In The Watchmaker you control a woman named Victoria Conroy, a lawyer, and Darrel Boone, an expert in paranormal phenomena. After meeting for the first time at a London law office they head off to Austria to investigate a mysterious case. For some time they are going to reside at a huge castle, which has been indicated as one of the possible hiding places for a stolen and possibly dangerous device. The device is a large pendulum, which when used ?correctly? will result in total destruction of the earth. A group of religious fanatics are believed to have stolen the device, and the law-firm previously mentioned are very interested in locating and controlling the device in a way that will not harm anyone. The law-firm has sent several detectives all around the globe to locate the device, and it?s Victoria and Darrel?s job to check out this Austrian castle.
But, there?s another problem. The device will seriously threaten mankind when an eclipse occurs, and there?s only 24 hours to go! As you play the game each major action done will increment the time by usually ten to fifteen minutes, and certainly a lot is bound to happen in that time!
This is one of the points where The Watchmaker struggles the most. Since it was originally designed for DirectX 7.0 it does not utilize any really new graphical features, but thankfully it?s possible to create a good adventure game without using pixel / vertex shaders. Architecture is obviously important in a game where the action takes place in a huge mansion, and I will have to say that it does look very believable, looking at placement of rooms and objects in general. Darrel and Victoria, along with the rest of the characters all move very nicely, so it?s a shame that the quality of textures is so poor. In fact, the textures get a very low score on the crispness meter, and it is very noticeable inside houses and on the characters. For instance, the edges of the clothes are really fuzzy, and it?s not hard to tell that this really isn?t anything more than a character mesh with a low resolution texture slapped on top of it. Besides the poor textures the graphics really aren?t that bad, considering the genre it resides in. However, if you have hardware that?s up for it then it would be smart to choose Quincunx anti-aliasing, because it makes the textures less jagged and the experience more pleasant in general.
Sounds / Music:
I doubt you will be too intrigued hearing that the soundtrack only consists of a small selection of midi-like tunes. None of them are particularly memorable, and one of them actually reminded me of elevator-music. The music itself is of a fairly low volume, used only to keep you from getting bored when pondering your next move in this daunting investigation. What I would?ve liked to see is a more dramatic soundtrack, consisting of orchestra music, and a darker theme in general. Something more along the lines of Phantasmagoria would?ve been fun, leaving all kinds of decapitation and evisceration behind.
The sounds were also a bit below my expectations. The Gabriel Knight series of games, which has been very well liked by a lot of people, forced me to actually turn off the audio because of a (in my opinion) very annoying and phony accent. To be honest it seems as if the voice actors in The Watchmaker are bored. Not only do a few of them really sound as if they?re reading something from a sheet of paper, but some of the other voices don?t match the characters in the game, so you have for instance a cook which to me sounds like an ordinary ?pencil-pusher?, instead of a middle-aged man with years of experience in shipping and rough life in general. However, the general sound effects aren?t fully as annoying as the music or the voice acting. I will not go as far as saying that there are a lot of sound effects, neither that there are as many as there should be, but it didn?t reach as high on my annoyance meter.
One of the things that are good about adventure games is that if you?ve played one then you should be able to play another one without much difficulty. In The Watchmaker you move around using the arrow keys, looking at objects is done by pressing the left mouse-button, while the right mouse button works as an action key. Essentially, The Watchmaker is controlled much like games such as Grim Fandango, and with its fluent animation; moving around both works and looks good.
Seeing as how The Watchmaker takes place in what could?ve been today the guys as Trecision / Got Game included a PDA (personal digital assistant), which the two investigators share. The PDA is used for making automatic text logs of more or less major events in the game, for storing information about the workers at the mansion, and finally for recording and playing tones, such as telephone numbers. The storyline itself is fairly intriguing, and it?s exciting to watch how the truth unfolds, learning about people?s dark secrets and in the end solving the case.
This title actually reminded me of the classical detective shows on TV, and the puzzles you need to solve are both challenging and logical. The downside is that The Watchmaker is not exactly the king on the technological side, and with unrealistic voice acting it doesn?t feel as intriguing as the awesome point-and-click adventure games from the beginning of the 90s. Back then you had both humor, great characters and really exciting plots. The Watchmaker tries to set the mood for a modern mystery, but fails to scare and make me laugh, so I would say that this is a title you should only go for if solving puzzles is your favorite pastime, or if you?re simply a big fan of the genre.