This format is a shorter, more to the point, off-shot of the normal review/op-eds I normally do. A ranking will be given at the end from a scale that starts at (from the lowest to the highest): Bad – meh – fine – good – great. Anything not appropriate for these “scores” will likely warrant a more in-depth discussion, which is what I normally do, so this range does not cover all games, just the ones that I think are suited to this format.
One of the long-suffering genres in games is comedy; not many are willing to take the plunge into a very niche genre, but even fewer have genuinely novel ideas about making a comedy GAME and the skills to pull it off. However, since 2020 was such a rollercoaster of a year, we got 2 comedy-centered, self-referential, 4th wall breaking, indie darlings.
Let’s address “Lair of the Clockwork God” first: I didn’t really care for it. It has a few neat ideas and I did like the writing, but playing it was less interesting and not “fun” enough to keep me engaged. This is one of those games that I would like to go back to at some point, but I have other stuff I would like to try first.
“There is no game: Wrong Dimension” (I’ll refer to it as TING from now on) is a different beast all together; I completed it and thoroughly enjoyed it, but what it tries to do is really hard to talk about without spoiling it. As alluded to, TING is an executable that keeps insisting that there is no game and you should quit and uninstall it; literally, everything else said is not only a spoiler, but the whole reason you should buy this game. For those who don’t need anything more than that, let me just say this is a GOOD game and wholeheartedly recommend it. For those who want to hear more, I’ll dance around any specifics and hopefully won’t spoil your fun without meaning to.
Unlike what your initial assumptions may be for a self-referential and self-aware game, TING is actually easily described: It’s a point & click puzzle game that asks you to think differently about solving its puzzles and takes a substantially different route to making you giggle and be entertained from its story and writing. It is full of surprising twists, great comedy bits, decent voice acting, and genuinely tough puzzles to solve. Beyond that, it has an impressive art style and good pacing that takes a serious hit halfway through, but picks up after that to end with a bang and one of the best ending sequences of the year. There is also a very useful hint system and the game also does a pretty good job at ‘guiding’ the player in the right direction for the solution, but not feeling like it giving the solution away. There is some surprising depth to the story-telling and I feel that it uses the medium of video games to a great effect, at least for entertaining the player and using the interactivity to make them laugh.
Having said that, there are a few missteps; besides the noticeable hit to the pace, some of the puzzles just feel too obtuse for my liking, which forced me to use the hint system. Normally, I refrain from using these systems until I feel like I’ve exhausted every ‘possible’ solution and this was no different, which made the solutions feel like “game logic” solutions that I don’t particularly care for. Furthermore, while the game is genuinely surprising and fun, I never felt ‘excited’ by it; I really liked playing it and had a few good laughs while engaging with it, but I never got that unique feeling of giddiness that comedic games like “The Stanley Parable” brought to me when that game was at its best. Lastly, this game hinges on the fact that you KNOW about games, unlike “The Stanley Parable” that just needs to evoke a curiosity in the person playing it. I don’t feel like it needs a ton of specified or specialized knowledge, but a lot of the jokes or entertainment value bets on the player getting the visual/textual/mechanical references to other games or staples of the medium; this is less of a problem for “gamers” obviously, but it is something I don’t like in any medium and want to call out.
All in all, TING could have been better, but what it ended up being is very solid and worthwhile; its funny and fun, and that is exactly what it was aiming for. This is one of those games that is simply GOOD and doesn’t need to be anything more than that to be an easy recommend to anyone who finds its premise interesting. There are some drawbacks (like the fact that there is no game) but since that is true, then there is no review of “There is no game” and this is indeed the wrong dimension, where “There is no game” is not an actual game and this is not a review of it, regardless of how much I want it to be. Bummer!