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Doc Clock: the Toasted Sandwich of Time


Ideas are great, but you don't play ideas

Who doesn't love a nice warm cheese sandwich? But how many people love them enough to invent their own toaster? Probably only Doc Clock, the hero of our game. Unfortunately, his invention turns his cat into a cactus. Fortunately, he's also invented a time machine, so he can just go back and fix his cat-cus. But, as you can guess from his adventures in toasting, he's not much better at time travel, and ends up flung far into the future, landing in a robot-run post-apocalyptic world, where he has to gather the parts of his now exploded time machine in order to get back home. Unable to jump for some reason, and accompanied by his sentient robot backpack SACK, complete with an extendable, grasping, mechanical arm, he has to traverse this land by bridging gaps, climbing and descending heights and avoiding obstacles and foes by using his mechanical arm to move items he finds along the way. Oh, and by the way, if you find yourself in a tight spot, you can reverse time and give it another shot. Sounds like a hoot right?

Doc Clock tube eyes

Well, in concept it is. The game mixes platforming with puzzle solving, as you try to move through the levels by building bridges and vehicles from the detritus you find along your travels. Some items have very specific properties, so you have to grab as much as you can and then figure out where and how to use them properly.The puzzles aren't mindbenders at all, but they do offer some challenges that become increasingly difficult as the game progresses, as you figure out hot to reach difficult to reach spots or work out the right order to complete tasks in. There's a real sense of reality to the tasks, as you have to lift objects around each other, put items together just right and keep physics in mind. This may add to the challenge and complexity of the game, but it also adds a frustration factor you wouldn't otherwise expect from a game that looks so "cute."

A relatively short game, there are just 4 levels (one starter stage with two sections, and three stages with four sections) which get progressively harder, though the differences between the levels feels based more on the cosmetic level than in variety, as your challenges don't change tremendously from section to section, mostly because of the limitations of the core concept. If all you can do is build and ride, it's going to get repetitive after a while. Make that building and riding an overly difficult task, thanks to the effects of physics and the fact that manipulating objects can be problematic, especially when building vehicles or combining items, as the precision is too exacting and you'll find the vehicles fall apart or overturn frequently, making you re-do time-consuming work often.

doc clock running wooden level

Unless, of course, you take advantage of the game's time-reversing mechanic, which lets you rewind a moment or two to correct your mistakes, or simply try a new tact. This is pretty handy when you find your vehicle upside down again and again, or land in the water, but after a while, you'll get tired of having to open the time menu, slide the marker back and OK the shift. Admittedly, without the time-travel, the game would be practically impossible to beat (one obstacle forced me to back up at least 20 times), but there had to be a better way of implementing it, like the way Zeit2 handled it.

What definitely makes this game unique and worth a look is the sense of humor that's baked throughout. Doc and SACK are constantly bickering, with SACK frequently throwing out insults at the good doctor. It's such a part of the game that you even get points at the end of levels for how many insults you've absorbed (along with time spent dancing, another indicator of the game's silliness.) There's a lot of meta commentary throughout as well, with jokes about the programmers and designers during the loading screens, and the action in-game are humorous as well. One interaction between two enemies actually made me laugh, which is no small feat, though it worked because you don't expect in-game play to actually be funny.

Online Play
There is no online play.

Controls
One of the things I've always praised about the Wii is the natural feel of splitting the controller into two pieces, rather than forcing you to bring your hands together in front of you, as most controllers do. Well, Doc Clock is the absolute opposite, offering one of the most awkward, uncomfortable control schemes I've had the misfortune to utilise. You have to point the Wii-mote at the screen to manipulate objects, but you use the D-pad to move, the A and B buttons to use objects and other face buttons to open your inventory and access the time tool (or you can use on-screen icons.) The end result feels like playing a clarinet. Simply implementing use of the nunchuk would have changed everything and made the experience much, much better, as moving and using your mechanical arm at the same time is practically painful.

doc clock running downhill

Achievements
Though not shared outside the game, there are 11 achievements you can earn in Doc Clock, ranging from cumulative collection feats to against-the-clock efforts and completion tasks. Nothing is too outlandish, but thankfully they aren't just rewards for finishing the game's levels.

Graphics
The look of this game is one of its strongest attributes, thanks to an art style that's bright and colorful, with a whimsical feel, marked by crayon drawings and whirling touches. The animation of the characters is actually pretty well done, with a few exceptions (like Doc's need to climb flat inclines like he's going up tall stairs.) Oddly though, the in-game art style looks far superior to the nearly childlike art in the interfaces and level-end screens, which is the complete opposite of pretty much any game ever.

Sound
The sound here is light and breezy, with the quirky kind of bouncy, unobtrusive soundtrack you want in a platformer. The sound effects are rather limited though, and don't add very much to the game. There are no voices included (not even the usual Wii beeps and blurps that stand in for dialogue) so all the voices are done via numerous text windows.

And in the End...
Yet another game where the concept promises something great, but the execution falls far short. Despite the impressive look, satisfying puzzles and the helpful fail-safe offered by the time travel, the actual effort of manipulating the items around you is more like work than fun, thanks in large part to the awkward controls. Since WiiWare is a buy-or-not deal, renting isn't an option, but that's where I'd rank it.



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