Clockwerk is a cancelled puzzle platformer game, which was in development at Next Level Games; the creators of the Super Mario Strikers games, as well as the unreleased Super Mario Spikers. The title was planned to be worked on for multiple unspecified home console platforms during mid-late 2011 (believed to be Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3) , but was never produced.
Two Grumpy Old Men Who Just Want To Retire
The project began towards the start of 2011 and was being worked on in tandem with Next Level’s other main undertaking at the time, which was Captain America: Super Soldier for the Xbox 360 and PS3.
It was conceived as the story of two old men, Otto & Herman, who work as Hausmeisters (caretakers) in a magical floating clock tower suspended in the clouds called ‘The World Clock’, that governs the flow of time throughout the universe. On their final day before retirement, a faction of evil gremlins attack the tower, dismantling its innards and disrupting the behaviour of time. In order for the grumpy twosome to finally retire, they must defeat the invaders and repair its inner workings.
“This massive floating cuckoo clock was the stage where the story of Clockwerk was to play out. The clock tower was surrounded by a quaint Bavarian style village (elements of which can be seen in the lower right), perched on a circle of clouds, where the retired Hausmeisters spent out their remaining days relaxing and reminiscing about old times.” – Derek Stenning, concept artist.
The Would-be Mechanics
Although the artists involved with the project declined to comment on whether or not the game was intended to be in 3D or 2D, one of them did reveal to us that it would have been “a puzzle platformer with combat elements“. One of the central hooks of the gameplay was that the two protagonists could pull a cord on each of their suits (named “schutzanzugs”) to inflate them. The entirety of traversal in Clockwerk would have been built around this mechanic. Herman & Otto could then ride the clock’s internal railings by rolling or use their ability to float for a limited period of time.
An Original IP by Next Level Games
In the beginning, Next Level had no publisher attached to the project. It had been an entirely original creation from several of the studio’s designers and artists, as part of an ongoing effort by the company to work on more ambitious IP’s. It was never prototyped, but the team produced a plethora of conceptual documents for the game to pitch it to various publishers. These included detailed character bios, such as the ones seen above.
In addition, a variety of concepts for the title’s gremlin foes were put together. The enemy types included “sorcerers” and bomb-wielding “saboteurs”.
“Bird of Prey” Gremlins:
“As one of the main travel mechanics was to roll around, these little guys would cling together to form large “Grem-balls” and unevenly (and painfully) roll around on the rails within the World Clock.”
“The Sorcerer type Gremlin was used to command lesser Gremlin types and could conduct various spells and other ranged attacks. He could also transform into energy and used his gear amulet to enter the mechanical workings of the World Clock.”
“The Saboteur Gremlin type would operate in advance of the main Gremlin invasion force damaging Hausmeister equipment and defences.”
“A page outlining the two leadership strains in Gremlin society, the more modern Officer class and the old priesthood, here represented by the Magus.”
Back To The Drawing Board
After a few months of experimenting with various ideas in pre-production, Next Level began to pitch Clockwerk to various publishing partners. Although developers are tight-lipped as to which publisher in particular it was, sources close to the company say that it was picked up by a “major company” in July. For a short while, the developers collaborated with this third party, working to refine the aesthetics of the game before prototyping.
Their publisher was uncertain of certain aspects of the concepts shown above; chiefly, the appearances of the main characters. The management reportedly requested slight redesigns of the elderly duo in order to make them more appealing to their target audience. To accomplish this, Next Level’s artists experimented, drawing up one of the protagonists with varying degrees of “realism”. From left to right, the image below demonstrates these style tests, as thy got gradually more cartoonish.
They had also started to tweak the designs of some of the gremlins:
A Spanner In The Works
By mid July, Next Level Gams had finalised their designs for the heroic Hausmeisters, but their efforts were not to be realised. According to artist, Derek Stenning, it was discovered that another team within the publisher had been working on a separate game with very similar gameplay mechanics. This had happened completely independently of Next Level’s project in an unfortunate coincidence. As such, the publisher then ended their plans to produce Clockwerk and the project was cancelled in its entirety.
The final redesigns before cancellation:
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