I’ve been gaming for 40 odd years, watching technological improvements, visual enhancements, and the gaming scene in general, explode massively. From my humble ZX days, through the Amiga and Atari time zone and across every major gaming console generation since the NES, a million and one games must have passed my eyes, all as I attempted to make the most of every addition.
So in a time when the gaming industry is at an all time high, with a larger, more varied population of gamer in place than ever before, it feels strange that I’m sat here in 2019 trying to tap a button to keep time with every passing second. But that’s what I’m doing with the aptly named Clock Simulator on Nintendo Switch, a game that flat out refuses to jump aboard the ever enhanced gaming machine that is currently helping the world turn.
Clock Simulator is a strange one. Not because the simplicity of it could quite easily have seen it rock up decades ago, but because in those 40 years that I’ve been gaming, I’m not sure I’ve ever played something so basic. Especially once the original Pong was put to one side. The problem is, Pong was more exciting.
Let me spend a few seconds or so telling you about the main premise, because across all 13 game modes that are present, each and every one deals with the same idea – pressing a button, or tapping the screen, every single second, for as long as possible. Fail to action that, letting time get away from you, and you’ll be left with a game over screen, your total score (basically how many taps you made) and left to start again. If you do fail, you’ve got no-one to blame other than yourself because mechanically Clock Simulator is on point with every tap or button press registered immediately. That’s a bit of luck too, because any slight discrepancy would be disastrous.
This idea is present across every single game mode, and whilst a basic tutorial will give you a helping hand, running a simple bar up the hand of a clock to allow you the chance to work out ‘a second’, from there on out you’re left on your own. Quite literally.
Most of the rest of the modes found in Clock Simulator are pretty damn similar to each other too, with A Game Of Shadows, Clock Fight, The Fragility of Time, The Spirits of Time, Follow The Rhythm, From Dawn Till Dusk, and Test Your Skill all running along the same analogue clock theme. Working like the tutorial, the aim with these is to keep in time with a moving second hand, with just slight variations that each bring a tad of variety; some will give you a few chances to make mistakes, others will see you raising dead ghosts. Most however will just see you trying to keep time until you begin to mentally switch off.
Drop in a digital version, one in which a digital clock replaces the analogue hand, and it’s easy to see how similar the vast majority of the game modes found in Clock Simulator are to each other.
Thankfully, there are a few other additions that manage to mix things up a bit, and it is in these where the fun is found. Dungeons and Aliens sees you having to press a different button depending on which object pops up on screen – a spaceship or an alien – whilst Pig Got The Rhythm will have you tapping a button to jump a sweet little pig over a fast rotating second hand. Jumping pigs may not be something you’d expect to find in a game about time, but it’s a nice little change from the norm.
This pig also comes into play in It’s XYAB Time, as you navigate your way across various face buttons, smashing the relevant one to ensure that the squealing pig makes it safely through an endless maze of cogs. This is possibly the best mode in the game, but that’s probably because it delivers something so different from the usual one button tapping that everything else focuses on. It’s pretty tricky too, and when you compare the difficulty of processing which button to press in the short time frame allowed, as opposed to the standard ‘any button will do’ mantra, there is some kind of longevity in Clock Simulator.
Much of your time with Clock Simulator will be spent alone, but should you want to go up against a mate or 3, there are two multiplayer modes present. Last Pig Standing and Clock Fight both allow for second-guessing bragging rights, but whether those are rights you’ll want to live your life by, I’m not sure. These aren’t the most riveting multiplayer affairs you would ever have played, and in fact, a few minutes with either is really all you’ll be able to put up with.
In the solo form, beating personal bests is the overall aim, however until you’ve actually ‘died’ there is no indication of what score you should be trying to beat. This is a major oversight and means any enthusiasm you may have for high score beating is quickly thrown out of the window. A quick flash of the current PB beforehand, or even a little leaderboard showing all-time bests or previous scores, would have been hugely appreciated.
Instead, once in a game, tapping that button and trying to keep in time very quickly gets tiresome and even though a minute or two may not initially seem like a long time, it can seemingly last an eternity when you are spending time in Clock Simulator.
One positive that just has to be mentioned though is the fact that this is quite possibly the first – and only – game I’ve been ever been able to play with my eyes shut. Kicking back on the sofa, Nintendo Switch in hand and eyes resting while listening away to the tick of a clock is hugely relaxing. But then, if you’re one of those strange breed of people who can’t stand a ticking clock, that could well be your idea of hell.
With super simple visuals that show off Clock Simulator’s early mobile roots, game modes that are all hugely similar and a lack of any progression found within, it must be said that you’re going to struggle to find an awful lot of joy with Clock Simulator on Nintendo Switch. Yes, the super cheap price point may allow for a download and 20 minutes of fun, but the free mobile version is probably the better way to go.
Release date: January 2019
Formats: Nintendo Switch (Review)
Massive thanks to: Kool2Play