Clockwork Knight

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

Clockwork Knight was a Japanese launch title for the Sega Saturn that while upbeat and colorful, failed to make a splash.

Sporting a style similar to Nintendo's Donkey Kong Country, Clockwork Knight is a 2D platformer featuring pre-rendered graphics with the occasional 3D-polygon object thrown in.

The game boots up with an artifact ridden FMV which quickly establishes the mood, theme and plot. You play as Pepperouchau III (try saying that three times fast), a wind-up toy soldier on a quest to save Princess Chelsea. It's definitely a cute idea for a platformer, but unfortunately, it never quite reaches its full potential as most of the levels, backgrounds and enemies feel generic and uninspired.

The gameplay doesn't fare much better either, you can run, jump and attack. You're also given a throwing move, but I felt this rarely came into play save for one or two boss fights. The woes don't stop there though, the platforming sections are all very basic and there are absolutely no power-ups save for the stock temporary invincibility item, this coupled with an extremely forgiving difficulty level and you're left with a short, forgettable experience.

At the end of each room you can play a magic cup game for extra lives, it brings in a little variety, but I would've preferred if each zone had a specific game.

The boss fights at least are pretty interesting, I definitely enjoyed fighting the transformer knock-off (he even looked like Starscream) but many of them have the annoying habit of attacking from the background. These can be hard to dodge due to your character essentially being a 2D sprite, making it hard to judge distances.

Graphically the pre-rendered sprites were very impressive for the time, but look a little on the blocky side now. You also get some polygonal items here and there, however, due to the rest of the game being in 2D they tend to stick out like a sore thumb and on some cases even create clipping issues. The backgrounds are colorful but completely static and feature a generally unappealing art-style, I can only look at pink or blue wall for so long before I get tired, though thankfully the kitchen and attic levels do a look a bit more interesting.

The soundtrack is upbeat but and does a good job at keeping the tone light and cheerful... perhaps a bit too cheerful. The intro theme has jazzy feel to it, complete with synthesized trumpets but it's a little too cheesy for its own good. The sound effects all do a good job at reminding you that you are in fact fighting toys with overly exaggerated springing noises or hollow plastic sounds.

It may sound like I'm being harsh on Clockwork Knight, but really it's not a bad game. It's just an average title with a cool theme that was sadly, left underused.

Trivia: Did you know Clockwork Knight was actually launched a year before Toy Story? I bet you thought Sega was just copying Pixar didn't you?

- Easy to pick up and play
- Fun in short bursts
- Bright and colorful

- The gameplay is too simple for its own good
- Graphically it hasn't aged well
- You'll probably finish it on your first try

Final Grade: C-

We have yet again another 90s CGI cover. The models are clean enough and actually have quite a bit of detail when compared to Virtua Fighter's cover. Unfortunately, they're not really doing anything interesting, they're just standing in a blank background, resulting in a really boring cover.

Thankfully, the manual fares a little better. It fills you in on a little backstory, goes into great detail on how to play the game, provides tips and even has a page where you can write down your high-scores. As with all early Saturn titles released in Europe, Clockwork knight comes in a very flimsy case.

Packaging Grade: D-

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