STAFF REVIEW of Lair of the Clockwork God (Xbox One)

Monday, September 28, 2020.
by Adam Dileva

Lair of the Clockwork God Box art "Jack of all trades, master of none" is a saying when you create or do something and dabble in a bit of everything, but not being an expert since the sole focus isn’t on one creation or task. This is normally true, even for gaming. Some games will try and blend different mechanics and even genres together to create something new and unique, but it doesn’t always pay off as it’s usually not as satisfying or refined as a focused experience.

That being said, there are times where the rule gets broken and proven wrong, as is the case with Lair of the Clockwork God. Creating an odd mix of classic point-and-click adventure gameplay with an indie platformer is the main premise behind this game developed by Size Five Games, best known for their Time Gentlemen, Please! and Ben There, Dan That! Why play one game genre when you can play two? Better yet, both at the same time! I wasn’t sure how these two completely opposite genres would blend together, but came away more than impressed.

If you’ve played their games previously, you’re probably already acquainted and met Ben and Dan, the protagonists to Lair of the Clockwork God. The opening tutorial level doesn’t just serve as a gameplay and mechanic introduction, but also starts the narrative off with you searching for a mystical flower that apparently cures cancer, so you can save your friend, Matt C., from colon cancer (specifically this Matt though, obviously). As you delve a bit further into their quest, the narrative changes to something completely else, like teaching a master computer about feelings, as you’re now stuck in a world with multiple apocalyptic events happening simultaneously. That’s right. What’s worse than an apocalypse? Multiple apocalypse’s of course! You can start to get a feel for the humor within from this point on.

The main hook for Lair of the Clockwork God is the duality of both playing a point-and-click adventure and an indie platformer, sometimes simultaneously. You’ll constantly be switching between Ben and Dan, using their unique gaming abilities to solve puzzles and progress. Normally having to control one character to reach a checkpoint before switching to the next to catch up would be tedious, but somehow they’ve blended the genres together so well that you don’t really notice the back and forth as much as you would expect.

I can’t even start to express how much humor is within Lair of the Clockwork God. The writing is so cleverly written and hilarious that I actually snort-laughed on more than one occasion. It doesn’t take itself seriously and parodies other games and genres, sometimes breaking the fourth wall, but all in a very clever way. If you take the time to talk to everyone and read every line, you’ll surely laugh too if you have any sense of humor. Even the ‘free game’ that’s included, “Devil’s Kiss”, serves as a visual novel prequel to Ben and Dan’s story and is equally as humorous.

My favorite, Ben, is your old school die-hard point-and-click adventure fan, harking back to the old days of LucasArts games, Monkey Island and the like. Ben is stuck in that old 90’s gaming mindset, so he refuses to exert himself in any way, including jumping or climbing, regardless of the height big or small. Funny enough, pushing an indie dev onto a bed of spikes so that Dan could jump across a pit is fully acceptable though.

Much like those old school games, Ben will be the one to talk to NPC’s, gather items and combine the oddest ones together in obtuse solutions to progress your journey forwards. Sometimes you’re solving puzzles for yourself, other times you’re doing so to make Dan a new pair of shoes, or a battery acid energy drink so that he can learn to run quicker. It’s this ebb and flow that somehow meshes the two genres together in a logical way. The conversations Ben can have with people are outright hilarious, so be sure to check out every dialogue option available (some are tied to achievements as well), as it’s some of the best clever writing in recent memory I’ve experienced. Some jokes will be dumb, some silly, others outright walk the line of crude and obscene, but I knew I was in for a good joke or two when Ben had to talk to people.

The other half to the core gameplay is when you’re controlling Dan. Dan is your classic indie sidescrolling platformer, akin to a Sonic. Dan likes to run, jump, push/pull objects, shoot guns, double jump and more. Sometimes you need to reach a new area with Dan for Ben to proceed, or vice versa, able to instantly swap between the two with a button press. Dan will test your reflexes, and seeing him in a knock-off Green Hill zone from Sonic early on was awesome and hilarious. While the platforming sections can be a tad frustrating with its accuracy being a little loose and its reversed gravity sections, it’s functional and shouldn’t take you more than a few tries at each section to proceed. Thankfully there are plenty of checkpoints strewn throughout the stages, so you’ll never have to backtrack very far when you do accidently drop Dan down a pit.

On paper, Lair of the Clockwork God shouldn’t work. Blending point-and-click with an indie platformer just shouldn’t work; but it does, and brilliantly, thanks to the amazing writing and dialogue that had me constantly chuckling or outright laughing. While it’s a satire on the genres, it also executes them near perfectly, and simultaneously. I legit had a wonderful time with my adventure alongside Ben and Dan and haven’t laughed this much at a game in quite some time. Two games in one; half point-and-click, half platformer, all hilarious.

Overall: 8.5 / 10
Gameplay: 9.5 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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