too far into self-referential territory, or sniping at other games. But brief eye-roll moments are surrounded by genuinely funny ones and interactions making every character memorable in their own way. Ben and Dan’s back-and-forth, in particular, is incredibly well-written, feeling more like you’re intruding on two friends chatting in the pub rather than saving the world from every apocalypse happening at once.
Lair of the Clockwork Gods’ biggest problem is its bugginess. The UI sometimes decided to stop working for no obvious reason, and at one bit, I got stuck in a never-ending loop of dialogue that I had to force-close the game to escape from. I’d broken the game in so many different ways that as soon as I hit a wall in my progress, I’d first suspect a bug, instead of it just being me not knowing what to do next. (Do note the game has been patched since this review was written.)
Despite its flaws, Lair of the Clockwork God is a fresh-feeling game. With its slick platforming, irreverent dialogue, and clever puzzles, it’s going to be difficult for people to claim the point-and-click genre is dead after this. They will, of course, but they’ll look even sillier when they do.
Ben and Dan are a cracking pair of protagonists. Sure, sometimes they get a bit too self-referential, but most of the time their friendship feels real and irreverent in a way you don’t see often in games. It probably helps that they’re based on the real friendship of developers Ben Ward and Dan Marshall.
Its bugginess isn’t enough to take away from what is a truly unique, hilarious, and clever adventure game, with a surprisingly good platformer thrown in for good measure.
Genre: Platformer / Point-and-click | Format: PC | Developer: Size Five Games | Publisher: Size Five Games | Price: £15.49 | Release: Out now