Although the characters are charming, the story is too short for them to be developed very well. It’s a cheap game that doesn’t have glaring flaws, but it’s still hard to suggest playing when the story feels lacking.
Release date: 20 Nov, 2015
I was rather excited to play Tick Tock Isle (TTI) based on its premise, and the impressively high reviews had me thinking that with its short play-time, it had packed great content into a small package. What I found was more nuanced than this though, as I enjoyed the game, but this is more in spite of its small size than in addition to it. Does it wind up being a solid title regardless of its short playtime, or was it a waste of time?
I wasn’t positive how the game played from the tags on Steam, but it’s an adventure game, or as I think of it, a point and click without the mouse controls. You have direct control over the protagonist, and don’t have to mash items together in your inventory to turn bric-a-brac into tools. However, you still talk with NPCs, doing simple fetch quests for them in exchange for items you need to progress, and find unclaimed objects which will be of use somehow. Lather, rinse, and repeat. Doing so helps you meet your own objective, which in this case is centered around fixing a broken clock and making it back to your own time.
You’ll play TTI with a keyboard, which works just fine. Movement is controlled with the ‘arrow keys,’ with the ‘down arrow’ being used to talk to NPCs and interact with objects. It’ll only come up a few times, but the ‘up arrow’ is used to jump. The ‘enter key’ is used to advance text and access your inventory and map. Since you don’t use your mouse to play the game, it technically isn’t a point and click, but the way it plays is just like one.
TTI is a short game, so I don’t want to say more about it than summarizing the general idea. You play as a young clocksmith, tasked with repairing a large clock that takes center-stage on a small island. It’s abandoned when you get there, so you go about your work uninterrupted, and wind up getting thrown back into the past, when the island had more inhabitants. In order to make it back to the time you belong, you’ll have to navigate the clock tower and island, obtaining the missing pieces, and that’ll require you to interact with the local denizens. They won’t give things up for free, but by helping each other out, you’ll get the items you need to fix the clock.
For the most part, the graphics are pretty good. Characters have distinct designs, and it’s easy to tell them apart from one another. The background imagery has enough detail to make it look like an interesting island setting, with the time travel displaying different times of day and seasons. There weren’t many screens to make graphics for, but the different references to pop culture from the 80’s to early 2000’s was a nice touch. One detraction from the graphics came from the husband and wife shouting at each other, as their open-mouths looked garbled on the inside, but everything else looked fine.
There’s a few soundtracks in TTI, including the main island theme. Characters have their own tunes as well, with the two older characters sharing a military-style song. The music was catchy and pleasant to listen to. Sound effects play when you interact with the environment and objects, but this happens sparingly, so the game’s audio is mostly from the music. Characters do speak, but it’s only a short bit of gibberish, instead of full voice-acting. I didn’t even notice they were saying anything at first.
- Though it still plays like a point and click, having direct control over the character instead of dragging them around with the mouse and waiting for them to walk over, felt like an improvement to me. It’s faster, and I don’t have to passively wait for them to respond to my beckoning.
- This may be more of a neutral than positive, but TTI is very easy, as there are no ways to trigger a game over or bad ending. At least, that I know of, and I tried jumping off the clock tower: for science!
- The location loops around on itself, since both the island and clock tower are round. I didn’t learn the layout incredibly well, but it’s quick and easy to navigate from one area to the next.
- It wasn’t always clear what you were trying to accomplish or how to go about it, in spite of the checklist of tasks to complete. For instance, I had an idea of what, “Stop the old war,” was referring to, yet knew nothing about how I’d stop it, let alone if it was based in reality or I only needed to clear up someone’s delusional thoughts.
- TTI expects you to know Spanish, as there are some conversations with a luchador that aren’t translated. It’s not much, but when following what’s going on and learning more about these characters, any roadblock to that is significant with how few of them there are.
- The game ends abruptly, and the ending wasn’t very satisfactory. It doesn’t explain or wrap up events, it just cuts to a celebration and stops.
- Conversations tend to be brief, so it’s worth double-checking with an NPC you pass by if you think you might gain something from them. If you don’t have a new item or haven’t gotten new dialogue from another one though, they likely won’t have anything worth mentioning from last time.
- The game shows an icon when you’re near something that can be interacted with, even if you didn’t realize it yourself, so be on the lookout for an arrow to pop up out of nowhere.
I find my opinion split on TTI. For instance, I enjoyed the story and characters, finding them to be engaging and fun to interact with, and a good example comes from the wife delivering a short poem that turns out to be a reference to Macbeth. However, the number of characters led to them having a smaller amount of screen-time and conversations, and the brief time with them seems quite shallow for it. Even the protagonist isn’t above this problem, as we jump right into the middle of this situation, with no idea about his background or how his clock-fixing job really works.
Additionally, I thought the game worked okay as a casual adventure, but since the area you explore is so contained and small, it feels like you’re repeatedly running around the same areas just to find a couple of items so you can move on. This area isn’t so novel or outrageous that there are background objects to interact with or learn about, which usually helps build the setting. As far as figuring things out, I wasn’t seeing the connection from one object or conversation to the next, so I often wasn’t methodically or purposely choosing where to go, only stumbling around until I came across the right prompt.
TTI is harmless fun, reasonably cheap, and has enjoyable characters, but having beaten it, I’d suggest only those who already own it should play it. The gameplay and characters don’t go far enough to warrant picking up, falling short of an experience that’s particularly interesting or memorable, as it’s one I’ve largely forgotten about. I would welcome the developers to give this genre another shot and create a larger, more involved game, as this is a good base. However, as it is now, I think it’d be more worthwhile to play point and click games with more to them.