It’s always a nice feeling when you find an indie game in a genre you love that does that genre well. Tick Tock Isle is an indie adventure game by Squiddershins. You play as a clock mechanic who has gone to an island to fix a clock tower. Tick Tock Isle has pixel art graphics and they’re very simple, yet charming and detailed at the same time. Simple and charming really describes this game in a nutshell, it’s not trying to be anything it’s not. The pixel art and calming soundtrack fit the tone of the game quite well.
When you arrive at the island, you’ll find that it’s entirely deserted. When you make your way up to the clock to fix it, you get sent back in time to the distant past of 2009! It’s here where the real game begins. You go back in time far enough that the island is inhabited again. You talk with the residents, find out they all have their own mini stories for you to meddle in. You go back to the clock tower and attempt to fix it again, but this time, you’re sent one year into the future. Now in the year 2010, you have to go back and forth between 2009 and 2010 in order to solve people’s problems.
The story is frankly lacking at this point, as is your motivation. You have no real reason to be helping these people, and while you would think that your motivation would be to return to your own time, it’s never your primary concern. There is something nice about the simplicity that comes with not having to worry about the story as much, but it does leave much to be desired.
While the story is lacking, the gameplay makes up for it. The time travel mechanic of going back and forth one year works well. Several puzzles involve doing something in the past, jumping to the future to see its effects and then going back to solve someone’s problem using whatever you got in the future. However, there is something rather off-putting in Tick Tock Isle. There are four or five levels in the game where the game becomes a platformer and honestly while they aren’t that hard (save for having to start over when you get hit) they just feel so forced and out of place, it just comes off as padding.
I only have a couple of complaints regarding the how Tick Tock Isle plays, and they both regard the items that you get. First off, the items that you need are never abundantly clear. They don’t stand out from the background, and you just have to walk around, wait for the notification that says you CAN do something, and then do it. It would help the game significantly if the items you needed stood out and there was some message saying what you got, instead of having to check your inventory every time to try and determine what you got.
The other aspect that irked me was that not all the items had uses. That is to say, I beat Tick Tock Isle, without having used all the items in my inventory, and there were some items I never got in the first place. For example, I found some gouda cheese, and I never did anything with it. This only applied to maybe a fifth of the items in the game, but it still felt off being able to complete the game with all this extra stuff.
For the most part, Tick Tock Isle is a solid adventure game, though it’s rather short. Tick Tock Isle is $2, and it lasts an hour. While the story and motivations for the game are rather weak, and the items could use some work, the time travel mechanic is fantastic, and the characters you interact with are simple, yet detailed. You always have an idea of what you should be doing, but the game never flat out tells you why or how which is exactly how adventure games should direct the player. Tick Tock Isle is a fantastic start to what could be a bigger project. If the developers at Squiddershins made another game with an improved story, more emphasis on the items (both visually and mechanically) and took out the platforming, they could have a fantastic game on their hands. But for now, Tick Tock Isle is an average game that’s fun if you need to kill an hour.
Tick Tock Isle was reviewed on Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
Tick Tock Isle is a great start to what could be a fantastic game, but as it is it's fairly average. Out of place platforming and a lacking story hold Tick Tock Isle back from what is otherwise a solid (but short) adventure game.