The launch of the PlayStation VR2 marks the beginning of my foray into virtual reality gaming, and if The Last Clockwinder is any indication of things to come, then I am in for an incredible ride. It wasn’t the first game I played on the headset, but of the handful or so of games in my queue, it is certainly going to be a tough act to follow. In fact, I am prepared to award The Last Clockwinder my highest review score thus far in my time here at Gaming Nexus, and I don’t know how much better of an endorsement I can offer than that.
If you’re not yet convinced, then let me ask you a few qualifying questions. Do you like games with heartfelt, slightly mysterious stories? Do you like puzzle games? If the answer is “yes”, then take my word for it – stop reading and go play The Last Clockwinder.
In this tale you play as Jules, a woman who is summoned to a remote clock tower by someone she cares deeply for, who also just so happens to be the tower’s clockwinder – a responsibility very much akin to that of a lighthouse keeper. I really don’t want to share too much about the story, as it deserves to be discovered on its own, but suffice it to say that it is one about love, failure in the pursuit of perfection, misplaced anger, and forgiveness. The narrative unfolds over voice recordings scattered around the environment, as well as radio calls with a friend named Levi, and it maintains a slight air of mystery all the way to end. The story is so poignant due in large part to the wonderful voice performances that are all at once nuanced, emotional, and sincere. The clock tower is also a main character in this story, both directly and indirectly. The aesthetic of the tower is so cozy, so lived-in, that it pulls you in almost immediately, and the excellent ambient music fits perfectly here as well. It’s a place you feel like you’ve been before, if only in a dream.
So just what is going on in The Last Clockwinder? Well, again, being careful not to spoil anything, the clock tower has stopped performing its primary function for some reason, and it’s up to you to restore it back to working order. The tower runs on fruit juice (how long before everything runs on fruit juice?) and its operation is facilitated by a number of automated processes, which is where the puzzles come in to play. You must use “gardeners”, or robot clones, to mimic your physical actions and establish an assembly line to execute the necessary functions of the tower. This all revolves around producing fruit, and ultimately fruit juice, to get things working again.
Your actions can be recorded in one, two, or four-second intervals and then will be executed on a loop by a gardener bot. So for instance, picking a fruit and throwing it to another robot could be one recorded action. Catching the thrown fruit and stabbing it with a skewer could be the next action. And a final step in the assembly might be taking that skewered fruit and tossing it in a giant press, which produces seed fragments. Each room in the tower is a different puzzle, and you’ll need to perform lots of trial and error to solve them. I spawned and deleted hundreds of bots thanks to just as many near-misses when recording my actions. I would barely miss the target of a throw, or be slightly late on the timing of an action, but when I pulled off the perfect assembly line to solve a puzzle, it felt so satisfying.
To keep you on your toes, new types of fruit get introduced over time. The starter fruit handles about like you’d expect, but one further along explodes if held for too long, for instance. Eventually, the various types of fruit create some interesting conundrums that had me standing and looking around, trying to decipher what in the world I was going to do. The puzzles grow more sophisticated as you progress, building off each other along the way, which just added to the satisfaction I felt when solving them. One of the most appealing things about The Last Clockwinder is the nature of getting to see your work in motion. When something wasn’t working it was truly all on me not fully understanding what was being asked of me. Watching my assembly line in motion, figuring out where I needed to make a tweak, and then walking over to it and making the change scratched a deep itch in my brain. Remember how satisfying it was to build an elaborate, functioning Knex rig as a kid (or adult)? That might be the best way to describe how the gameplay here makes you feel.
If you’re a real tinkerer, the game also offers optional efficiency challenges which task you with creating the most optimal assembly line possible. They require you to produce X amount of fruit in X amount of time with X amount of clones. It’s like trying to max out resource production on a strategy game, only you have to physically execute it yourself.
With all of the tossing, twisting, turning, and tweaking you’ll be doing, I must say that this is one of the most comfortable VR games I’ve played thus far. I had play sessions ranging from 30 minutes to three hours and never felt ill in any way. For VR beginners looking to ease their way into things, I would say look no further than The Last Clockwinder.
Perhaps you’re left wondering what is wrong with this game. Honestly, not much at all. There are a few weird graphical glitches here and there, like screen flickering, or it freaking out when I looked too far over my shoulder. There is also a lack of support for the Sense controller haptics and adaptive triggers on PS VR2, but that’s nitpicking.
I can’t speak highly enough about The Last Clockwinder. It’s a wonderful game that captivated me from start to finish. Even when I wasn’t playing it I was thinking about it. Thinking about its slightly mysterious heartfelt story, thinking about how it made me feel to solve its puzzles, and thinking about how glad I was that it was the first game I reviewed for PS VR2. It simply should not be missed, and is a must-play for anyone with a VR headset. After all, our time is precious. So very precious indeed.
The Last Clockwinder is a must-play for VR owners – full stop. Even beyond VR, it simply doesn’t get much better than this. If you’re like me, and are experiencing a new reality for the first time, this is a fantastic gateway game that I can’t say enough great things about. A few minor technical hiccups are present, but that’s borderline nitpicking at this near-perfect package.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the resident noob here at Gaming Nexus. When not working my day job, I moonlight as a husband to a human and a father to two canines. Of course, I am also an avid gamer and general nerd. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours.
My first video game system was the NES and I never looked back. I currently play on PS5 and PS Vita, although I recently dabbled in Xbox Game Pass on PC for a short while. I co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast with a lifelong friend/family member called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.
Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.