Review – The Last Clockwinder (PSVR2)

VR has allowed for a handful of genres to thrive. Games that very possibly can be enjoyed on a flat screen, but just feel more alive in a virtual space. The casual, interactive, puzzle game is one such genre that has become much more relevant since 2016. The Last Clockwinder isn’t the latest in these entries, having originally launched in June of last year, but it is one that stood out then. Does it continue to do so, or is it simply a clone of itself? You get it? Clone? Oh, c’mon!!

The Last Clockwinder

A clone with my thoughts.

What makes these VR puzzle games so popular now is a user not only immerses themselves in the puzzle, in the room, but also in its solution. You aren’t simply figuring out a problem and jotting down an answer on a paper screen. You are actively involved in the investigation and actions. You aren’t going to your left or to your right, but turning your head, peering around a corner, reaching out with your hands. This casual immersion makes for a perfect pairing and something that Pontoco uses to great effect.

A great clocktower, located in the trunk of a giant tree, is abandoned and broken down. You need to learn why before the clocktower is lost for good. Repairing the clocktowers water pump and saving its unique flora, you will learn more of its last clock winder, as well as your connection to them and it.

The Last Clockwinder Puzzles

Why’s it look like a frog?

Upon arriving at the clocktower, you equip a pair of special gloves that allow you to record your last actions and to replay them in a constant loop. You then enter what will be your confined, but ever-adapting, puzzle room. What happened? Where is the last clockwinder? Who are you to them? Why is the clocktower abandoned? The story unfolds as you make your way through the levels, playing audio recordings that you find that fill in the blanks. You come to learn about the clocktower, its clock winder, its importance, and more importantly, yourself.

Not realistic, but a realistically created fantasy setting, level design is simple, but both effective and beautiful. There is a definite steam punk aesthetic that isn’t lost on the players. Dozens of rooms exist within the clocktower, but rather than exploring a large expanse or going from room to room, you bring the rooms to you via a vending machine mechanism. After you collect X of Y resource, you can then activate a giant globe and bring the next floor your way, revealing more history and understanding, as well as a new puzzle to solve to unlock another floor, able to hop back and forth between unlocked rooms. This keeps movement brief and intent, which is appreciated in VR. It also keeps the root focus of each puzzle fairly concise and familiar.

That root understanding being the picking, manufacturing, planting, growing, harvesting of seeds. The Last Clockwinder was working to fully automate this process with the use of clones. The gloves you equipped allow you to create an android that cones your brief movement, in a loop. Perform action, record action, stop action, clone action, repeat process with new action. One clone or 15, it is up to you in how to automate each level.

The Last Clockwinder Machines

A well-oiled… err, machine.

To keep things simple, you need x amount of A’s to get to B. Nothing is simpler than Algebra, right? It is up to you in how you automate each level, to get a conveyer belt system going, to get items A to location B. Using as many, or as few, clones as you want, to do so. Press a button to record your process of grabbing a seed, throwing it to the middle of a room, then cloning the loop. Press a button to make a second recording of catching the fruit, tossing it to the bin, then cloning that loop. Make a third recording of catching the fruit again, placing it in the bin to collect, finally cloning that loop to fully automate the collection process. Now, that is the simpler of the puzzles, but that solution remains universally rooted throughout.

What I truly appreciate from The Last Clockwinder, and its approach to the puzzle system, is you get to define how casual of an experience it is. There is a hint guide that you will need to actively search for and activate. Placing a cylindrical scroll in a reader, plays you the loop you need to clone. There is also a scoring system, rewarding you for using fewer clones in your overcoming of each level. It’s nice, and it isn’t intrusive, it allows the player to organically pick their experience without forcing them to pick a difficulty.

The Last Clockwinder Interface

S-Tier clock winding

Visually, the game is stunning. Taking place inside the trunk of a giant tree, obviously extreme realism and defined edges isn’t the goal, but it feels like a realistically created fantasy world. There is a definite steam punk aesthetic, that isn’t lost on the players.

Audibly, there isn’t much to The Last Clockwinder. It is voice acted, which is nice, but that is relegated to a few radio conversations and whatever audio logs you find during your play. Other than that, pistons pop, gears whirl, and mechanisms ka-thunk. It’s the negative space where you live. The space that allows you to investigate and solve without distractions.

Comfortability: PSVR2 allows you to set up in either a seated play area, or a standing play area, but in this instance, I recommend standing. Playing seated, I didn’t think it translated to in-game. Everything just felt “higher up”, plus the play area is tighter and The Last Clockwinder demands lots of reaching and extending. I’m happy to say that I had little to no motion sickness while playing, but I wasn’t expecting much. Just in case, the game allows for smooth movement, as well as teleportation movement with 30* rotation.

Hint system

Help is given to those that ask.

All this said, I couldn’t help but be pulled from my enjoyment. As fantastic as a puzzle experience it is, as many flowers as I see it deserves, I was often left wondering, “Isn’t VR past this?” Like the VR Experience games before it, hasn’t seven years worth of progress been enough to move on from Escape Room puzzle games, or Food Simulators? These are great for introductory games to virtual reality, but The Last Clockwinder isn’t presented as an introductory experience, it’s presented as a premiere experience. This is in no reflection of Pontoco and the great work they have done creating this world, I just couldn’t help not wanting to be a part of it.

Graphics: 8.5

Beautifully created fantasy world. There is a definite steam punk aesthetic, that isn’t lost on the players.

Gameplay: 8.0

Puzzle solving revolve around cloning your movements to create a conveyer belt solution.

Sound: 8.0

Well voice acted but relegated to audio logs and a few radio conversation. Lives in the negative space to allow concentration on puzzle solving.

Fun Factor: 7.0

The Last Clockwinder does everything right with its world, but I can’t stop feeling like I just don’t want to be in it. 

Final Verdict: 7.5

The Last Clockwinder is available now on PC VR and PS VR2.

Reviewed on PS VR2.

A copy of The Last Clockwinder was provided by the publisher.