The Watchmaker: Overview

Let’s take a little break from griping to describe the game more fully. The most striking thing that I haven’t mentioned is that you have control of two characters, which you can switch between freely, like in Maniac Mansion or Thimbleweed Park. It even improves on those games slightly: there’s a feature that lets either character summon the other to their location. It isn’t always enabled, though. The manual says that the button to do it appears only when the characters are in different rooms, but it seems to be considering logical rooms that contain multiple rooms in the conventional sense.

The two player characters are Darrel Boone, an expert in the paranormal, and Victoria Conroy, a lawyer sent to accompany him. They’re interchangeable for most purposes, but there are occasional interactions that require one character or the other. From what I’ve seen, these moments are more linked to the characters’ genders than their professions. Since each character keeps a separate inventory, it makes sense to use one of them as the primary character you use for exploration. The game generally seems to regard Darrel as the story’s hero — the intro cutscene makes him the viewpoint character, and the manual gives him a longer bio than Victoria — but I’ve been using Victoria as my primary, because I’m in the habit of choosing female characters in games when given the choice, and because she has better voice acting.

The castle you’re searching was bought some years ago by a major pharmaceutical company, referred to by characters only by “the multinational”, which modernized portions of it and made it into a remote headquarters. The only people currently in residence are the supervisor, his wife, and assorted castle staff: maid, cook, gardener, housekeeper, and caretaker. All conversation with these people consists of picking items out of a topic inventory. Topics include each of the residents, the multinational, and various other things you discover over the course of the game, but significantly don’t include any mention of the doomsday device you’re looking for or the religious fanatics suspected of stealing it. Presumably you’re being circumspect because of the likelihood that some of them are involved. But it does mean that your investigation has to be a little indirect, tricking people into giving you what you need and circumventing their reasonable desire to keep you out of the more dangerous, unrestored sections of the castle. Heck, you’re starting from a place of dishonesty, passing yourself off has regular guests of the multinational.

At the beginning, you’re told that you have until midnight to complete your mission — that’s when they ley line energy will be at its peak, or something. The clock starts at 9:00 AM, and advances only in response to your actions. I assume that this means we’ll only be able to finish the game right at the stroke of midnight. Right now, after five sessions, I’m only up to 10:15 AM. But even that small progress represents acceleration; I spent the first three sessions stuck at 9:20.

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