With initial development beginning in 1991, Clockwork Aquario has just won the Guinness World Record for the longest development cycle thanks to a 2021 release. A title intended to be an arcade game that long ago displays both a certain charm as well as some dated mechanics due to its age.
Fans of solid sprite based graphics will find a lot to appreciate in the visuals on offer with their clean outlines and use of many bold colours. Creativity is also on display with a variety of imaginative locations, enemy types and even three very different looking characters to play as.
Beyond appearance however, there is very little that differentiate you character options, perhaps hit boxes and some jumping speeds. Otherwise they all handle the same which is to say quite well. The gameplay loop revolves around platforming, primarily left to right, and defeating enemies by either jumping on them or punching them and then throwing at each other. Responsive controls and a smooth framerate will ensure that any missteps will be due to player error rather than system issues.
A major complaint of mine is that there is a sound effect tied to your attack which plays every single swing rather than periodically. This becomes so annoying that you will want to turn the sound off very quickly, which ends up doing a disservice to the overall very enjoyable music.
If you decide to keep the sound on, you won’t be listening to the music for very long as what is here is a roughly 20 minute experience across five levels. Unfortunately there isn’t too much variety either with only one of the levels being a self scrolling level and another changing it up so that you move upwards instead. Even enemy drops are quite limited in that there are only two. A potion that will allow you to regain a hit point and another that lets you have a ranged projectile that spreads for a short period.
The most variety to be found resides in the level bosses who are large adversaries that take up roughly half the screen and will require pattern recognition to overcome. None of them are particularly difficult to learn but you can probably just out last them as the game is relatively easy. There are difficulty settings but they only really change how many credits you have available for continues.
There aren’t really too many extras or features to be found either. You can hop into the menu to check out the soundtrack, play a short mini game and play through the title in coop. It’s ultimately a pretty bare bones package. The reality of Clockwork Aquario is that it is a very fun little game but it is sadly held down by a lack of variety, a very short run time which is not helped with its low difficulty and limited replayability. You can absolutely have a blast giving it a run through with a friend for a slight distraction on a lazy afternoon but it will have to come at a very low cost, unless you are just a retro junkie.