Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time Review

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Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time Publisher: Stickmen Studios
Developer: Stickmen Studios

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: 2 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c compatible 64 MB video card, 300 MB HD space, Windows XP or more recent operating system

Doc Clock has a way of finding the most improbable, least practical solution to any given problem. Of course, the problem he solves is rarely the problem he was working on, and it's never quite clear why his faithful (if sarcastic) companion is a sentient machine combining the best features of a vacuum cleaner, monthly storage space, and robotic arm. To avoid a simple disaster, Doc Clock builds a time machine to travel to the recent past and avert the accident. Instead, he travels into the distant future where amusingly insane robots rule the roost and Doc Clock will have to use his ingenuity to escape.

Kyle Ackerman

If you're an indie developer of any skill, you've apparently been working on a platforming-style side-scrolling adventure filled with physics-based puzzles. Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time is certainly up there, pushing the pinnacle of this genre (or sub-genre, or sub-sub-genre – whatever it happens to be). When it comes to technical execution, innovation and polish, Doc Clock is exceptional. If the game has a failing, it's that the writing falls a bit short. The game simply isn't as funny or cute as it thinks it is. Sadly, criticizing a game for its writing is like complaining that the food on an airplane stinks, so let's focus on Doc Clock's strengths, for now.

Doc Clock starts a little slow, introducing the eponymous researcher, his dilemma and the game's controls. I was a little confused, at first, as actions often became available a few seconds after I started trying to use them, but once I acclimated, things remained fairly intuitive. The earliest levels are mostly a matter of grabbing planks and using them as ramps to reach spaces too high for the Doc to climb up to by himself. That's not particularly exciting. But after only a short period of play, I found myself cementing pieces together to form more complex structures and ultimately, exciting vehicles and contraptions.

As a game, Doc Clock really hit its stride when I built my first vehicle. Once I stuck some wheels together and strapped them to the seat from Doc's time machine, I found myself careening through levels like Evel Knievel if he'd stolen Sonic the Hedgehog's hair. That's what makes Doc Clock unique – the ability to construct contraptions to solve the game's various puzzles. In most cases, it's obvious what needs to be built to solve a level. But it requires more creativity and careful timing to reach all the game's collectibles (in this case, sandwich fragments, robot heads and the like). The only disappointment is that the game typically only gives you exactly what you need to build something specific to that level. It's an exciting enough mechanic that it would be nice to get more toys to play with to construct all manner of wacky things.

I love that Doc Clock lets me focus on playing and doesn't make me replay long segments to artificially prolong the game. The Doc has some control over time, so it's possible to rewind the game at any moment. Whenever I died, or just saw my invention fall to pieces in a way that would take time to reconstruct, it was easy to just rewind much of the level to a point when everything was hunky-dory. While neither innovative nor novel, the rewind ability in Doc Clock makes play a lot more pleasant than the typical checkpoint system that can become heinously irritating during difficult stretches of other games.

Throughout the game, Doc Clock strives for a cutesy look, somehow trying to mix a young, cartoonish image with manga stylings and self-aware humor. Personally, I found that the jokes fell flat, and the sarcasm was a bit grating, especially when my vacuum declared it was rusting while I was reassembling my complex gadgets (to tell me that I was going slowly). It didn't detract from the physics-based puzzles, but the writing did draw me out of the experience and reinforce my awareness that I was shoving junk together to solve a puzzle.

Like most such games, much of the play value comes from striving to grab every collectible, so if you have little interest in the obsessive/compulsive need to check every box, the game is comparatively short. Even so, without pursuing the collectibles, the game is clever and entertaining enough to be worth the low sticker price.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 22, 2010 9:16 PM.

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