Pocket Watch is another ingenious time loop

Duck!

Chris: Pocket Watch is the latest game from Sokpop, a team that releases two new games a month. They tend to be ingenious riffs on a single idea each time. Pocket Watch is really something.

For the first twenty minutes I didn't really know what was going on. I was a duck who woke up on an island and had to try and fix a boat to get back to the mainland where a volcano was rumbling. I had to get a boat part, but I also had to wait for high tide so I could swim to a little reef and collect a spanner. That meant...waiting. Actually sitting down and waiting for the time to pass.

Eventually I got the boat fixed and made it to the island. I wandered around a bit, met a few characters and collected a few coins - after I'd been given a purse to keep them in. There was an auction set for the evening with a pocket watch up for grabs, but I'd foolishly spent all my money by then. Just as I was wondering what to do next the volcano erupted and I died. Game over. Back to the start.

Back on the beach. More waiting. More fixing the boat. High tide. Swim. Spanner. Back to the island. Another purse. Collecting coins. This time though I saved them and won the auction.

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And this is the point at which Pocket Watch comes alive. Suddenly you have the ability to survive the volcanic eruption and return to the island with the broken boat on it - and with everything you collected so far. What spins out from there is a dazzling piece of puzzle design, a game that encourages you to learn the routines of the island and use your watch to insinuate yourself into them. In the space of a few hours I've been umbrella flying, I've taken a job in a hotel and angered some very dangerous people. Each time I get a little bit further, each time I learn more of the stories of the people on the island. Each time I get a better sense of where people are going to be at certain points of the day and what opportunities that will open up or close.

Pocket Watch is ingenious - it's Majora's Mask and Outer Wilds, with a little of Minit thrown in. It's a game about time and space and potential. I'm dazzled.

Bertie: What a clever little game. I can't believe Sokpop turned this out in a month.

Pocket Watch is like Groundhog Day on a tropical island, and you're a duck, not Bill Murray. But it takes a while for this to sink in. To begin with, it's just really cute. You meet a dog and fix his boat, you walk around a town and talk to penguins and hedgehogs and foxes and frogs, and all the time I'm wondering what has Christian gotten me into. Is this some kind of Animal Crossing? But then comes the auction and the volcano blowing up and I'm dead and have to begin again.

It's then you realise Pocket Watch is different, and then that you begin to understand what all the references to time, and glimpses of villager routines, and associated puzzles, were probably all about. Then, with the Pocket Watch, understanding really dawns.

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All those things you didn't have time for before, you can begin to unpick. So this time when the dog asks for help fixing his boat, you can do it immediately, because in a previous timeline, you bought his spanner from him. You don't have to wait until afternoon to swim and retrieve it, so you don't have to wait until afternoon to sail to the village. You can arrive there in the morning, and in doing so, see the beginnings of routines you've been studying. And that might make the difference. That might provide the clue you need to unlock the puzzle.

It's, as I've said, very clever. Even the characters begin to say different things the more you progress, making earnest but witty remarks about time. They're a funny bunch, and they - and the island - are calm and gentle, and lovely to be around, time and time again. Pocket Watch is a deceptive pleasure. As intricate underneath as the device it's based around.

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About the author

Robert Purchese

Robert Purchese

Senior Staff Writer  |  Clert

Bertie is senior staff writer and Eurogamer's Poland-and-dragons correspondent. He's part of the furniture here, a friendly chair, and reports on all kinds of things, the stranger the better.

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