Clockwork Aquario brings a long-lost arcade game back to life

If Clockwork Aquario had come out within the early ’90s, it could have value me loads of quarters. It’s the sort of arcade recreation that lures you in: massive sprites, vibrant colours, ingenious worlds, a bubbly soundtrack. You see it, and also you wish to play it. Sadly, I by no means received the prospect to expertise it in an arcade as a result of it was by no means really launched. However a number of many years later, it’s lastly accessible in a brand new format — now you can play it on each the PS4 and Nintendo Change.

Clockwork Aquario was initially a sufferer of the sport business’s shift to 3D video games. Growth began in 1992 at Westone Bit Leisure, a now-defunct studio best-known for the Surprise Boy sequence. The sport was accomplished after two years, however by that point, arcades had largely moved on to 3D experiences and preventing video games, and so it was shelved solely. It stayed that approach till retro-focused writer Inin Video games snapped up the rights and reworked it to run on fashionable gadgets.

As a recreation, Clockwork Aquario is pleasingly simple. It’s an action-platformer the place you play as one in all three characters working by means of a futuristic world, leaping on mechanical fish and popping unusual balloons along with your head. You have got two foremost actions, bounce and seize, which you should use to bash enemies or throw them at one another. It’s pretty easy but chaotic, and every of the 5 worlds has its personal big boss to defeat on the finish, which — within the custom of arcade video games — would require some sample memorization and fast reflexes to defeat.

Essentially the most putting factor concerning the recreation, although, is the way it appears. There’s some unbelievable pixel artwork on show right here, with large, expressive characters and a variety of wierd enemies. The whole lot is mechanical, so that you’ll see robotic fish and squids floating by means of the air whereas big clams shoot fireballs at you. I performed on the new OLED version of the Switch, and it seemed unbelievable; there are additionally lots of visible choices, so you can also make the sport look actually crisp and clear or add some scanlines for a retro impact.

You’ll be able to tweak a number of issues past the visuals. Arcade video games are notoriously exhausting — extra problem meant extra quarters spent — so Clockwork Aquario presents three completely different problem choices, which don’t really change the sport itself however as an alternative supply kind of credit to get by means of the entire thing. There’s even a coaching mode the place you may simply fiddle to get the dangle of how issues work. Plus, you may pause the sport now, which wasn’t actually an possibility within the days of arcade cupboards.

I’m unsure how lengthy Clockwork Aquario will maintain my consideration, however I certain am glad it exists. Video game preservation is a complex subject, however with a lot being misplaced to historical past, it’s good to see a mission that clearly reveals love for long-forgotten supply materials. The assorted recreation modes make it simpler to play than it could’ve been initially, and there’s a group of authentic artwork together with the soundtrack which you can dig by means of after enjoying. This launch takes one thing I didn’t even know existed and turns it into a bit of historical past that I can play.


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