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 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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
copyright © 2004