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Lair of the Clockwork God (PC) artwork

Lair of the Clockwork God (PC) review


"Sweet Like Clockwork"


Maybe the hardest bit of this review will be trying to explain what Lair of the Clockwork God actually is, at least in a compact, competent manner. So I guess Iíll try and get that out of the way early. Itís a pixel-drawn point & click that openly wants to have existed back in the 90ís adventure game boom, though, at the same time, itís also a modern-day indie platformer that wants to be both a Super Meat Boy die-a-thon and a pretentious Braid warbler. It shouldnít work, but it manages to pull it off by forcing the two halves to coexist while still keeping them somewhat separated. For the most part, Dan will have to do a bit of platform chicanery until he reaches an obvious dead end, wherein Ben then takes over to try and find progression by way of mashing random items together and being really smug at his accidental success.

This bizarre hybrid is fuelled mainly by a light pummelling of the fourth wall, as is the style of the times. The resplendent Ben and Dan are virtual caricatures of the two lead developers behind the game, which casts Ben as a stubborn traditionalist longing for the golden days when Lucasarts were still a thing and Tim Schafer put out fully completed releases. Danís over all that noise, and desperately wants to be an indie platformer darling, waxing metaphysical about obscure symbolism while mindlessly collecting all the shiny objects that make a bing sound. Theyíre up for making fun of each otherís contrasting preferences. Or indeed, their own. Or just each other. Or just about anything else.



While a lot of Lairís humour is to be found in the borderline obsolete practises of retro adventuring or the oft-ostentatious overtones of todayís self-important indie scene, it paints its targets for mockery with liberal brushstrokes. For example, itís quite happy to make its opening stages revolve around trying to find a cure for cancer because it knows that bad games will always get good press while weaker-willed critics are scared to put the boot in lest they be seen as attacking the message rather than the product. But rather than get hung up on some grandiose podium, itíll then make a series of events based around a refusal to urinate in public, or how best to use the noxious fumes of a rotting corpse to complete another one of those so passť switch-flipping puzzles.

Humour is a subjective little bastard, but Iím not afraid to say that the game had me the moment it took sliding tile puzzles to task (I hate them with the eternal fury of a million desert suns!). The gags and one liners are so frequent, though, itís unlikely youíll not find anything to appreciate during its ten or so hour lifespan. Perhaps its biggest selling point as well as its biggest detriment is just how meta-based some of the puzzle solutions can be. Maybe youíll be like Ben and grumble about every instance of bending the genre back on itself in order to find unexpected results. I just thought a lot of it was bloody clever.



But Iím not in the habit of dropping puzzle solutions and spoilers when I can hide my ravenous need to write less behind a dense wall of dishonest professionalism. Suffice to say, some solutions are very self-aware and require you to stop thinking in-game and have a go at thinking outside it. In doing so it manages to poke fun at targets as widespread as in game purchases and the gracelessness of growing old, but, being a game written in Britain, it never strays that far away from a wank joke or seven.

Perhaps thatís the best way of trying to describe what Lair of the Clockwork God is; itís not comfortable being any one thing for particularly long. It wants to linger in what it considers its glory days, but forces itself to stumble into relevancy begrudgingly, and finds a lot of ways to poke fun at that. Maybe thereís more beneath the surface; maybe itís more about the choices you make as the world moves on with or without you. You can stubbornly cling to what used to work and belittle even the slightest deviation as nonsense, or you can brave a changing world maddeningly refusing to revolve around you. Dan would commend that, praise my ability to see the subtle significance hidden in plain sight. Ben would suggest Iíve spent too much time around pretentious indie fare and to get a sodding move on with glueing that pickle jar to a badger.

4.5/5

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (March 04, 2020)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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