Release date Italian version: 06/2001
Release date US-version: 06/2002
Publisher: Got Games Entertainment
Homepage (Got Games)
A review by slydos 4th July 2002
Last year German adventure fans waited in vain for Trecision's "The Watchmaker" - the German Publisher Topware had announced bankruptcy. Trecision would like to publish the game gladly on the German-language market, is however still looking for a partner. But now at least the English language version was published by Got Games Entertainment for the North American market and can be ordered through their homepage or other American online shops.
"The Watchmaker" is the last game in a set of now 4 detective adventures by Trecision. In the year 1995 they began with the shareware game "In the Dead of Night" in 1st-person-perspective, which can be downloaded now as freeware version (thanks to Trecision) at Adventure-Archiv. 2 years later "Ark of Time" followed and 1998 we could enjoy the SciFi-detective adventure "Nightlong".
In the tradition of "Ark of Time" and "Nightlong", "The Watchmaker" also deals primarily with 3rd-person-view, however this time perfectly in 3D and with two equal, controllable leading actors.
Click on pictures to magnify
Darrel Boone, our male protagonist, is waked in the middle of the night by a telephone call. Scotland Yard had recommended him to the international law office Norman&McGreen as a specialist for parapsychological phenomena. (from the manual we can take a curriculum vitae of Darrel and the other main characters). The lawyers of Norman&McGreen were assigned by an anonymous client, to find a stolen device, which can bundle "leylines", a mysterious energy source. In the hands of the wrong persons and during a forthcoming solar eclipse the device, which should have the form of a pendulum, represents a serious threat for entire mankind. The pendulum must be found and stopped before midnight of the same day.
Already half an hour later Darrel sits in the law office and meets his partner in this case, the woman barrister Victoria Conroy. During the briefing is not much time to sniff at each other. Investigators already found out that a group of religious fanatics gave the theft in order. The device may be found somewhere in the area of an Austrian castle, which was nowadays converted to the meeting point of the international company Multinational. Manager and personnel were already informed about the arrival of Darrel and Victoria. The two fly with a private plane to Austria and arrive at 9 o'clock in the morning at their destination. In the flier they could learn about the present inhabitants of the castle (we do this by manual) and they know that the dangerous sect can have accomplices here. They must explore the area carefully but fast and exactly, to collect information and finally seek out the pendulum to neutralize its outgoing forces.
The game comes on 1 CD, can easily be installed and took together with my savegames approx. 290 MB. One can select during the installation whether one wants to copy the dialogue files also onto hard disk (again 400 MB). I didn't do it and this led occasionally to easy speech delays. If you start "The Watchmaker" for the first time, you are automatically led by a setup program, in which you can costumize the game to your system. Here you can specify resolution for screen and characters, select light and shade effects. The game ran under Windows XP error free with maximum settings.
In the threepart starting menu one can start the game, load a game or leave "The Watchmaker". With the start of a new game we are introduced without large detours with an introfilm into the story and can intervene as soon as our two leading actors are welcomed by the castle's administrator.
Through F1 one can call the main menu with save and load function. In "The Watchmaker" saving and loading times are extremely fast. It's so fast that you actually must be careful, not overwriting an important savegame. The savegames are not limited in number and a screenshot and the time is saved together with the game. The last saved game is always on top. Everything here is point&click. Inspiring fast and simple.
Also simple and fast is using the other functions, which can be found in a menu bar above the savegames. If you click on "Quit" you are straight back within one second in Windows without watching long sequences or clicking several buttons. "Close" leads the gamers straight back into the game and "Options" lets you adjust sound as well as music and speech volume and lets switch on/off sub-titles.
Controlling the two main characters works either with the mouse or the keyboard, depending upon your taste. Thus you can use either the arrow keys or click with the left mouse button on one point on the screen, and Darrel or Victoria will go there. Both, with keys or mouse, you are free where to send the two, only staircases are exclusively mouse-driven. Hereby the developers allow a great latitude to the players - everyone to his/her taste. There are some few places, where one can control the two more exactly with the keyboard, particularly, if a target point is occupied as hotspot (all hotspots are indicated by texts), however you will get by very well with both kinds. You can run faster with the SHIFT-key, all the same whether you use the keyboard or the mouse. Here the mouse control has an advantage, because you can reach a far away point very fast, because Darrel or Victoria evade obstacles then automatically.
"The Watchmaker" is one the rare adventure games in which you can control two characters during the whole time and the first known to me, where you can decide nearly at any time, whom of the two characters you actually want to control. With F8 you can switch between Darrel and Victoria who can be at completely different places or you can also proceed together. However Darrel has some abilities, which Victoria hasn't and vice versa, one should either read their personal data sheet in the manual or simply find it out during the game. So - if one should need the other, he or she can be called fast through the inventory (TAB-key) and immediately both are at the same place. There are some few places in the game, where this function does not work consequentially, if your character is e.g. underground or in an otherwise closed area - that is marked by a red bar in the telephone.
Because our two heroes act at different places and take up objects and collect information depending upon taste of the player, they must from time to time also interchange those taken items. In this case you must call the inventory of the other just not active character (in own inventory click on the name of the other one and then click on the desired object, which will automatically appear in the own inventory). The two transmit read or heard information automatically between them by telephone, without us listening each time, and so always both are up to date.
The inventory (TAB-key) is represented as column on the left side of the screen. If you click on an object with the left mouse button, it will be shown magnified on the right side and we get an explanation in speech and text. If you keep the left mouse button pressed, the object can be rotated and viewed from all sides. This can give us possibly new information or even objects. With a right-click either on the picture of the inventory item or the text descriptor you can use the selected item. That again is indicated as text line, e. g. "use keys with" and the arrow cursor gets an additional plus sign. If we are in text-only mode of the inventory we can see the selected item at the right bottom of the screen and can use it on screen at once. If we had a zoom of the object before, we must first "Close" this screen before using the object.
The inventory remains very concise. If you transport more objects than can be displayed (that is however only for the end of the game), you can scroll it with arrows. The inventory has also a logical aspect: Things which we already spent disappear, only partly spent items or objects that were only used remain in the inventory. It's possible that we need them again. I only remember one object, which was never used. With left-click we can examine an object, with right-click we can realize an action. Thus we also begin e.g. a conversation. Already asked questions are darkened grey, new topics appear as white text line, very practical. Conversations can be stopped at any time, exactly the same with all comments of Darrel and Victoria.
Naturally our two heroes have their PDA's (Personnel Digital Assistant) with them, integrated into the telephone, but can also be called over the P-key. Here information about the continuation of the investigation is stored automatically. New entries are marked in red and each time, when a new task or information is added, the telephone icon briefly appears at the upper right corner of screen. As with "Simon the Sorcerer 3D" the 3-dimensionality of the game is utilized by a change of perspective. One can change into 1st-person-perspective and back (SPACEBAR), in order to examine the environment more exactly. Many puzzles can only be solved from this perspective, in which one can view around with the mouse exactly as in the standard perspective by the way.
Altogether the handling is pleasing, simple and logical with much freedom for the player and requires only a short learning phase. Keyboard and mouse friends will both be satisfied.
"The Watchmaker" belongs to those adventures, totally created in 3D. We are moving around from 9 o'clock in the morning to 12 o'clock at night in the many areas of the castle and also outside in the garden and the buildings in it. Such a quantity of locations must be explored and examined, that you are feeling very free and in no case reduced and have always new things to discover. The attendants of the castle go to their daily work and can be found therefore, depending upon time, always at different places. Thus we meet e.g. that governess-like rigorous lady housekeeper times in the hall, times in the wine cellar, the bar, a storage room, the dining-room or in the swimming pool area. Naturally the sun goes down and all scenes accomodate this.
The further we advance into the story, the more areas and scenes we can enter. The background graphics are very detailed. We can examine also the largest part of the setting, even if objects haven't at all actually to do with the continuation of the game. We partly still find 3D-like rough textures for surfaces such as walls, however yet all furnishings are still clear and in detail in the so differently designed parts of the castle, even when zooming. It's big fun to examine the castle from the cellar to the tower, getting a real movie-feeling while having so large freedom of movement with the unobtrusive but never disturbing changes of perspective.
The graphics of the mobile characters not yet occupy the absolute top rank, but are excellent and naturalistic in their movements, their gait, their gesturing and mimic. Here are no false tapered bosoms as in "Gabriel Knight 3" and no rough edges. Particularly Victoria has a very chic gait and is looking like a mixture of Emma Peel and Dana Scully in her white trouser suit. I found it completely amazing that our two heroes followed the the gamer's mouse movements with their heads and their aliveness consists of preplanned small movements together with the gamer's fidget.
While we move the two heroes, the camera perspective switches always quite suitable and movie-like to a new angle, what makes watching varied - never difficult. The two don't run into the setting, as known from other 3D-games, or become suddenly invisible. You will alway be able to have an eye on them, they follow our rough mouse instructions by always going around obstacles however nevertheless searching the shortest way. If we use keyboard-controls, they stop before an obstacle and we ourselves must care about circumventing walls and hedges. I think, the developers made a great job with the character movements. Suitable mimic and mouth movements are added to the speech, coming near "Dragon Riders" in quality - which I'm always praising in this connection.
Unfortunately the English dubbing clouds the overall view of the game a little. Only for the two leading characters halfway professional working actors were engaged for the synchronous work. All the others belong rather into the second or third class, particularly striking Jude Robert, the administrator's wife - with her boring expressionless speech she really aroused the impression to stand under the effect of strong tranquilizers. And as if the text writers would have known it before, one of her last sentences reads: "I will need some tranquilizers now to get over the situation!".
The background music, mainly during the animation sequences, is used reserved and actually only during the end of the game appears somewhat more expressive and dramatical. Neither particularly remarkable nor disturbing. The sound effects, for example of running over carpet or stone, and all the many small noises, which show you that e.g. you are not alone are set to the point.
The puzzle quality impressed me very much. The degree of difficulty is rising slowly from the beginning and also left no frustration in the end, since really ALL puzzles are solved by logical considering and clear references. The game begins at 9 o'clock in the morning and ends around midnight, but no fear, there is no real time running. In each case after key scenes, if we receive particular important information, led a crucial dialogue or made certain discoveries, the internal clock is making a step forward, documented by the new entries in the note book of the PDA., provided with time, thereby the player clearly sees his/her progress.
Of course you must often come into the possession of various objects in order to solve the posed task and find out the secret. There are also documents, partly can they be taken and carried away, partly their contents must be noted down by the gamer.You must also manage to enter locked or hidden areas yet against resistance and you also have to regard and estimate the opponents psychologically.
Therefore naturally a lot of conversations must be led. Here it is important that you lead them both from the perspective of Darrel and Victoria, since the two are differently successful with individual interlocutors. In addition the previous knowledge and abilities of our two heroes are important for the solution.
Some information can actually only one of them find out, even if both can talk with the same people or if both search the same locations. Sometimes both must be at the same place, in order to solve a problem at the same time or one behind the other. Sometimes they must act at different places, in order to get ahead. This special interaction and finding out the correct combination of it, represent a completely special attraction of the game.
While searching objects switching into the 1st-person-view is very important, offers it nevertheless new views and is sometimes the only possibility to get ahead.
"The Watchmaker" does not bet on long ways, which must be walked again and again (truly the opposite - the game's handling facilitates in many cases fast local changes), it also does not bet on labyrinths or action sequences, in order to extend the game, but bets on puzzles well integrated into the story and logical tasks. There are some situations in the end, in which our heroes can die. Who enters the cave of the lion, must count on everything! Thus we find here also a time-dependent task and one, in which you must prove your skill. To the increase of the tension and difficulty in the end a legitimate means.
From the beginning we know that if our two specialists fail, survival of mankind is at stake. We know the order. In addition we know, that our opponents are not only simply bad, but also use parapsychological means. We do not know exactly, who our enemies are and what they will do, only that we do not have much time. An exciting starting situation in the idyllic environment of the Austrian alps. A psychological mystery thriller, requiring caution on the one side but also consequence on the other. Which persons are involved into the happenings and whom can we trust?
The life stories of the two heroes and of the other characters are told to us by manual and game. Here for the first time two equivalent partners take over the main roles, not acting alternating as in "Gabriel Knight 3" or "The Mystery of the Druids" and with different game parts. They both possess a not small portion of self-confindence, stand with both feet on the ground and even find here and there, despite the pressure they must endure, time for a funny remark. The two know, what they are doing and somehow their confidence is infectious - that also we as players will manage it.
And if we hear the last sentence of the game: "When the players have all gone - is the game more over?" one would like to say: "No, no - let it continue!" - at least in a new case for the two.
For me the most entertaining, most thought out and most innovative adventure this year - at least up to today. Even concerning the low dubbing level - which will not disturb a German gamer as much as someone with English native language - it belongs to the very recommendable games of 2002. "The Watchmaker" shows that it is quite possible to implement a tidy mouse control into a 3D-game. The game offers various tasks and puzzles and much freedom to solve them. If you think you can cope with the English version (with English sub-titles), you shouldn't miss it.My total rating: 91%
- 80% - 100% excellent game, very recommendable
- 70% - 79% good game, recommendable
- 60% - 69% satisfactory, restricted recommendable
- 50% - 59% sufficient (not very recommendable)
- 40% - 49% rather deficient (not to be recommended - for Hardcore-Adventure-Freaks and collectors only)
- 0% - 39% worst (don't put your fingers on it)
Minimal system requirements:
- Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP
- Pentium II 266 MMX
- 64 MB RAM
- 8x CDROM-drive
- 150 MB on hard disk
- 3D graphic card with 8 MB RAM minimum
- DirectX 7.0
- Windows XP
- P IV 1,6 GHz
- 512 MB RAM
- 16x DVD-ROM (Artec WRA-A40)
- nVidia GeForce 2MX400 64 MB graphic card
- Sound card DirectX-compatible
Sometimes it gets really dangerous!