Adventure games tend to be solitary pursuits, so it’s always interesting then when a developer comes along to tackle the difficult challenge of creating a multiplayer adventure. Such is the case with Other Tales Interactive’s two-player cooperative experiment Tick Tock: A Tale for Two. The end result is a bit short and skimpy, but this slideshow-style first-person puzzler features a rather novel approach that’s fun while it lasts.
While most multiplayer games drop players into the same shared space, Tick Tock handles things a different way. It’s not a traditional multiplayer game where people connect across a local network or the internet. Nor is it couch play, where participants use one device and have their own sets of controls. Instead, think of it as two distinct single player games where information needed to progress in Player 1’s game is presented in Player 2’s, and vice versa. This means that both of you must own the game, but in a nice touch, you can each play on the platform of your choice.
With the lack of any network connection there is no built-in text messaging, VOIP, or other online chat system. Thusly, the first hurdle players must overcome is figuring out how to communicate. This can be as simple as both people sitting in the same room and talking back and forth directly. Or, as in my case with a friend, it may involve operating out of different locations and using headsets and third party internet software such as Skype or Discord to talk to one another. It’s an interesting way of handling the co-op aspect, by its very nature forcing players to work together, as neither person ever has the full picture of what’s going on otherwise.
What’s going on is actually a story about two sisters, Lærke and Amalie, and their experiments with harvesting and prolonging time. You (the player) and your partner travel back in time from the present to 1927, 1932, and 1937 to play not as the two women but as yourselves following in their footsteps. A sinister mystery unfolds across these periods, and it will take putting pieces together from both sides of the game to understand the full goings-on with the siblings’ dabbling in time. (To delve any further into the story would be to enter spoiler territory.)
Unfortunately, the plot suffers partly due to the split in perspectives and partly due to the game’s primary focus on puzzle solving. Storytelling can be rather disjointed when one player is uncovering and describing stuff about Lærke and the other is discovering and relating stuff about Amalie. This is exacerbated by the fact that important clues are always mixed in with the narrative bits, such that the tendency is to look for hints that will move the game forward puzzle-wise rather than fully engage with the story in its own right.
Playing Tick Tock reminded me of escaping a real life Locked Room challenge. Such scenarios always have some sort of backstory, but then present a series of more or less arbitrary puzzles to solve in order to break out. The room’s theme may apply to these obstacles to varying degrees, but there’s no disguising the fact that they’re puzzles for puzzles’ sake. It’s similar with this game: when you and your friend travel to each of the different time zones as part of the progressing narrative, you will be dropped into the centre of a small town. Both partners arrive at the same point at the same time in a predetermined sequence, and yet oddly, one can’t see the other and certain elements have been changed in each, almost as if you’re in nearly identical but slightly altered dimensions.
From this starting spot you can turn left or right four times to complete a full circle. At each of the four turning points is some manner of building or other area, and clicking these grants you access to one or two scenes within each. It is these locations that hold the bulk of the challenges, usually with one puzzle per location. While both players can explore their own buildings independently, most of the problems to be solved have their hints and other elements in the matching buildings within their counterpart’s game, so you’ll end up working on the same puzzles together soon enough.
For example, early on you will both find a machine in a small train station with arrow buttons and a grid with a train engine on it. Fiddling with the buttons shows you can move the engine around the grid. With the help of some notes, it quickly becomes apparent that you need to determine the precise movements in order to summon a real train to the station. (In this particular instance, both players see the same puzzle on their screens, although most challenges are different.) In any event, this immediate focus on puzzles pushes all else to the background to such an extent that my friend was uncertain what the actual story was about when we completed Tick Tock. A little more emphasis on the narrative would not have gone amiss here.
With the old maxim that “two heads are better than one,” I was expecting the difficulty to ramp up considerably over the course of the game. This was not the case, however, as most of the puzzles remain quite simple. The main challenge comes from each player describing what they see on their respective screens. At one point I had to arrange four different coloured marbles in a specific order. Meanwhile, my friend had a book which I did not, describing rules for marble placement along the lines of one having to be to the left of another, or one not being adjacent to a certain colour. The actual pattern to match was quite simple once we sorted out the directions between us.Continued on the next page...