The beauty of Clockwork Aquario comes from its sentimental story to release. The game was originally made back in 1992 for an arcade release in 1994. The developers Westone Bit Digital pulled the game after some mixed play testing and the fact arcades increasingly wanted 3D games. When the devs went under in 2013, the game was thought to be lost. Thankfully Inin Games obtained the almost finished code, restored the game and finished off the rough edges for release. It’s a fantastic story.
It’s perhaps because of that story I enjoyed the relatively straight forward arcade platforming that Clockwork Aquario trades on. You have three characters to choose from which all handle the same where you can run, jump and melee attack enemies. Like Ghosts N Goblins you have a two hit life. One hit is fine, the second kills you but there’s a great twist. When you respawn, you glide in holding onto a glider as an angel! This lets you choose where you respawn and this can be a nice strategic choice.
Not only do you have two hit points but all the enemies do to. The first hit turns then blue and stuns them for a while. You can then hit them again and kill them or walk into them and pick them up. This turns your attack to a throw and since lots of enemies are arranged in long lines, throwing the enemy through them takes everyone out. It also gives a combo score boost. There are three power ups to pick up although the only really useful one is a cute star scatter attack to clear an area quickly. Bosses are a nice distraction but quite easy to spam and clear.
The games available to play in co-op throughout with an extra level as a 2 player mini game using the throwing mechanic. As part of the game packaging this is available separately from the game too. You can play just this or the game in easy, normal or hard mode which only changes how many continues you have. Arcade mode is unlocked after completing the game on one of those modes once and with that you can keep adding new credits.
Whilst the game is far too short, its cheery graphics and soundtrack kept me entertained. It doesn’t get old before you finish as it keeps throwing new enemies and layouts at you but you can complete the game in about 20 minutes easily. Thankfully its all the extras that are available that pad the game out. You can choose from three screen viewing modes, listen to the soundtrack separately, explore a concept and promo art gallery and tweak loads of options in the arcade settings. From this perspective, Clockwork Aquario really feels like a labour of love and presents a high standard for what a remaster/lost game release should include.
I personally believe Clockwork Aquario deserved its release in 1994 but I’m glad to have played it now. I file it under ‘cute and light retro arcade’ where I can mindlessly enjoy early 90’s simplicity for 20 minutes at a time and cheer my day up. Great to have you with us!
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