Oh man, I’ve been meaning to write about Clockwork racers ever since I saw it at the ExPlay Conference in Bath. It’s a really beautiful top-down racer, in the style of Codemasters classic Micro Machines – except you’re driving teeny-weeny clockwork robots rather than teeny weeny toy cars.
The principles are the same though: fact-paced multiplayer zooming action over gigantified backgrounds. There’s a science lab, a school desk, a dinner table, all littered with obstacles designed to catch you out as you bash your competitors about the narrow road ways. Unlike Micro Machines though, slow racers aren’t ejected from the game if they fall behind and off the screen: instead the camera pans out, so all drivers get to finish.
It makes for a more consistent, less vicious gameplay experience, and one that does’t stop every three seconds – which is better for a family audience, and for people who aren’t very good. It’s the family audience that Bristol studio Opposable Games has in its sights, though. Clockwork Racers has been funded through a competition run by the University of Abertay and Tiga, looking for innovative projects that could be shared between friends and family members. Clockwork Racers features a technology that allows it to be played across multiple devices, including iPhones, iPads, PC and TV, all communicating with each other via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or Airplay. Up to four robots race at once, and judging by the time we spent with it, the connection between machines is impressively lag-free.
It’s also a really fun drive. The robot handling is accessible and generous, but deep enough to allow decent tactical racing. If you didn’t think that blasting across a table covered in sweets and doughnuts trying to cut up a miniature droid would be hotly competitive you’d be mistaken. I also like the variation on the usual Mario Kart turbo boost at the start of the race: here you can actually wind up your clockwork racers by twirling your finger on the screen, giving them a short burst of power at the outset. A nice idea.
Clockwork Racers is due out on the Apple App Store in december. There’s a trailer here (We’d embed it but we can’t because Opposable has switched embedding off).