The Last Clockwinder doesn’t just use its multiplying garden premise to create VR’s most inventive puzzler yet. But smart technical leaps to create one-person teamwork make a variety of puzzles work. More importantly, The Last Clockwinder wraps VR players in a soothing experience that blends a touching narrative.
Though short at five hours or less, players are quickly thrown into a sci-fi fantasy realm that blends steampunk with Studio Ghibli design. The Last Clockwinder takes place entirely within a magical tree—specifically, one filled with levels of factories that produce fruit and food for the galaxy. Players become the daughter of a Clockwinder, tasked with researching plants and maintaining the automated tree.
It’s a simple plot that adds world-building to an otherwise simplistic game. Audio recordings provide brief but wholesome conversations between younger players and the literal last Clockwinder. These thoughtful conversations explore loneliness, adoption, and leaving a legacy. Such is the stakes of The Last Clockwinder, with the great factory tree collapsing after years of abandonment.
“The Last Clockwinder adds a heartbreaking flavour to each shot as players unlock new puzzle rooms.”
Without spoiling anything, The Last Clockwinder adds a heartbreaking flavour to each shot as players unlock new puzzle rooms. A spaceship captain adds some touching sentiment to players via an outdoor radio between levels. Players are drawn deeper into The Last Clockwinder‘s more tragic twists that lead to the abandonment of the tree.
It often takes one person to run a factory. This puzzle involves figuring out how to operate mills, machine presses, and particle generators without the former inhabitants (called Gardeners). The Last Clockwinder is meticulously crafted by the developers at Pontoco, who made their creative cloning idea possible with VR and memory caching.
At the start, players are given two high-tech gloves that can create a robot clone. Fortunately, the game’s VR developers make this concept easy to understand with a dialogue-free tutorial. Players simply press a record button, which records any movement for a few seconds. The clone appears and copies the action in an endless loop.
This clever solution allows players to be in multiple places at once. The phrase “I wish there were ten of you” is creatively implemented in 25 different puzzle rooms. Here, players enter empty rooms and populate them with clones.
The Last Clockwinder comes to life in the first few puzzles, which simply show off multitasking. One clone might pick a fruit before throwing it across a room. Another clone could catch the fruit and throw it into a garbage can. Two more clones could be used to double the fruit production. Even better, players will know they have solved the puzzle when they reach a reasonable production rate.
Players won’t feel lost in their own factory as they find different ways to increase productivity. This maximizes the game’s fruit point system. Spending fruit unlocks brand-new rooms that appear and disappear seamlessly. Even better, it’s amazing to see a room fully automated with duplicates of yourself at work. At the same time, players can also walk through their own workshop like a satisfying boss.
“The Last Clockwinder offers enough variety to make players hate its length.”
The Last Clockwinder offers enough variety to make players hate its length. The game’s fun volley of puzzle rooms are each unique. Fruit is mainly the product of machine presses and compost bins. But The Last Clockwinder begins to add layers, including volatile bomb berries and particles. Some of my favourite rooms involved having my clones bounce water droplets around a room in musical harmony. Each clone plays a role in the puzzles, and The Last Clockwinder excels at giving players the freedom to try the most intricate methods. There’s simply no wrong way to beat this game.
It helps that The Last Clockwinder takes full advantage of PSVR 2’s enhanced haptic controls. Players will naturally grab, throw, and manipulate machines with their hands. The developers have also gone the extra mile with a teleportation or joystick movement option that is slow, deliberate, and less prone to motion sickness.
Players have to work with themselves to make sure products don’t explode if they’re held too long. Clones also need to be good at timing and matching others. This timing mechanic is surprisingly easy and engaging. While VR players will have more fun with the daunting sight of an empty room to fill, In the end, I had a satisfying look back at all my self-sustaining puzzle areas.
It’s a damn shame to see the game end abruptly after players have burned through 25 levels. But that didn’t stop The Last Clockwinder from keeping me hooked on restoring dusty machines to their former glory. While its developers succeed in drawing players into a deeper understanding of renovation and maintenance.
The Last Clockwinder also finds a wonderful home on the PSVR 2 along its launch lineup. The game runs even more seamlessly with the lightning-fast SSD speeds of the PS5. Levels transition like a deck of cards, shuffling into a floor. This showcases the tree’s more mechanical, bigger-on-the-inside design, inspired by Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away. VR players will only get lost in this fantasy with a crisp, cel-shaded art style.
VR is a hotbed for creative puzzle games like The Last Clockwinder. Originally released in 2022, the game is a must-play experience for those new to VR or PSVR2. Pontoco has intelligently crafted an automated cloning game that feels satisfying to experience. Though it’s criminally short, The Last Clockwinder is another indie gem that only VR can deliver.