Has anyone done this before? It seems so simple, so obviously pleasing and harmonious. But then I think about it and I can’t bring any other easy examples to mind. And besides, I can’t think of anyone who’s done it with so many jokes. “The thing you have to understand,” Dan Marshall tells me before I begin to play a short demo of the new standalone Ben and Dan game, Lair of the Clockwork God, “is that everything is a joke.”
Everything? The hook for Clockwork God, the has-anyone-done-this-before brilliance of it, is that while the first Ben and Dan games were adventure games, this one is partly an adventure game and partly a riff on indie platformers. Which indie platformers? All of them. And there on the start screen, instead of Press A to Begin: “Begin Experience.” Man, everything is a joke.
So this is the set-up. Ben loves adventure games: loves clicking on things, combining things in inventory and solving puzzles at his own pace. Dan thinks there’s no money in that anymore, so he wants to make an “indie darling” platformer. Jumping, running around and dodging stuff, learning vague lessons about life and God and all that, and if Ben absolutely has to combine things in his inventory, can’t he at least call it crafting?