Disclaimer: I was provided a review code by the publisher but that doesn’t affect my review in the slightest and I have expressed only my honest opinion.
Revived from the depths of gaming graveyard, Clockwork Aquario is a 2D side scroller accompanied by a bright and colourful world and platforming. Set to be released for the Sega System 18 in the 1990s, the game has been given a fresh coat of paint and has been revived by ININ Games along with original designer Ryuichi Nishizawa and some other members from the Westone team. Published by ININ games, a sister company of Strictly Limited Games, this game has been made for PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch releasing on 30 November 2021 for EU/JP and 14 December for NA.
I will be honest here, this is the first time that I have played such a game on a modern console and I will admit that this game was like a breath of fresh air from the routine ‘realistic’ graphics and massive storylines etc. As you load up the game, you immediately get arcadey vibes from the menu and these vibes get even stronger when you encounter the credits mechanic (acts as coins from arcades) which decides the number of lives you have, varying from 9 in easy mode and 3 in hard mode. An option for a local co-op mode is just the icing on the cake and just ramps ups your experience even more.
The game features 5 levels/rounds, each featuring a different backdrop, varying from the sky to a submarine and all of these levels feature these vibrant colouring scheme along with beautiful pixelated design. Your goal is to stop the nefarious plans of Dr. Hangyo as you platform your way through 5 levels culminating in a final boss fight against Dr. Hangyo. The game draws a lot of inspiration from Super Mario Bros. and Wonder Boy 3: Monster Lair(A game developed by the devs of Clockwork Aquario) and that can be seen when you play the game as the balloons reminds me of the Mario bricks, the fireball plant resembles the red and green plant from Mario etc. As far as the gameplay is concerned, the game is mix of platforming and action as you also punch enemies while traversing the levels as well as have the ability to grab them and throw them at either balloons or other enemies.
You encounter a mini-boss close to the end of each level which possesses a key that allows you to proceed towards the Boss area at the end of each level and all of these bosses are just Dr. Hangyo piloting these machine like sea creatures. Each boss has a health bar at the bottom and each bar equals to one hit i.e. it will take one hit by you to reduce the health of the boss by one bar. As for the player, you have the same number of continues as the amount of credits you have i.e. 9 continues in easy mode. 1 credit grants you three lives and damage system is such that one hit will leave you in a tattered state and the second hit will take one life away. You can restore yourself to normal state by taking a health potion that drops from enemies but you cannot store health potions. You can also collect gems to fill a meter than can grant you an extra life and there are stars that you can pick up that makes you invulnerable and gives you the ability to shoot 3 stars at once in 3 different trajectories to damage enemies and balloons, albeit for a limited amount of time.
The game is not long and can be completed in 30 minutes which is true to its arcade origins but surprisingly the arcade mode is locked till you clear the game on any difficulty once. There is a bonus mini-game that allows 2 players in local co-op mode and I really liked that mode as the goal is to see who can pop more balloons of the opposite player in a given amount of time. This really makes for a fun competitive co-op with your friends and I wanted the devs to expand it a bit so that it is more than just a mini game. The game is challenging even on the easy setting and as I kept on playing I started to get used to the levels and my level of enjoyment also increased simultaneously. I feel that this game has some replayability and you can choose from 3 different characters, although it doesn’t change anything since you get the same experience as well as moves from all three. This was a letdown as I thought that changing my character would affect the gameplay somehow, this is a missed opportunity in my opinion.
I encountered some buggy trophies, mainly related to completing the game as Husk and Elle but that might be fixed.
- Beautiful pixel design
- Good Boss fights
- Decent level design
- Additional 2 player co-op
- Generic story
- No actual differences if you choose another character
Clockwork Aquario is a neat little nostalgic trip down the arcade memory lane and shapes up to be a trip which won’t disappoint you. Stick around for the pretty pixels and the boss fights as well as racking up a respectable highscore.
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Game & Developer Information
Developer Name: Westone
Publisher Website: ININ Games/Strictly Limited Games
Publisher Socials: Twitter
PSN Store Links: ₹1,499 India/£15.99 G.B./€19.99 Europe
Trophy Information: 16. 1 / 10 / 3 / 2