Publisher: Stickmen Studios
Developer: Stickmen Studios
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/7; AMD/Pentium 2.0 GHz; 256MB RAM; 64MB GeForce 4 Ti or ATI equivalent; DirectX: 9.0c; 300MB hard drive space; Soundblaster compatible
ESRB rating: Everyone
Release date: Available now
Back in the days of yore, before I ever considered becoming a game reviewer, I was content to play games without having to dissect them for science. I used to wonder if there were any unpleasant aspects to being a gaming journalist. At that time I couldn’t come up with an answer, because as a teenager it was impossible to find any flaw with the get-games-for-free-and-play-them scenario. Now, as both a grown man and a game reviewer, I can answer that question, although I wish I still couldn’t. The worst part is recognizing the developers’ hard work and dedication, and yet…decidedly not liking the game.
Worse yet, as someone who is employed full time as a software developer, I can actually appreciate the skill of those who create these “bad” games. Not long ago, I started working on a game project of my own (which I will probably never finish) and it is self evident that people who make the games I dislike are better programmers, artists, and designers than I could ever be. To me they represent the heights that are unreachable, and so, when I catch myself coming up with excuses to not continue playing, I get very sad. If these guys, who are more talented than I, can’t make a good game, then what do I have to hope for?
In any event, Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time is an indie puzzle platformer in which you control the titular Doc, an absent minded scientist and gadgeteer, who turned his cat into a cactus. In an effort to fix the situation, he built a time machine so that he could travel to the past and prevent the accident from happening. Instead, he ends up in the future with the machine broken, and nobody but his evil sentient backpack to keep him company. Oh, and the future is overrun by robots that he himself may have created. The goal then is to complete a series of levels, put together his time machine, and get things back to normal.
The above is achieved by picking up various objects and using them on obstacles, or combining them into vehicles in order to proceed forward. The objects are many and the possibilities abound. Physics also play a role, since you have to take such concepts as gravity and inertia into account when both building and controlling the moving contraptions. Sadly, the game feels unbalanced, with some instances requiring such simple solutions that many objects go unused, and others depending on chance more than anything to reach solution. I used the same exact machine to roll down a hill, with the first four tries being a failure, but the fifth one was a success. How do I know it was the same machine? After each failure I rewound time, which is another of the game’s core mechanics.
Graphically the game is unimpressive, with the backgrounds being not particularly detailed or well drawn, and Doc himself being (possibly) a 3D model, that is not particularly well skinned. The sound effects get to be annoying after a while, and the humor is particularly sub par. The game incorporates Steam achievements, which quite frankly did nothing for me. Generally I’m an achievement-monger, willing to spend hours to earn some ridiculous “Licked 17 Toad-Stools” graphic, but in this case I wasn’t tempted at all, and even skipped some that I could have easily gotten.
Going back to my initial point, I hate writing bad reviews. Sometimes, however, I have no choice. I didn’t enjoy playing Doc Clock. This is not to say that there aren’t people who would find it fun, as I’m sure there are. Myself, however, I don’t believe I’ll ever return to it again. With so many games out there, many of them free or very cheap, I can’t really think of a reason to pay $10 and worse yet, invest valuable time into this particular title. Best of luck to the team though. I hope one day I will give an Avault Seal of Excellence to a game they are yet to produce.