Game Review

Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Shark sandwich

In November of 2009, Stickmen Studios brought us Dragon Master Spell Caster, and we figured, at least, that its next game couldn't get any worse. In May of 2010, it released Kung Fu Funk for the sole purpose of proving us wrong.

But that was the distant past. We're older now. Wiser. Could Doc Clock and the Toasted Sandwich of Time turn back time for Stickmen Studios?

Doc Clock himself does indeed have the ability to rewind time for the sake of undoing his mistakes, and letting unfortunate situations play out differently. Might this game have the ability, likewise, to erase from our memories the shambling, bug-ridden wastes of Nintendo Points that came before it?

Ol' Clocky decides to build a toasted sandwich maker (rather than spend $9.99 on one at Wal-Mart) out of a toaster, a refrigerator, and a barbecue grill. Then he turns it on and his cat becomes a cactus and he builds a time machine so he can go back in time to when his cat was still a cat. And, yes, we know it sounds like we're describing to you a particularly vivid dream we had after we drank an entire pot of fondue cheese and passed out on the bathroom floor, but this is actually the plot of the game.

This introduction sequence actually illustrates nearly everything that's wrong with the writing in Toasted Sandwich of Time. It also – not entirely coincidentally – manages to highlight a great deal that's wrong with the puzzle solving and controls, but we can deal with that later.

In a game like this, the writing is paramount, and it's paramount by choice. Walls of dialogue – literal walls, as they obscure your view of the screen and often prevent progress – leap up to explain what's happening, and you'll spend as much time navigating word balloons as you will the levels. You'll have to stop walking in order to let Doc Clock and his talking bag o' tricks have some irrelevant squabble, lest you walk headlong into some fatal trap that their word balloons are obscuring.

This might be a passable quirk of the game if the dialogue were either helpful enough, or amusing. In fairness, the dialogue is often helpful, particularly in the early levels of the game, when you are learning how to use the controls, but they could have been handled much more effectively than they are here, and never are they actually funny.

We're sure that Clock and his yakkin' knapsack were meant to come across to the audience as some sort of sci-fi Abbott and Costello, but in practice they're no more entertaining or endearing than two elderly people carrying on separate arguments within earshot while you're trying to concentrate on something else.

We normally wouldn't treat the dialogue of a WiiWare game as something that carries so much weight, but this game elected to shove it so forcefully to the forefront. The nattering never stops, and these exchanges are constant, protracted and rarely funny. Here's an actual example of dialogue:

DOC: This is the perfect place for a funny joke.
MR. SACKS: You're a funny joke.

The gameplay is no better. Doc's adventures through time are presented as a series of increasingly complex - and decreasingly competent – physics puzzles, and yet the physics on display here bear little resemblance to anything we've observed in the real world. For instance, friction doesn't seem to exist, as any item of any shape slides around like a stick of butter regardless of whether you place it on a slope or a flat surface. Also, every item behaves identically to every other, meaning that a long plank of wood behaves exactly like a small cardboard box, and a slice of bread behaves exactly like (and is exactly as rigid as) a refrigerator. There's no difference in anything that you manipulate, making you feel like all you're doing is working with differently shaped hunks of wood.

Doc Clock himself is even fooled by these subpar physics; sometimes when making Doc walk up a slope that you've created, he will animate as though he's ascending a series of invisible boxes instead, grabbing and pulling himself up onto ledges that don't exist.

Controlling Doc Clock is a nightmare. He slips and slides along like he's been coated in lubricant (no, we do not want to know the details of that experiment) and can simultaneously try to climb over an object while also pushing it forward, trapping him in a continuous loop of making it partway up the object, sliding it forward, climbing partway up again, sliding it forward... and so on, until he hits a wall, or the limit of your patience.

Much of Doc's time will be spent walking left to right. Ascending and descending through the level is accomplished by using the objects around you. You can pile them up to create a staircase, ride an umbrella off a cliff in order to land safely (and we do mean "ride" – Doc stands on top of it rather than holds on to it), or lay them down to create bridges over gaps. It's just as much fun as you'd expect walking side-to-side to be, only your character is sliding around like soap in a bathtub and you're also trying to cope with awkward, unintuitive item placement.

The simple act of picking up a box and placing it elsewhere should be easy enough: we've been doing it in video games for decades, but here you need to deal with some unwieldy mechanical arm of Doc's that does the lifting and dropping for you. It seems only to work when it wants to, and will refuse to extend to its full length at times, even when there's nothing blocking it. Give it a second and try again, and it'll work just fine. We'd like to think of this as a clever comment on the unreliability of Doc's inventions, but instead it's probably just the lack of quality control at Stickmen Studios.

If you want to hold onto an item for later in the stage (always a good idea) you can store it in your endlessly annoying bookbag companion. This companion accomplishes exactly what video games managed to accomplish as far back as The Legend of Zelda, but this time it yells at you, is cumbersome to use and periodically glitches and makes your items disappear.

The items that you will need to interact with are not clearly distinguishable from the background objects or environmental obstacles, meaning you'll have to keep reaching for everything you see in the hopes that it's something you can pick up. It usually isn't, but it isn't worth having to backtrack through the level or rewind time in order to find it when you need it.

You will also need to assemble items at various points in the game, often to create new vehicles for Doc Clock to cruise around in, in order to more deeply explore the world and discover more glitches. The assembly mechanics are as simple as dragging one item to another, where they will automatically combine. You can imagine how clumsy this is, as you won't always want items to combine, and you'll then have to take the time to separate them and spread them further apart on the screen so that they don't link up. When you're dealing with this on top of slippery, frictionless physics that will send these items sliding into a bottomless pit the moment you release them, you're not in for a very fun time.

The time-rewinding mechanic is where the game should really shine, and in fairness it's quite nice to have around. But rather than leading to any interesting puzzles that make use of the quirks of time-travel and dynamic chronology, it just exists as a way to retry Doc Clock's dull, pedestrian puzzles. If you drop into a hole and land on spikes, you can rewind time to the point before you stepped into the hole and look for something with which to bridge the gap. It's a mechanism that should be full of promise, but, instead, it's just a slower, more-cumbersome respawn. To put it simply, it ain't Braid we're dealing with here.

The rewinding of time also leads to more glitches, and, as you should understand by this point, Doc Clock has no shortage of those as it is. Sometimes rewinding time will cause physics puzzles to play out differently, without there being any change in what you've done. If you're riding quickly down a slope in a vehicle, for example, and you collide with something, you may knock that something over, allowing free passage. But rewinding to a point in time before you collide, without doing anything differently, the collision may not knock it over, and you'll need to try again. Rewinding time also sometimes leads to bizarre scramblings of the vehicles you've created, as though the game doesn't remember how they were assembled, and just takes a guess, sticking components in different places, or omitting them altogether.

Our favourite glitch in the game occurred when Doc Clock was standing quietly on a piece of flat ground, between two wheels. He reached to pick up a wheel and dropped dead for no reason whatsoever. One of the wheels then rolled over him without impetus, and the two sprites duked it out for screen space, resulting in both of them slowly ascending skyward, a dead body and a wheel, jittering against each other, as the game became unresponsive and eventually froze up.

Conclusion

This is not a very good game. The physics are poor and the presentation is bland, and the only interesting mechanism in the game is squandered on simplistic puzzles that rarely make use of it, and the controls are slippery beyond forgiveness. The game is crawling with bugs, some of which are inescapably game-breaking. There's a moderately clever concept buried somewhere in here, but it isn't worth digging out.

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User Comments (53)

SKTTR

#3

SKTTR said:

At least this game is better than the other two WiiWare games they made.

Stargazer

#4

Stargazer said:

***** This game is amazing! I am totally addicted.

(end random app store plant)

Link79

#5

Link79 said:

Hey Stickmen studios. So Uh when are you planning on making a good game? Maybe you should find another line of work.

LittleIrves

#6

LittleIrves said:

Such a great name wasted.... but I appreciate you giving a long and thorough review, even though the game is trash. Seems like you almost enjoyed throttling it. You even have a "favourite glitch." Nice effort. (That was directed at Mr. Reed, not you, Stickmen Studios. Not you.)

Lobster

#7

Lobster said:

I hope you at least got video of the flying death wheel glitch, sounds like that was the highlight of your time and I'm sorry I missed it.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#8

Philip_J_Reed said:

@7: I actually did consider getting video of that, but there really wouldn't be a place to include it in the review anyway. Still, I assure you, it was glorious, watching his corpse and a solid object ascend into Heaven.

pikku

#10

pikku said:

'This is not a very good game'
QFT :D
say 'Doc Clock' ten times fast. :P

Omega

#11

Omega said:

This is not a very good game.

Is it only the Wiiware version that you think is bad? Or do you think that the downloadable PC version, which already received some good reviews, is bad as well?

Walls of dialogue ... leap up to explain what's happening

I wonder if the walls of dialogue are translated for the european countries. I found it very disappointing in Final Fantasy: My Life as a King and Tales of Monkey Island that they were not. Why? Why do they hate us, Europeans, so much?

SolarJetman

#13

SolarJetman said:

To the headline writer: Since this is a review, that should have read S--- sandwich, as per the famously poor review of Spinal Tap's Shark Sandwich. Obviously, this game does not go up to 11.

JayArr

#16

JayArr said:

I just want to know if I can really get a toasted sanwich maker for $9.99 at Wal-Mart! O.O That's an amzing deal!

Awesome review though CB. LoL'd many a time.

Stargazer

#17

Stargazer said:

@Omega: I can't speak for everyone here, but I hate Europeans because of your excellent health care and extensive vacation time.

OverlordMao

#22

OverlordMao said:

The only thing I find funny about this game is that some people are going to waste a full 10 bucks on it :)

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#25

Philip_J_Reed said:

@13: That was indeed the joke, yes.

@24: I saw that! I wonder if they'll update the trailer to include any new quotes from this review.

BulbasaurusRex

#26

BulbasaurusRex said:

@17 They have to pay a LOT more taxes to get those things, though.

Stickmen Studios's programmers need to find a new line of work that they're actually qualified for.

ueI

#28

ueI said:

Going by the review scores, this is worse than Dragon Master Spells Disaster. Doc Clock sounds unintentionally funny, however.

SwerdMurd

#31

SwerdMurd said:

Ugh...I read a couple of those other linked reviews, then some other reviews by the same reviewers....awful. Uneducated and awful. I'm much more apt to believe/trust this 2/10 than the few 7/10s/ 8/10s i just read. The other "reviews" sounded more like positive advertisements for the game...I think it was the complete lack of depth.

I also don't have a hard time believing that the Wiiware version is infinitely glitchier.

MeloMan

#32

MeloMan said:

Brutus, I am in TEARS at this review... TEARS! This has to be the funniest review I've read in quite some time. So I gather, that if you look for the glitchiness, then this game is is a very good "bad" game?

Odnetnin

#34

Odnetnin said:

I don't know, @Chicken: With such choice quotes as "game...really...shine[s]," "quirk[y]," "amusing," "actually funny," "entertaining," "funny," "gameplay is...better," "clever," "quality," "good," "you're...in for a very fun time," "quite nice," "full of promise," "Braid we're dealing with here," "no shortage of...good," "good game," "interesting," "clever concept," and "worth digging out," found in this review, the developers could piece together at least a couple more entire trailers for the game and be proud of it.

Rob_mc_1

#37

Rob_mc_1 said:

That glitch really needed to be posted on youtube.

@34. Maybe a thread should be started called "Best Chicken Review Quotes" in general discussions and the rules can be only quotes from his reviews to promote the game with a reference link to the review in the comment.

Wamtu

#38

Wamtu said:

Wow. This is a masterpiece of suck, from the sounds of it.

Congratulation, Stickmen Studios-or should I say, SUCKmen Studios-you hath achieved new levels of suckiness. We are in awe (Or, AWGH!).

They need to get some sort of reward for sucking so bad. Or, er, whatever the opposite of a reward is.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#39

Philip_J_Reed said:

Ugh...I read a couple of those other linked reviews, then some other reviews by the same reviewers....awful.

Out of curiosity, I read one of the reviews linked above as well. One of them gave it a 6.something out of 10, but nowhere in the review did it mention anything, at all, positive about the game. In fact, they highlighted many of the same issues I mention in my review.

Why the difference in score is so large, I have no idea. Their review doesn't lead me to think that they had any more fun with it than I did! I guess some reviewers are just more forgiving than others.

If it hadn't been for the copious glitches, I probably would have been inclined to give it another point or so, because the core concept is not a bad one. It's the execution that killed it.

WiiLovePeace

#40

WiiLovePeace said:

Dang. I was hoping this was going to be a good game, crazy & fun et al. but alas this is not the case. Thanks for saving my Wii Points Chicken Brutus, you've taken a bullet for us all... (again) :)

Alexneon

#41

Alexneon said:

Ya, on the video nintendo life is quoted " Our new favourite game title ever" and now NL gives the game a 2? how u explain that NL?

Rob_mc_1

#42

Rob_mc_1 said:

I think it is strange that Stickmen Studios has the CEO, COO and Technical Director phone number and email addresses on their web site's About page

BulbasaurusRex

#43

BulbasaurusRex said:

@41 In one of the previews, they used that quote to praise only the title of the game (and it is a great title), not the game itself. Unfortunately, Stickman Studios's inclusion of that quote in the trailer when taken out of context like that makes it seem like NL loves the game.

Omega

#44

Omega said:

I can't help but after watching this 20 minute video, I still think it looks like a very funny game. Even watching this video was more fun than playing some other "high rated" WiiWare games. It may have its minor glitches, but what game doesn't? And it seems to me that the rewind function reduces the problems somewhat. I always liked the mix of platformer, puzzle and adventure. If this comes to europe with a german translation I'll sure give it a try.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#45

Philip_J_Reed said:

By all means, if the game still seems like something you would enjoy, go for it! I hope you enjoy it more than we did.

Omega

#46

Omega said:

Thank you. If I have your permission to buy it, then I'll do it. Unfortunately it's not out in europe, yet. :-)

BTW: I have seen the steam version with german text. So I guess they localize it for the EU regions.

Vinsanity

#48

Vinsanity said:

ROFL. I can't help but laugh at that exchange of dialogue NintendoLife chose to show off as a good example of the banter between the two. Not for the jokes per se, but because the bag of goodies is called, "Mr. Sacks". Ahahahaha.

Yes, I know I am immature.

This is a shame. The game looked promising, but that video review embedded in the comments, as well as Nintendolife's (sorry NL, but video reviews are SO much more helpful because you can see the game for yourself in action) paint a pretty grim picture.

Oh well, no great loss. I'm saving my Nintendo Points for La Mulana, FAST Racing League or MotoHeroz anyway. Whichever lands first.

Omega

#50

Omega said:

I'm a big fan of these type of Indie games. I can't wait for it to be released in europe. I asked Stickmen Studios when it's coming to EU and if there is a german translation and they answered:

"It will be released in
Europe soon, but we don't have a specific release date for it yet. It will
have a German translation."

Odnetnin

#51

Odnetnin said:

Interesting that you just joined two days ago, Nuke.
not accusing you; just pointing this out since we've had problems with dev accounts in the past

GotWii

#53

GotWii said:

The future of WiiWare........................
You can't place all the blame on Stickmen Studios, they are just pumping out what Nintendo allows them to pump out.
Nintendo needs to up the quality control. If I can't even be guaranteed that these games wont crash and burn without any recourse for updates then WiWare is greatly losing its appeal for me. I have several hundred dollars of WiiWare and I am already questioning what happens to my purchases when the next game system is released? Am I going to lose it? Now we have bug ridden games being sold on the WiiWare.
This is not the first like the UNO game bug that won't let you adjust the rules for local multi player even though the user manual says you can. Where are the updates and fixes for these?

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