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Old Clockmaker's Riddle

Score: 65%
ESRB: 4+
Publisher: G5 Entertainment
Developer: DAVA
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Puzzle (Hidden Object)/ Family/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Match-three titles have become a serious class of casual games, to the point that itís rare to come across one of them that doesnít pack in a considerable amount of polish and style. Old Clockmakerís Riddle is no exception. Dramatic lighting and animation Ė albeit 2D Ė are no more than a few taps away, and the design touches surrounding the tiled board where you play are evident. Outside of the actual game, you are largely confined to tapping around the town to select a new level or reading descriptive text about one of the houses. The hub of the game includes simple animation, but nothing major. The gameís music and sound effects are well matched to the type of action offered during gameplay, enough to give some presence, but light enough to not get in your way. Thereís nothing deeper than the action on each board to hold your attention, if youíre expecting more than a simple, casual title. Most of the flair comes during the moments when you fill the gameís bonus meter and create explosions after every match. The effects you can trigger as a result create some dramatic moments, but we noticed that these were also the moments when the game would crash. This could be a combination of memory issues or poor design, but we found ourselves wincing expectantly each time we triggered screen-filling explosions, which is a bit of a bummer.


If you were a fan of the lockpicking levels in Puzzle Quest, youíll love Old Clockmakerís Riddle. The idea here is that you canít just keep matching gems on the basis of color and expect to win. Tied to the story of the game, you need to collect clock hands in order to reclaim the town from a dark force. House by house, building by building, youíll gather clock hands and restore the town to its former glory. This mechanic means that during each level Ė especially those you play on a timer Ė youíll need to be on the lookout for clock parts. In the special challenges that are playable after you complete a level, gathering clock hands is the only requirement.

You wonít need much prep to play, but there are a few nice twists to Old Clockmakerís Riddle. The best of these is in the form of power-ups you can purchase and upgrade during the game, using points awarded at the end of a successful level. These are good for getting yourself out of a tight spot, or triggering special effects that might otherwise take a long time to put together if you relied purely on matching. By the end of the game, you will have bought or upgraded almost all these abilities, so choosing the path you take isnít very strategic. Itís also true that in the untimed version of Old Clockmakerís Riddle, you could get by without any of these power-ups. They do make things fun, especially during those moments when your bonus meter is full, and any new element helps in a genre filled with formulaic games.


There are two ways to play the game, one without a timer and another with a limit on how long you can attempt to make matches. This corresponds to a difficulty setting, since otherwise thereís no difference in gameplay. As mentioned earlier, it would be challenging to play through without any of the special items, so maybe thatís a third level of difficulty. Like that one guy who played through Resident Evil with nothing but a knife... Whatís done to increase the difficulty in Old Clockmakerís Riddle resembles most games of this type. For the first third of the game, youíre just trying to find matches. During the second third of the game, youíre faced with increasingly more special blocks that resist movement. During the final third, these two are combined, and levels require a higher amount of points to complete. The extra twist of Old Clockmakerís Riddle comes in after youíve completed each level, in the form of an optional puzzler. In these segments, you have a set number of moves in which to collect all the clock parts. These levels are all about using your noggin, as opposed to lightning-fast reactions or special items, which are unavailable anyway. These challenges arenít a required part of the game and become virtually impossible to solve after the first few levels. Itís like the difficulty curve went from Clark Kent to Superman, which isnít a great experience for the player. Thankfully, itís possible to skip these levels.

Game Mechanics:

For all the critique one may lay on match-three games, thereís no denying that they are absolutely made for the tablet or smartphone. Swiping and tapping oneís way through Old Clockmakerís Riddle feels like the most natural thing in the world, albeit with some occasional slowdown, freezing, or crashing brought on by the gameís big-bang effects. There arenít any novel gestures included in the game, just the expected swiping to trigger matches of three or more gems. The power-up mechanism works on a timer, so you incur a cooldown after using one of your special items. This does encourage a bit more strategy, as you realize the power of combinations like the hammer that smashes one gem, with the gem that explodes and takes out surrounding gems of the same color. Other special abilities are passive, such as the one that transforms a gem into something more powerful after you make a match of five or more. This is the stuff that creates earth shattering effects on the board, especially nice during the bonus round when matching anything explodes the surrounding gems.

Itís wrong to say that we didnít like Old Clockmakerís Riddle, but it falls squarely in the middle of a pack of otherwise decent games about matching bricks, blocks, and gems. Games like Puzzle Quest set the bar quite high in years past, and itís more common now to see matching included as a sidebar to the action in some larger games. Which is all to say that matching as a style of game is almost completely saturated. Old Clockmakerís Riddle does no great wrongs, and actually delivers some solid gameplay for the few hours it will take you to beat it. After you play through once or twice (assuming you play without the timer and then feel like taking on a greater challenge) youíll put this one on the shelf and never think about it again. With all that in mind, if your wallet or purse is feeling too heavy, there are worse ways to spend five dollars.

-Fridtjof, GameVortex Communications
AKA Matt Paddock

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