The Watchmaker is the latest offering from Got Game Entertainment, and while it has a great deal of potential, it only lives up to part of it.
You play two characters: Victoria Conroy (lawyer) and Darrel Boone (paranormal expert), who meet at 3:00 in a London law office, where you are briefed on the mission. Apparently an item of potentially dangerous power, a pendulum, has been stolen, and the castle you are about to go to is one of the suspected hiding places. Of course, your mission is to find out what you can, and hopefully recover the pendulum.
The environment of the castle and the grounds is all modeled in 3D, and you navigate your character around in it, either by use of the arrow keys, or by clicking where you want them to go. While this made it possible to go anywhere on the map, when you were in a certain area, you had a certain camera angle, and looking at things might prove difficult in places. You can switch to a first-person view by hitting the space bar, but this only gives you a 180-degree front view, meaning if you wanted to look at something you just past, you had to rotate the character before switching views. Somewhat klunky at times, but not really any worse than games with similar interfaces.
While the game box boasts real-time play, that is not quite true. The game starts at 9:00. When you perform a certain action or go to a certain location, the time will advance a certain amount (10-20 minutes, usually). Sometimes a movie will play, but usually not. While this is an acceptable game environment (some things take time, and you only have until midnight, by the way), it’s kind of weird, because at times you can run all over the castle and no time will pass, while you might do three simple things and there goes 45 minutes. I don’t know what to call this method of time-keeping, but it’s not real time. The instruction manual explains it accurately in detail though.
One interesting thing about the gameplay is that there are two characters to play, and you can switch between them, summon one into the room that the other is in, and even pass objects (although this last one wasn’t what I’d call intuitive). You can sort of be in two places at once, although the other character doesn’t really do anything while you are not controlling him or her.
Each character has weak points and strong points. For example, a person you meet in the game might be more comfortable talking to one of your characters over the other, and one character might be able to perform an action where the other would fail. Unfortunately, since this is a typical puzzle game where you should try everything and talk to everyone, this means that you basically have to use every conversation option twice – once per character.
Which brings me to one of my biggest gripes about the game: the voice acting. The voice acting in this game is simply atrocious. There is not one character who does not sound either completely emotionless, like they’re reading straight off the script for the first time, or trying to use an accent they might have heard on television once. Now, I understand that the original dialog script was probably written in Italian, and the translation was probably not perfect, and they decided to save money by using members of their own production staff. But please…there are like a gazillion actors (you know, people actually trained to act) out there who would be more than happy to do this sort of thing for little or no money, and I wouldn’t have to sit here listening to each unlikable little character drone on and on about whatever game information they need to tell me – twice! A little consideration is all I ask.
When the box says the graphics are "gorgeous" (yes, they used quotes), I expect them to be so. While the people are short a few polygons and the texture wrapping didn’t come out quite as well as it could have, I found the scenery to be very enjoyable, with a great amount of detail to keep you occupied.
The main storyline is a rather well-written mystery, and the plots surrounding the interrelationships of the staff were very well thought out. If the voices were more tolerable and the method of moving around easier to master, this could have been a fabulous game. As it is, it earns a fairly respectable 3 GiN Gems.
Despite the problems, I found myself enjoying this game more than I had believed I would. This was a decent offering, and I look forward to seeing what Got Game and Trecision will bring us in the future.