Start the clock before you run out of time
Life in a quaint country village is normal and safe until the town’s massive clock tower suddenly stops working. With the clock tower gone, a magical force takes over the down, destroying buildings and forcing villagers to flee. Through a bit of coincidence, you’ll come across this town and will be encouraged to help restore each individual building before this magical curse can become permanent.
Old Clockmaker’s Riddle outwardly appears to be a standard match-three puzzle game, as you’ll complete levels by creating matches of three or more like-colored gems, but the gameplay itself is highly polished and comes with enough user-friendliness to be appropriate for both beginners and veterans of the genre. For instance, you can continue to make matches even while other cascades are still disappearing, and you can choose to play either with or without a timer, depending on your preference.
Each level is split into multiple rounds, asking you to collect a specific number of clock hands that have been placed on top of gems to move on. There are obstacles and bonus gems aplenty, as you’ll encounter pieces that can be swapped by frozen pieces. Frozen parts will simply fall to the bottom of the screen, and even locked pieces won’t move until a match is made containing them. Just as there are obstacles working against you, so too are there power-ups that help you out, like arrows that wipe out whole rows or columns of gems, lightning bolts, and bombs that remove small sections of gems.
Both these obstacles and power-ups occur in levels automatically (or sometimes when you make a match of four or more like-colored symbols), but there are even more bonuses that can be purchased using the gems you collect in each level. As you’re guided through gameplay by the only remaining villager in the game, he will often have new items for purchase, such as those that allow you to break a single gem that might be causing you trouble, give you the ability to automatically collect all clock hands currently on the screen and so on.
Since time is such an important factor in the game, you’ll need to work quickly to restore the entire town, before repaired homes once again fall into disrepair and require a second visit. Levels become lengthier and more difficult over time, as the amount of clock hands required for each stage becomes larger and puzzle levels are added at the end. These puzzle levels ask you to clear out a set pattern of clock hands using a limited number of gems that don’t respawn, but these puzzles can be skipped without great penalty if you’d rather not take the time to figure out the solution.
Throughout it all, Old Clockmaker’s Riddle comes with some very poor English grammar, which can sometimes make power-up functions confusing until you’ve actually used them. On the other hand, the town’s graphics are charming and downright cute, with plenty of orange trees and strands of lights giving off the feeling of a town in the middle of an autumn festival. Within levels, the graphics work well, with most gems being quite bright. The only problem comes with frozen gems, as it’s sometimes difficult to tell which color of gem is actually frozen underneath.
In Old Clockmaker’s Riddle, there’s a focus on item collection, but it’s not as difficult as in other games: you can collect clock hands regardless of their location on the board, and you’re given enough power-ups and boosts that the gameplay never feels unfair. With so many buildings to repair over the course of the game, we would have appreciated a bit more variety in the gameplay (longer levels can become a bit tedious in lengthy play sessions), but this is still a solid match-three experience through and through.