Lair of the Clockwork God review – properly laugh-out-loud funny

We could all do with a bit of a laugh in these difficult times, and I heartily recommend Lair of the Clockwork God to aid you in your quest for much-needed levity. It is one of the funniest games I’ve ever played.

It’s the latest in a series of adventure games starring Dan Marshall (the coder behind the game) and his best mate Ben Ward, although I admit Lair of the Clockwork God is the first one I’ve played. But now I’ve finished it, I’ll definitely be seeking out Ben and Dan’s earlier adventures. Lair begins with Dan deciding he wants to be an indie darling platformer on a quest to do something meaningful involving EMOTIONS, whereas Ben steadfastly decides to stick to the old ways of point and click adventures. So while Dan is hopping around, gaining double-jump upgrades and so on, Ben is examining everything in sight and combining items in ludicrous ways to solve puzzles. You can switch between the characters at the press of a button, and naturally you’ll be using their complementary abilities to get through each level.

I confess I wasn’t too sure about all this at the start. Dan’s platforming bits start off as a little too simplistic, and Ben’s slow walk makes the early sections feel like a bit of a slog. It’s a bit boring, to be honest. But then, an hour or two in, the game really starts picking up the pace, becoming not only a lot of fun, but bloody hilarious to boot. By this point, Dan has gained the ability to pick up Ben and carry him around, making the game more fun as a result, and later both characters gain the ability to teleport next to each other, making it more enjoyable still. Plus Dan’s platforming parts are much better once he fills out his jumping arsenal with a few more ability upgrades.

But what really elevates the game is the humour. Almost everything is played for laughs, with Dan’s chirpy enthusiasm for platforming countered by Ben’s curmudgeonly and amoral adventurer character. The game really takes it to the next level by around halfway through, however, with some brilliant puzzles whose solutions made me genuinely laugh out loud. Some even require thinking outside the actual game space of platforms and inventory items. One particularly brilliant bit requires you to play through a separate, short companion game, Devil’s Kiss, which in itself is a fantastic parody of visual novels.

And the sheer audacity of some of the puzzles and humour had me in bits. Some of the gags are set up right at the start, but the payoff doesn’t come until right towards the end of the game. For example, I was curious about why Ben’s bladder was an item in his inventory at the beginning, and barked with laughter when it eventually transpired it was all a set up to allow him to literally piss on Dan’s grave several hours later. That’s clearly one of the cruder gags on offer, but several of them are downright ingenious. One actually made me gasp-laugh at the sheer cleverness of its set-up. I don’t want to spoil it though, and neither do I want to spoil the plot in any way – or the brilliant ending – so I’ll just stop by saying it’s great and you need to play it for yourself.

I confess I did find the platforming bits quite irritating though. There’s one point in the game that’s all to do with generating anger, where Dan has to negotiate ridiculous gauntlets of spikes and spinning saws, causing him to spout all sorts of curses and F-bombs, and moan about the trend of for masochistic modern platformers like Super Meat Boy. It’s a good gag, but the thing is, most of the platforming bits are like this anyway. There are one-hit kill spikes and lasers everywhere, and it took me many, many tries to get through some of the tougher platforming bits, especially when gravity gets flipped around, making everything just a little bit harder.

And most of the time, the platforming and adventuring parts of the game are fairly separate – you’ll do a bit of adventuring for a while, then do a bit of platforming, and so on. The best part was when the platforming and adventuring were combined, with Dan defending Ben while he solved a puzzle, which required flipping constantly back and forth between the characters. This part showed how the platforming and adventuring parts could be melded in a really satisfying way – but unfortunately it only occurred once in the whole game.

Still, the slightly disappointing platforming doesn’t really matter, since in essence this is a point and click adventure game with a bit of platforming grafted on – and the adventuring is brilliant. The puzzles are funny, clever and set at just the right level to be taxing yet not obscure. On a few occasions I got stuck, resorting to trying every combination of items in my inventory to make progress, but usually I’d work out the solution after a while – and it would often prompt a guffaw.

Yes, a GUFFAW. As previously mentioned, this game is proper damn funny, and the extended satire on youth culture in particular really made me chuckle. A few of the gags might fly over the heads of players outside the UK – particularly the Daily-Mail-reading racist brain in a jar – but I think most of the gags will land even if you’re not familiar with British culture. And god knows, we need a laugh while all this pandemic business is going on. For that reason, Lair of the Clockwork God should be deemed an essential purchase.

Lair of the Clockwork God was developed by Size Five Games and is available on PC, Mac and Linux (via Steam).

Disclosure statement: review code for Lair of the Clockwork God was provided by Dan Marshall. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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