Review: Clockwork Aquario (Nintendo Switch)

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Created in 1992 and given the ax in 1994, Clockwork Aquario is finally seeing the light some 25-plus years later. I’ve enjoyed a few other Westone games from the same period, but I didn’t like this one as much, surprisingly. It can be beaten in less than half an hour and does very little to stimulate replay. At a $19.99 launch price, I find it tough to make allowances for this.

The game jumps right into the action, with no plot presented. You’ll pick from a trio of characters, with the robot, Gush, being my favorite. There are plenty of enemies for you to hit, jump on, or toss into each other, spread across multiple levels (or rounds, as the game calls them). For better or worse, it reflects its early ’90s arcade origins. Honestly, I can see why it didn’t test especially strong back in the day.

Given the game’s brevity, I hoped the scoring might make me want to return. Alas, not really. It’s fun chaining points in rapid fashion initially, but it goes nowhere. Without any online leaderboards, the scoring has potential that’s never realized. This realization bummed me in great measure.

If you’re expecting plenty of options to justify the relatively higher price, you might be disappointed. There’s no rewinding, for one, pretty surprising for a game like this. The difficulty modes only differ by the number of credits. The arcade mode has to be unlocked. Heck, even standard features get duffed. You can’t pause without returning to the home menu. Want to return to the games’ title screen? Close and reopen!

Extras are limited when set side-by-side to comparable releases on the Switch. A small artwork gallery and soundtrack are still pretty cool. The latter has the original OST and remixed tunes, and the music is good; worth a listen.

While the gameplay hasn’t aged that well, I’m pleased to say the visuals have. The presentation is colorful to the extreme and in the best way possible. The background detail is impressive, and the clockwork designs are fun. It nails the early ’90s vibe. Clockwork Aquario would’ve caught my eye back in the day.

On the one hand, I can say Westone’s arcade “treasure” was worth the wait when viewed as a piece of gaming history. But, as an ININ Games published release in 2021, not as much. Once the warm fuzzies wear off, you’re left with a short game with little replay incentive due to a lack of online leaderboards. Combined with a lack of both standard and extra features, I’d wait for this $19.99 release to get a sizable discount unless you’re an arcade fanatic who has someone readily available for two-player co-op.

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