Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time
WiiWare | Stickmen Studios | 1 Player | Out Now | 1,000 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer)
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6th May 2011; By KnucklesSonic8
The game starts off by introducing you to the main character. Doc is an established inventor who has time and time again made a fool of himself over failed attempts and ideas. His biggest critic comes in the form of a robotic backpack named Sack, who continually finds joy out of insulting him during his times of failure. Things aren't so friendly, though, once Doc's pet cat Franklin becomes the victim of his latest fumblings. As a result, he devises a plan to create a special time machine to go back into the past. However, as luck would have it, he actually moves forward into the future and finds himself stuck there when his machine falls apart. It's your job to pick up the pieces, as it were, and bring him home (and maybe leave Sack behind in the process).
You control the good doctor by using only the Wii Remote controller. The Left and Right buttons on the D-Pad are used to get him moving at his usual pedestrian pace. I personally would have mapped movement to the Nunchuk to keep things less awkward, but to each their own. As you approach objects lying on the ground or elsewhere, a mechanical arm will automatically extend itself towards the items. Hold down both the A and B Buttons to grab the item and use it any way you like. Primarily, you'll find yourself twisting things so they can be used as ramps or bridges, but if you like, you can also use those same items to destroy the evil robots that lurk in each level. Sometimes objects will be upside down, in which case you can hold the Plus button to automatically rotate the object so that it's standing upright. This really spares you of any needless annoyances later on in the game.
As much as Doc would love to justify Sack as being a useless tag-along, his robotic backpack really comes in handy over the course of your journey. Pressing the 1 Button will bring up a giant version of Sack resembling that of a large container. You can drag items from the playing field and store them inside Sack for use later on. Or if you're feeling lazy while you're walking about, you can press the A Button twice to automatically transport them inside the container.
The best thing you can do with any item you find is to combine it with something else and create a single entity. For example, you can create a primitive working car by attaching two wheels to a sofa. Although your base item won't always be a sofa, the idea of creating a vehicle for transportation is something you'll be doing on a regular basis. As you drag over a wheel to the car, you'll be looking for a black stroke to appear. Releasing the A Button at this time will confirm the join, but you can always tear off a piece if you're not satisfied.
What exactly will you be using the car for? Many levels will feature pathways that feature steep declines and using your vehicle will allow you to soar over empty gaps, spike pits, and other traps. As you reach later levels, you'll come across additional vehicular add-ons that really add some strategy in the way you need to work out how to pass obstacles. Springs can give you a "jump" ability, umbrellas allow you to glide over long distances, and propellers give your vehicle a motorized boost.
I found the system was very picky when it came to the placement of the propellers. If you didn't attach it so that it was just right, it would not work at all. The spot where you place it is also important as well since they can either be used for increasing speed (when placed on the back wheel) or hovering (when placed on top of wheels). More powerful than propellers are the rockets. These can prove to be very beneficial when you need the extra juice to zoom through barricades or fly over obstacles, but they're also erratic and hard to control. Plus you also have to worry about overheating the motor, as indicated by the gauge at the bottom of the screen. So in short, it's not always fun to play around and experiment with possible reactions.
Going back to the trial and error principle mentioned earlier, you'll find you won't always get the results you're hoping for while you're playing the game. This is something that happens frequently which can be a big turn-off. Something will go wrong somewhere, whether it involves Doc getting crushed by a heavy object; having your vehicle collapse on you; or getting knocked out from an enemy attack. Whatever the case may be, there's really nothing to worry about since you have the element of time travel on your side. Pressing the 2 Button on the Wii Remote will pull up the Time Slider menu, which can be dragged back and forth to slowly show every single move you did to get to the predicament you're in now. The system allows for real-time feedback, enabling you to make wise decisions on which point in time you want to pick things up from.
Sometimes it's actually very humorous to see things go wrong, like, for example, overcompensating for the power of the rocket and your car flies off a ramp and does a spin in the air. These moments work towards minimizing the frustration factor, and in some respects it almost works for the reason that it gets you to lighten up a bit. But not all the time. There are many instances where you'll find this aspect of the game to be extremely frustrating, especially when the error seems to be no fault of your own. I suppose this is the part where you're supposed to gain more respect for the life of an inventor. But because of how much they test your patience levels, it's difficult to get over these moments.
I will say, though, that the light-hearted humour stemming from the way Doc and Sack carry on helps with the overall situation. The banter between the two characters may not be genuine or natural, but there are definitely some funny moments in the dialogue. Even in the way they interact with some of the enemies is usually amusing. Admittedly, Sack makes constant remarks about how good it would be if Doc was exterminated, and I found myself practically begging him to get new material. So that was definitely annoying. But overall, it was a good move to aim for a funny atmosphere, as I think the game would have been more boring without this element present.
The level designs don't demonstrate originality or anything like that, but for the most part, they are adequate. Often times, you'll find each level has at least one or two points where you'll basically come to a complete stop and have to work things out in your head before just taking the plunge and relying on luck to get you over a hurdle. However, there was one level in particular where I thought the level design was just terrible. It was completely idiotic the way this cavern was set up, forcing you to hover down, then up, then down, then up again. Did I mention you need to avoid lava pits as well? Because of the unreliable nature of the propellers and the fact that they aren't responsive when you need them to be, it's just a recipe for aggravation. It's not just in this level, though, where emotions can get the better of you. On numerous occasions, you'll utter a big sigh of relief when you make it through some big obstacles like the one I just mentioned, which solidifies just how frustrating this game is.
If you're the type of person that is only drawn to a fast pace or hates having to be methodical about the way you approach levels, Doc Clock isn't the game for you. Although I didn't find it to be a big issue personally, I can definitely see some complaining about the gameplay moving at a slow rate. Again, the craziness of the rockets help with that later on in the game, but until then you'll need to really sit down and plan out what to doing in each situation. The only real satisfaction that comes from trudging through the weaker levels is being able to just complete them. And for most, this won't be enough to sustain continued interest moving forward.
Doc Clock lasts a considerable length of time to complete. You should definitely be able to clear all the levels in a few hours, but there is still lots to do afterwards. In addition to aiming for higher scores, you also need to collect all the enemy robot heads, find the hidden golden sandwiches, and complete the various achievements the developers have put in place. I didn't find much fulfillment in going for these, especially the one where you need to complete levels without ever using time travel achievement. But completionists can keep themselves busy for a good period of time.
Presentation-wise, the game definitely has a very indie feel but in a rough, unpolished kind of way. The menu system and the way everything was laid out worked well. I especially loved the autosave feature, which acted a lot like a save state for a Virtual Console game. Next time you open the game again and press Continue, you'll be right back to the same spot where you last were. As for the in-game music, there hasn't been much effort put into it. Plus, what I did hear reminded me of a familiar children's show on TV. Not exactly the comparison you'd like to have.
A more pressing concern is the mix of imperfections this game has. I experienced plenty of glitches as I continued with this game, things that really shouldn't be seen unless I was a game tester. Items disappearing through the floor, Doc walking backwards on a wheel as it rolls down a path, sloppy climbing animations -- these are some of the problems you'll encounter. But here's the really odd thing: something almost makes you want to forgive the game for this.
The sometimes humorous technical issues that take place go hand-in-hand with the atmosphere of the game, strangely enough. This isn't to excuse them entirely, but I find it interesting that the technical instability of the system actually goes along with the time travel theme. I doubt people will see it that way, but it's just something I gave thought to coming away from the game.
To be honest, there's a whole list of reasons why this game may not be for you. The pace is typically slow, there's a big presence of trial and error, technical issues pop up on a semi-regular basis, and moments of true frustration are not a rare occurrence. Considering all that can take place over the course of the adventure, I'm not sure this is worth the $10. It's a good idea but the execution isn't always up to the standard you would hope for. However I will say that if Doc Clock does sound like it might be suited to your personal tastes, there is some fun to be had in spite of its many flaws.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 7/10 - Big focus on experimentation and trial and error, combine items, create your own vehicle, controls are fine, accessible Time Slider
Presentation 5/10 - Technical issues aren't uncommon, unpolished look, propellers can be problematic, level design is okay, lame music, good save feature
Enjoyment 2/5 - Slow pace may turn some off, can get really frustrating, light-hearted humour, dialogue can get annoying, has some moments of fun
Extra Content 3/5 - Lasts a couple hours, achievements to strive towards, lots of collectables to obtain and secrets to find, price is on the high side
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)