Review by joec2003
A short yet enjoyable playthrough
Clockwork Knight was a very early release for the Saturn. Showcasing pseudo 3D gameplay in a platformer style, it is a Saturn exclusive that also spawned a sequel. The question is, years after the demise of the system, how does it handle and look now? Assuming you are debating as to whether or not to buy the title, here's my take on Pepperouchau's adventure.
A good looking game. The backgrounds are essentially still pictures but they do well to make you feel like you are a toy in a vast environment. The main character Pepperouchau looks good and his movements are extremely fluid, which has impressed me ever since I played the demo on the sampler. The enemies are 2D for the most part, yet some do jump out of the background. The levels look great. Ranging from an attic to a kitchen to a kid's room, each level brings a distinct feel to it and has different nuances that make you feel like you are actually in the different rooms. The bosses and their arenas are also very well done. You really see some 3D aspects used on the bosses in how they move and the different attacks they use. Also very important is how crisp everything is; the game moves at a brisk pace without any slowdown, and even with many enemies on the screen the game moves right along. The various FMVs at the beginning, after levels, and at the end of the game are good, albeit slightly grainy. Even after seeing all the capabilities of the Saturn up until the end of its run, Clockwork Knight offers good graphics and could be considered ahead of its time for when it was released.
Clockwork Knight actually features several songs made just for the game with vocals and all. Though they aren't the best, it's always impressive to see a game feature original music. The sound effects are crystal clear, but there really aren't many of them. Some enemies make noises, some do not. Pepperouchau has a select few sounds, none of which are very memorable. The in-game music is ok. Each level features it's own unique track (aside from the boss stages), and they are simplistic but varied. Even in the final boss fight, however, the music was not intense and didn't set the mood for the final confrontation, which is a shame because a good final fight can really pull things together. What is there in the music department is clear and crisp, but it's not anything that will stick with you or really add a whole lot to the game. If anything, it solidifies the kiddy feel of the game that the developers were probably going for.
It's a standard platformer with a few nuances thrown in. As Pepperouchau, you explore a total of 4 different rooms with 3 stages in each. You can jump, attack (which is Pepperouchau using his key to hit and crank), grab items and enemies, and run. Levels are generally straightforward with no backtracking and not many secret areas (though there are some). You have 3 hits in each life (though you can find a 4th to increase your hits) and a variable number of lives to start with (depending on what you set in the options). Your goal is simply to get through the level, which usually involves jumping gaps, dodging and defeating enemies, and avoiding hazards. Some levels do have some fresh ideas; in one level you ride different toy trains that you must stay on while avoiding obstacles. In another you have to stay above the rising and falling water level. As mentioned in the graphics section, the levels are nicely varied and offer different challenges each time. The bosses are well done also. Though the first couple aren't much of a challenge, the last and second-to-last boss offered some challenge and required thinking and quick movements. The game shows you an overview map before each level to show you which room of the house you are in and where you are going. Two more aspects are worth noting here: there is a mini-game you can play after clearing a room where you can wager coins you've collected and win more lives or coins, or lose them. This is a cool idea where you can attempt to gain some lives. It's pretty difficult, and it's not always worth using the coins because you need 20 coins to continue if you lose all your lives. The other aspect worth mentioning is at the end of each level, there is a mini-game where you can gain an extra life. There is a scrolling bar on the ground that reads in big letters, CLOCKWORK. Above it the game picks a letter from the word and challenges you to jump from behind a line and land on the missing letter shown above. Though hard to explain, it's not a bad concept, and once you get good at it you can get some easy 1ups.
LASTING VALUE/REPLAYABILITY: 5/10
CK is a fun game to play, but it ends too soon. The game can be finished in less than an hour, and there is no save feature. I need to mention however that I would not call the game very easy. The last two or three stages require some thinking and can be tough. It took me a couple playthroughs to successfully beat the game, and I felt good when I finally did. The problem is that once you beat it, you're left wanting. Though that's normally the sign of a good game, when there are only 12 levels, more was a real possibility. It's not really a game you would play again immediately after either, but it can be good as a game worth playing every now and then, just to re-live the experience.
WORTH BUYING: YES
CK goes for less than $10 on ebay, and it is worth it. I bought it for $12 used, and I'm not disappointed. It's a polished package that has become a namesake for the Saturn and is fun while it lasts. It is not going to blow you away (aside from maybe the graphics), but it is solid nonetheless. The game purposely leaves you with a cliffhanger that leads to the sequel, and I look forward to playing CK2 in the future. Even if it is just like CK, it will be fun while it lasts.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Clockwork Knight (US, 05/11/95)
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