An intriguing take on puzzle games, The Watchmaker takes you to a surreal Steampunk world of gears and other mechanisms, where you fight as Alexander the clock tower keeper to restore time itself back to its natural rhythm.
The concept is a very interesting one, and something bound to scoop you in by fascination. Ever since Majora’s Mask, the feature to control time itself in a game has not escaped me in terms of fun. To do the impossible! To control something no one in the real world could ever control. It’s a fantastic basis for a plot, one that’s explored further in Alexander’s ticking back pack. This backpack is much like Dead Space’s health system–you have a roller slowly counting upwards meant to be your current age. It’s warned over and over again that if Alexander reaches ninety years old–he will die and that will end your journey. It’s a good way to keep you from idling around to say the least.
So how does the whole package execute when played? From the sounds of the lofty goal of taking the player into this vast world revolving around time, it would be something the developers Micropsia Games would have to work hard at. They’ve crafted the surrounding in Unreal Engine with a unique art style attached–but not all that glitters is gold. Unfortunately The Watchmaker suffers from some huge missteps, which are almost painful to write about because as the player you want the game itself to go down a treat.
Watch The Watchmaker story trailer below:
A main problem with The Watchmaker is that it doesn’t feel polished. All the ambition of making this title seemingly goes into the aesthetic and not the gameplay itself; Alexander will often struggle with basic frame rate as you simply move around. That much could be excused, but the loading times for the game are massive, often with the feeling that the game might go unresponsive (and has many times for me) in the process. Even to get back to the main menu if you’re quitting out of the level takes what feels forever. To be honest, all this could be forgiven if the rest of the game was on point, but sadly that’s not the case.
The Watchmaker revolves (quite literally) around you making your way through gears and platforms, most of which are already in motion. Where there would be a perfect opportunity for a tricky and fun jumping puzzle, often is just made to get you from point A to point B with a slight jump or just plain walking. If you have a rotating gear or platform that just dips below the surface of the anchor platform you’re using to get there, Alexander dies from the height of what wouldn’t even result in a sprained ankle. I can’t think of any benefit extreme fall damage has in this. It’s a massive cause for frustration and would have been a smart move to the gameplay had these been ironed out.
View some screenshots from The Watchmaker in our gallery:
Everything feels laboured. Alexander’s move set is a pretty cool one in theory–he’s got magnetic powers to move things around in a psychic sort of way. Pulses that push enemies and objects back. Everything an X-Man would be proud of. However, the execution of it all leaves you unsatisfied at best. Whilst you fight with an incredibly tight third-person camera, you’re meant to be solving the puzzles with these magnetic powers that feel like they have no teeth to them. Pushing enemies back feels like a gentle wind storm is hitting them. Putting puzzle pieces in–you can just vaguely get them close to their respective homes and the game will do the rest of the work for you.
The Watchmaker is an ambitious title that seems to have missed the mark. All is not lost however, and if the developers are still working on it, it could possibly turn into something quite enjoyable to play. Every downfall doesn’t feel like a permanent woe for Micropsia Games–they could turn it around! And I’ll tell you something: if it does get turned around, polished a bit more–I can certainly see myself sinking some serious hours into this title.
The Watchmaker was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: 1C Developer: Micropsia Games Release Date: May 17th, 2018 Reviewed On: PC / Steam Also Available On: Xbox One, PS4