If there's one type of game that's massively oversaturated on mobile, PC, and handheld, it's the "hidden object" game. The reason for this is simply that those types of games are incredibly easy to make and suitable for the absolute most casual of gamers. Artifex Mundi are leading the charge to console in the hidden object genre and after Nightmares from the Deep: The Cursed Heart did well, they've decided to bring Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink over to Xbox One from other formats.
As we said, developers can churn these games out hand over fist and the most unscrupulous of game makers can make a pretty penny from them. Fortunately for console players, Artifex Mundi are not that type of developer. To further that point, they currently have some fourteen games of this type available via Steam for PC. Eleven of those have 82% positive reviews or more from users. In short, they know what they're doing and they do it well.
The reason for their success in the genre is relatively easy to see. They don't absolutely rely on the hidden object side of things as a game's main focus. Instead, they put those sorts of puzzles into the mix with other minigames and traditional point-and-click adventure work. In fact, Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink only features a handful of hidden object hunting sections. There's far more reliance on solving overriding puzzles by using found objects correctly, utilizing your brainpower to beat some tricky minigames, and putting two and two together to make four with a bit of common sense.
The story sees you playing as Agent Evangeline Glass, as she tries to locate and free Dr. Ambrose Ink. You can see what they did, there. Before being captured, Ink was hot on the trail of Barber, who has triggered a series of strange earthquakes that are reducing the world's cities to rubble. When you free the good doctor, your task is to stop Barber's reign of terror. Presented via still images and simple animations - complete with voiceovers that are poor at best - the game does just enough in terms of presentation to get the job done. Not that it needed to be overtly flashy, given that the gameplay holds things together well enough to hide the missed steps in terms of the plot and presentation.
Controls are simple, rarely pushing beyond the boundaries of using the sticks to point and the A button to select things. A couple of extra functions are mapped to the d-pad, such as the ability to send Ink's mechanical bird Matthew to grab items that would usually be out of reach. A "hint" option is available at all times, which will point you in the right direction if you get stuck, though it takes a minute to recharge after each use. Also, the thirty or so minigames are all skippable, so if you find one that's too taxing on the old grey matter, you can just jump past it. There's an achievement awarded for not employing this function, so you may want to persevere.
What all of these options mean, is that Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink is as difficult or as easy as you want to make it. An "Expert Mode" does away with some of these abilities and introduces extra penalties for those that want a stiffer challenge, but a casual jaunt through the game's standard mode is a great way to fill a lazy afternoon. Well, at least to fill a gap between lunch and the afternoon football match, at least. There's no denying that the game is probably about the right length for a hidden object title, but for a more general point and click adventure - which Clockwork Tales undoubtedly is - it's very short. Our playthrough in normal mode (without skipping any minigames and after having completed the unlockable bonus chapter) took a shade over three hours all in, with 15 of the game's 18 available achievements collected. That would have been 17 of 18 if we'd looked at the list before starting, with only an extra minute or two added to the playing time. We didn't exactly breeze through a couple of those minigames either, so those with higher IQs will likely get through it a bit quicker than that. This is a shame, as the game itself is well constructed and definitely moreish, but it feels as if it doesn't even get a chance to settle in, let alone outstay its welcome.
Without a doubt, Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink is a good quality product overall, made by a developer that really seems to know what they're doing when it comes to point and click titles. The deviations from the standard hidden object pathways mix things up nicely and the only real flaws we can find are with the voiceovers and the game's length. It isn't the most difficult game in the world to beat and doesn't stick around long enough, but there's a nice couple of hours of decent entertainment here for those who like to get their brain working.