Review: Tick Tock Isle

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Some adventure games are light on the gameplay in favor of going hard on the adventure. Tick Tock Isle is an interesting case because it goes light on both the gameplay AND the adventure. That might not sound too appealing, but the whimsical, off-beat story really works to bring this one together.

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You play a young Tintin-looking fellow by the ridiculous name of Strike Mainspring, called out to a remote island to fix a busted clock. Ascending the one towering building on the isle, you encounter a time machine that sends you back to the heady year 2009, when the island was still inhabited by its eclectic cast. Your adventure, then, is to repair the time machine and get back to where you belong.

Accomplishing this is going to take a lot of running around, opening doors, picking up stuff, and talking to people. The family that resides on the island includes an elderly couple at imaginary war, a workaholic wife and her useless husband, a firey seductress, and a luchador. They each have their problems that you can help address, and often must help with to progress. The dialog is plenty charming between you and the strange players, though it’s all kooky and irreverent without a lot of depth.

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As for the rest, it’s as simple as can be. The controls are left and right to scoot around, up to jump, and down to interact. Enter opens your notebook with your inventory, map, and to do list. The map isn’t terribly important as the game world is quite small, just a circuit around the island and a bunch of interconnected rooms in the building that you’ll get used to soon enough. Your inventory is more helpful, with a slot for every item in the game, an indication of when it’s been used, and a cutesy description that hints at its purpose.

That’s the game, running around fixing crazy people problems, scooping up items, and using them where they need to be used. I can’t really say there’s much in the way of puzzles, because items are used automatically when interacting with a point of interest. That means you can solve just about every puzzle by picking up an item and trying all the interaction points, which can also mean a lot of backtracking. There are a few brief platforming interludes but they’re very much the exception and not at all challenging. The time travel theme at least is used to great effect, I won’t spoil how but it gives a hint of cleverness to the simplistic puzzles.

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Once you grok the layout of the island and start digging into the tasks at hand, you’ll be able to speed through the game in about an hour. That’s not long, but it’s an hour full of charm and levity. The excellent pixel graphics help keep things interesting, and the sound design fits the atmosphere well all the way to the adorable ending. You won’t find much depth or story here, but Tick Tock Isle was a short and sweet experience that kept a smile on my face the whole time.

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