I spent the week with the preview code for Dan Marshall's last, Lair of the Clockwork God. It is the new installment of his series of Dan and Ben games, which until now have been quite classic adventure games. However, Clockwork God is different, because Dan decided that independent games are the future and adventure games are history. This means that while Ben is still playing an adventure game: collect items, combine them, solve puzzles, Dan jumps, leaps from shelf to shelf and has epiphany of independent platforms throughout the place.
Cue lots of jokes and pieces and a lot of intelligence. All this is to be expected. However, what really struck me is how Clockwork God has such an ideal medium to deliver his story and his puzzles and his action and absolutely all that jazz. Like the other Dan and Ben games, the backbone of the thing is an ongoing conversation between the two main characters. In other words, during the two hours I've played Clockwork God, I've been swept away by the easy pleasures of the conversation.
I think there is something in this. Functionally it is very intelligent. The puzzling adventure games always need a means to give clues to the stupidest players, like me, and the disputes between the two protagonists mean that there are many opportunities to sneak into this. Then there is the fact that Ben and Dan can usually remember The player of the goals, of the things they could have forgotten, of the things they might not have seen in the environment.
But there is more, I think. Clockwork God is about two characters between whom you change and both play very different games, so dialogue is the perfect means to explore the differences and similarities between two design approaches. Dan can jump! Ben will never jump, but will combine items in his inventories. Do you like to create an indie game? Nothing like making crafts! All right, kind of how the elaboration.
And finally there is the fact that designer Dan Marshall delights in the types of games that are very aware of his game. With Ben and Dan firing round-trip lines, there is a real feeling that they are commenting on the game even while working on it. It's like having some friends grouped around the monitor, throwing away ideas, getting angry at something that seems stupid or abstruse or too convenient. In other words, it's a bit like I remember playing adventure games on the day. Many puzzles. Many stuck. A lot of conversation