Originally developed in 1992, Westone’s 2D arcade game was shelved in fear of it looking like an artifact when compared to 3D polygon based titles that were becoming the norm. Better late than never, Clockwork Aquario has now received a second life thanks to the dedicated work of ININ games by releasing it on PS4 and Switch.
Clockwork Aquario is a bouncy action platformer that contains some gameplay elements that are unique despite being nearly 30 years old. Playing as one of three characters, players can bounce on enemies Mario-style, pop them from underneath, or smack them with a melee attack. One successful melee attack can stun a common enemy, freezing them in place. Once frozen, players can grab and throw them like any Klonoa game. The entire game is based around these principals, especially boss battles, and sometimes players are rewarded for completing a set of tricky bounces off a series of balloons. For a game that only takes about 30 minutes to complete, each stage is action packed and offers something slightly new even though common enemies and balloon platforms repeat.
Since this was originally designed for arcades, this is a tough game as it is made to steal your quarters. At times, it will seem like you have each approaching situation under control but all it takes is a one second slip to lose a precious life. Other than the easy opening tutorial option, players will choose between an Easy, Normal or Hard setting. To be clear, the game experience is the same only the player has access to a diminished number of continues before it is game over. In my stream embedded below, I got slaughtered by a large boxing glove boss and didn’t beat the campaign on Easy. However, after a few attempts, it is possible to clear the game which opens the Arcade mode, granting the player the ability to tweak settings for a more customized experience.
It is easy to determine the visual quality of this long lost arcade game by looking at any single screenshot. The 2D hand drawn sprite work is nothing short of amazing whether it was released in 1992 or today. Not only is the visual quality top tier, the creativity is also well designed. Enemies, bosses, the visual look of the stages and even the common balloon generate this whimsical, colorful carnival type world. The soundtrack also backs the visuals and players can access any track, OST or the arranged version, right from the main menu. There is also a gallery composed of several sketches and renders from the original team, providing insight into the development cycle. These are nice little extras that any dedicated fan will appreciate.
Even without common quality of life features like rewind or save states, Clockwork Aquario is something special. It looks, feels, sounds, and plays like a 90s title but is still fun to play three decades later. It isn’t often a forgotten labor of love like this makes a reappearance so I encourage fans to check this out even if you are slightly curious. The difficulty might be a little off putting at first, but with a little bit of good old fashion “git gud” determination (or bring a friend for co-op), Clockwork Aquario hits that nostalgic factor even though you never played it before.
Also Try: Star Fox 2 on the SNES Classic
Don’t Forget About: Elland: The Crystal Wars (GBA)
Wait For It: Infinity on Gameboy Color