The Watchmaker

 

Genre:     Adventure

Developer:    Trecision

Publisher:   Got Games Entertainment

Released:   1996

PC Requirements:   Win95/98/2000/ME/XP, Pentium II 266 MMX, 64MB RAM, 3D Graphic Card with 8MB Video Memory, 150MB Free Hard Disk Space, 8X CD ROM, DirectX7.

Walkthrough   Walkthrough

 

 

by gatorlaw

The Watchmaker Review
(...or the one that almost got away)

Here is a game industry story of the one that almost got away. Trecision is the developer and creative drive behind The Watchmaker and among others Nightlong: A Union City Conspiracy. When the Watchmaker was announced and in particular with the distribution of the game demo - a number of gamers got excited about Trecision's newest title. Unfortunately it became known that unlike itís predecessor, Nightlong, The Watchmaker wasnít being published in North America or even it seemed in English. Normally we manage to get a number of Euro based games via Britain and Canada, but even this venue appeared to be closed. So once more another anticipated adventure game was beyond our reach.

Then after The Watchmaker had passed into the realm of the adventure games that almost were, along came Got Game Entertainment, accompanied by a publishing agreement to bring The Watchmaker to NA and into our gaming hands. The question is now, how is this game and is it worth playing after all ? I will say - absolutely yes and hereís why.

The Story:

The game is essentially the classic story of evil conspirators, an ancient mystery and of course the good guys coming to the rescue. But as so often is the case with most conspiracies, who the good guys are is sketchy at best. Now, pause for a moment (a very paranoid moment heh-heh) and consider the possibility that underneath all that we find familiar and sensible; there is in actuality a vast centuries old conspiracy and one that is totally in control. Think of every weird conspiracy theory out there and it's here being tied together. Even the X Files would be proud of this plot. I wonít say more, because...well.. itíll spoil the fun. Youíll have to play to get the whole shopping list. Trecision obviously spent some time delving into esoterica and a wide variety of paranoia theories in their background research for this plot.

Gameplay

The Watchmaker is refreshing and takes me back to the classic games I started out playing. Most of the new games - even the ones with no timed sequences seemed hurried to me. You are rushed from one cut scene to another, one puzzle to the next. Watchmaker is not like that. I must tell you that at first I felt a bit odd - just roaming wherever I wanted with no sense of pressure to go here, solve that. I even got a tad nervous thinking - what do I do now - oh no I must have missed something! Why isn't something happening to push me through this game!!! But I relaxed and found I got used to the leisurely stroll fairly fast. The pace of the game is generally up to you. You can roam where ever and for however long you like 'til you feel the need to get that clock moving again.

Although we are told that we have 24 hours to solve this mystery and locate a device of mysterious powers and origin, the clock is largely illusory. In fact you do not advance the clock until you have done all that is required in that time block. For those who have played GK3 and some others - this will be familiar to you. In this game you need to carefully look at everything and as both characters. Talk to folks, try all the doors and windows and if you can't get something that looks like you should - your partner is probably supposed to get it. They aren't there? No problem. All you have to do is open the inventory menu (you hit the Tab key) double click on their picture and wham there they are. Switch characters and have them look at it. Some of the puzzles involved both characters being there, while others required you to act separately and in different places..

The puzzles and problems that you run across as you progress are all logical to the story and well integrated into the game play and plot. This to me was a great feature to this game. You walk around the castle and come to a door. Itís locked. The character tells you - I need to find a way in here and that defines your next step. This brings me to another strong point of the game. There were no puzzles that were clue less, random and mere inventory shuffling. Even near the end - the one part that had me struggling was not an inventory hunt at all. Once I paid attention and listened to the character and really observed my surroundings - it was fairly easy to see what I needed to do next. The characters will comment on items and hand carry you through many puzzles if you need them to. For those who will want to know about timed puzzles or games over moments there is one timed puzzle - but I get to that later on. Just donít let the strolling pace make you forget the cardinal rule of gaming. Save and save often, particularly if you are entering a spooky room, a new door or a passageway.

Drawbacks

Now about the lows and as with most games, they are here. The characters are 3D and as we are all aware we want 2D. 0h yes, we crave 2D rendering -but financial constraints give us 3D rendered game characters. They arenít the worst that I have seen and the faces are very animated (they also have hands or at least donít show us any lobster claws. But they arenít the graphics of our dreams. That being said- you get used to them and it didnít really detract from my enjoyment of the game. In fact the backgrounds, rooms and objects have an art rendered look to them and are easy on the eye.

The one weak point of the game to me was the voice talent. It wasnít terrible - just somewhat wooden - though the delivery seemed to improve over the course of the game. I initially didnít like the male character's voice as much as the female's, but as the game progressed I actually liked it a bit better. Still this game wonít get high marks for itís voice delivery. However. considering the plot, well integrated and logical puzzles, easy pace and the game play, this weakness kept the game from a higher rating, but didnít ruin my overall good feeling about The Watchmaker.

Interface

I am sure there are those of you concerned about even the mention of the word keyboard. Be assured that although there are some commands you will need to access the keyboard for, you wonít be frantic over it. The all important commands, walk here, use that, pick up that,ÖÖ. are all mouse driven. In fact there are really only 6 keyboard commands that you will really need to know. I must add that again there is no real time for panic here, as they are used primarily when you are just standing there. There is one small timed moment in the game - but once encountered it is relatively easy to come back and make the right moves, which are really just two. Access an inventory item and click or use it on the right spot. It will just startle you at first because you have gotten used to rambling through the game at that point. But it is a small surprise and works well with the game at that point in the story.

The controls you will need to access other than your mouse are fairly easy to use and recall.

Tab accesses your inventory.
Shift makes your character run - although you can just use caps lock to have instant run mode and switch it off when you want to just walk.
The spacebar switches your perspective to close up when you are looking at things.
F2 brings up the main menu of quit, save, load etc.
F8 switches you between characters.
p brings up your PDA with all your notes and objectives

There are others like using the arrow keys to move that you can use - but they are optional to the game play.

Everything else is done with your trusted mouse. I canít imagine that the limited and easy to get used to keyboard portion of the interface will give many gamers problems. In fact try out the arrow keys to move your guys around, there are times when it is much easier.

The game interface is truly 3D which is great. Because the designers made judicious use of the benefits of 3D, you can roam anywhere and everywhere your little gaming heart desires. You will find that the grounds and castle interior are vast. In fact at the start of the game and throughout your explorations, I would advise learning all the little short cuts and routes to places. Though at times be wary of your mouse and how 3D movement can interact with it. If it has a location or item highlighted when you click, youíll go there instead of over to where you wanted to go. So be aware of what your mouse is highlighting before you click.

The Basics

Watchmaker installs on WIN 95/98/Me/2000

I played it on a PIII 500, W98SE,nvidea TNT card with SB128. I have 32 Mb of video memory

I lowered my color settings to 16bit, turned off all extensions and my screen saver. And the game ran without errors or glitches. The game installation program has a diagnostic for your PC and suggests the level of graphics interface. I chose normal over high. The game installation is on the small side this day and age - it only takes up 150Mb. There is an option to also install all the speech files onto your hard drive. The speech files require another 400 Mb of space, bringing the whole install to just 550 MBs. I have read here and there about slow dialogue that occurs without the full speech install, so so I would urge you to take advantage and do so.

Bottom Line

I wrote most of this review a couple nights ago and left it on my desk top to finish later on. Why? Well some other games were coming in and I was a bit tired. Also, even though I played The Watchmaker, had fun and enjoyed the game - I still wasnít quite sure how to rate it. Another reason I hesitated to finish my review was that I had been so thrilled to see a spanking new game publisher bringing to life games we had thought lost for good - that I was concerned I was somewhat biased towards this game. So I let it sit for a day. I even wrote another review just to avoid finishing this one. LOL

Then I installed another of my new games last night, started it and was immediately stuck. In fact I am still stuck. It looks pretty and plays flawlessly - but I am frustrated with it, not having fun and probably wonít load it up again til laterÖmuch later.

You may ask - but what does this have to do with the Watchmaker? Plenty. After frustrating myself all day long with this very pretty alternative - many things became crystal clear about The Watchmaker. It plays flawlessly and is solidly built without coding dead ends or glitches. It has a well constructed plot, with interesting clues that dovetail nicely into the puzzles, environment and story line. It is not perfect, it has flaws - but I had fun, didnít bang my head and enjoyed myself for a good 30 hours or more. I never felt totally stuck - but I didnít find it really easy either. SO I always wanted to get back to it, was sorry when I had to shut it down for the night and even now have good feelings about playing it. In short it was all that a good game should be. Enjoyable and well worth the price of admission. So bottom line, I would rate The Watchmaker a great game to add to your gaming experience.

Final words: Donít let this game get away a second time.

Review Grade:     B-

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