Here’s the thing about Tick Tock: A Tale for Two‘s simplicity. Not only is it an excellent idea, but it’s also done really well.
Tick Tock will have you and a friend working together to solve increasingly challenging puzzles in order to flee a nightmare. Both players cannot (or rather, should not) see each other’s screens, and the information relayed between them is vital in progressing. In fact, it doesn’t even require an internet connection. Its presentation is not unlike an escape room, with each moment relying on teamwork and communication so you can get through to the end.
Originally a thesis project by co-developers Tanja Tankred and Mira Dorthé at the IT University of Copenhagen, it has since evolved into a full game in its own right. “[Tick Tock is] a game where players need to band together, new friendships will be made and existing ones strengthened,” says Tankred, “It’s exciting to see our creation in the hands of players and we hope people will have great experiences playing Tick Tock: A Tale for Two together”. Over the years, it has made appearances at events such as Stugan, A MAZE and EGX until finally being released on Steam and mobile devices earlier this month.
Time is a key component of the game’s premise. Both players are trapped in an eerie plane of existence created by clockmaker Amalie Ravn, and they must escape. Clocks play a central role in many of the puzzles, where manipulating or relaying time to each other may be a solution. Some require the use of other types of technology such as radios, telegraphs and phones. Prior knowledge of these early-20th century devices is useful, but unnecessary. Besides that, the game is quite open in how you both want to approach it. Each chapter begins in a hub area, and will have a few puzzles you need to solve. You are free to choose which ones you want to tackle first, however you will do them all eventually anyway, as all the information is required to progress to the next level.
For the most part, the proficient design of the puzzles is key to why Tick Tock works so well. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort went into ensuring they were challenging but also fair. There were many moments where me and my teammate got stumped, only to have our “eureka!” moment after several minutes of clueless head-rubbing. Besides one small section that appears towards the end which felt a little repetitive – which hurts the pacing – these are some genuinely well-crafted chunks of game design.
Whilst the puzzles are the main ingredient of the game, Other Tales Interactive has emphasised it is in the business of experimental storytelling. You’ll come across letters between Ravn and another person named Laerke, detailing many aspects of their lives and of the time device itself. The game’s art utilises a cold, spooky aesthetic based on Nordic folklore, whereas the sound design features lots of subtle ambient cues mixed to create a soundscape that feels quite intimate. When all of these elements are added together, you get an experience that becomes very fairy-tale-like in its substance.
How you and your chosen partner enjoy Tick Tock ultimately depends on how well you can both can relay information to each other. If you are both particularly good at this sort of thing, you can expect to clear the game in about two hours, whereas it may take other players a lot longer to complete it. Me and my friend managed to finish in just shy of two hours, and while there is unfortunately not much replay value in the game, it does make for an interesting one-time experience. It’s too soon to tell whether Other Tales will do a sequel, some DLC or something else entirely, but for a first-time debut this is a genuine delight to play.
Tested on PC
Also available on Switch, Mobile
Developer Other Tales Interactive
Publisher Other Tales Interactive
Disclosure a copy of Tick Tock: A Tale for Two was supplied by KA Games PR