Clockwork Tales: Of Glass and Ink is a point-and-click puzzle game which pays homage to deceased Polish author Jan Brzechwa's series of stories surrounding Pan Kleks/Mr. Inkblot. Developed by Artifex Mundi, it was originally released in August of 2013, and put onto Steam in April of 2014, with achievements and trading cards. The game itself follows Evangeline Glass as she tries to help her mentor and friend, Dr. Ambrose Ink, investigate a series of increasingly violent tremors rocking the planet and seemingly originating in the nestled burg of Hochwald. After his abduction early on, it falls entirely to Evangeline to not only solve the mystery surrounding the quakes and save Hochwald, but rescue Ink from his captors.
The premise is interesting, and to its credit, more involved than a lot of hidden object games, but not quite up to snuff for me. The characters are flat and lacking nuance, the plot as a whole is predictable, and while the environment and all the build up hints at a great backstory and lore that could have been explored and exposited, it all remains veiled in mystery. There's no elaboration about the world the characters live in, how its technology works, or even how our main ensemble got to where they are in their lives; everything is left entirely up to our own interpretation. While that can work well when you're at least given breadcrumbs to go off of, we aren't, and I feel the game suffers as a result. I can't really claim that the game is meant to be played with previous knowledge of the Pan Kleks stories, either, seeing as they aren't mentioned anywhere within the game as a source of inspiration — something that I can't dismiss as being a bit of an odd exclusion.
The goal is outlined fairly early on, and doesn't change at any point thereafter. The ending felt incredibly rushed, and didn't leave me satisfied that things had been finished at all. The dénouement as a whole was fairly lackluster — the final cinematic runs is an expository narrative about how things were all wrapped up off camera after doing the final few clicks, clocking in at less than two minutes long to do so. It came off more as a segue to more story than a resolution, or even a cliffhanger for a sequel.
Gameplay is, of course, looking around and clicking things. While primarily presented as a hidden object game, and indeed offering such as its main minigame challenge, the selection of puzzles is surprisingly diverse. Nonograms, jigsaws, sliding blocks, labyrinths, object interactions, trick locks and associated puzzle boxes… More than a few varieties make an appearance, and can pose a decent challenge depending on your familiarity with each. There are, however, skip options for every puzzle, allowing you to bypass them completely by simply idling for a bit.
Finishing the main story will likely only take you a few hours, with the bonus chapter taking much less. Due to the linear progression and lack of variance in how to move forward, the game has fairly little replayability, but the initial experience can be quite fun. Once you finish a mode, you must play through it again entirely if you want to return to a specific point, as each individual zone of the game is walled of from returning to the previous; the downside to this is that having to go through the game again, as in the event that you miss a Steambug, can be more of a chore than anything else. A post-finish stage selection option would have been quite appreciated for this.
Visually, the game has a virtual painterly aesthetic, with fade-between transitions for a majority of background animations. During cut scenes, speaking characters have their facial expressions smudged about to convey emotion and communication, while the rest of the scene remains static or animated using the fade-between method. Although the smudging effect is one of the more high quality examples I have seen, the lack of use on anything other than the characters' primary features can be a bit jarring, primarily at times when their heads should be moving as well. I would have liked to see the effect used on more areas of the game than it was, as it could have added to give the game a bit of individuality.
Musically, the soundtrack is quite enjoyable; I had no complaints. I particularly liked the track that plays during the nonogram puzzles, although it only makes a single appearance toward the end. Unfortunately, the tracks listed in the Extras menu are not the full selection, and checking the installation directory doesn't offer the raw files, forcing one to pursue other venues to listen to everything on the fly.
The voice work varies between decent and hilariously bad, usually landing somewhere in the middle. A few characters sound absolutely ridiculous, while others are very pleasing to the ears. You can disable voice acting entirely in the options menu, should you so desire.
I encountered no sequence breaking opportunities or unwinnable situations while playing, but I didn't attempt to induce them, either. I did experience a rather annoying issue where the Spy Master achievement didn't go through during my initial Expert run, despite having kept the game set to Expert throughout the entire session.
While the difficulty settings speak of some sort of penalty for misclicks in hidden object puzzles, I was still able to click about at random on both Advanced and Expert and not have it affect anything. I'm not entirely sure if I'm unique in that regard, or if it's simply an aspect that was never implemented. If you're hunting for achievements, and with this in mind, I'd set it to Expert right away so you can get the Spy Master achievement on your first playthrough. The game isn't hard enough nor punishing enough to truly make doing so pose much of an issue, especially if you're accustomed to games of this genre or are willing to utilize the skip function.
The store page is a bit deceptive. You have no control over the glider section, it happens entirely as a cut scene; there's no combat action to the game, as “monster battles” and “defeating mechanical creatures” implies (this action is done entirely via puzzle-solving, and only occurs once); and there are 16 achievements both in-game and on Steam, not 9. The game is very much of the go-at-your-leisure variety, with no timed puzzles or direct fighting involved. These are fairly minor discrepancies, but still a bit misleading as to what one can expect.
As a whole, I would recommend the game to fans of the genre, and those looking for an introduction to point-and-clicks without too extreme a difficulty. The standard asking prices in several currencies are $7.99 USD and AUD, 6.49€, 5.99£, R$ 13,99, and 189 RUB. By comparison as of August 2014, the game is cheapest in RUB. As is par for the course with Steam games, I would recommend getting it while on sale or in a bundle, unless you're a diehard fan of games like it.