Hey there! I found out about your game through one of your videos (on Game Boy Showdown, since I have a recent interest in Game Boy development) and decided to give it a try. :)
Semi on-the-fly remarks:
- This may sound silly, but I got stuck for some seconds trying to leave the house. X) Either I am clumsy (which may well be) or the corridor is a bit tight?
- Outside: oh, you can move diagonally! I was conditioned by several games to think this would not be possible here. (later: Now, I wonder why these games prevented you from it. Perhaps to avoid collision problems?)
- I had read in the comments that the map was somewhat huge, and indeed… getting kind of lost right from the start! XD Then again, I may have poor sense of direction. An often used (dirty?) trick is to block some unused ways, and then only allow passing once you have gained some power/key, or accomplished some action; a less constrained technique would be to use subtle environmental guidance. (later: oh, you are blocked if you try to leave East! Maybe it is better to let the player roam a bit as you did, after all; it was a reasonable amount. :))
- Found out now that you can run with the other key.
- Side note: the mayor tells me I was quick, but I actually took the time to explore the whose local map. X)
- Ah, moving pieces is achieved through punctual press, as opposed to the continuous moving of the character; this caught me off-guard, I took some seconds to realize it. I guess this is for precision purposes, but I think continuous movement would still be manageable for this first puzzle, at least.
- Once eastwards, you cannot go back westwards, and once northwards (of the East… :p), you cannot go back southwards: so, apparently, what happens is the contrary of my first impression: to make up for the possibility of the player’s losing his bearings, backtracking is strictly forbidden. This is entirely reasonable for practical reasons, but makes the experience feel more one-track.
- A suggestion that crosses my mind: you can inject more gameplay even with simple walking, by having little(?) labyrinths, or Zelda-esque ‘Lost Woods’ sequences. I do not mean to copy the concept, but there is surely some inspiration to draw from it. :)
- Second piece puzzle: still rather straightforward, but I already see that the upper piece can block you from moving the long rightward piece; this means there is definitely potential for more intricate such puzzles. Maybe some are already waiting for me?
- Taking more time to listen to the success music, this time: I like how this is a sped-up version of the solving music, this reminds me nebulously of various games that apply this technique. :) It does add to the Game-Boyness!
- Small detail: I notice that if you are walking while reading a panel, the character keeps on walking; is it expected?
- Trying to visit just a bit eastwards of the clock master’s house: oh, I am taken back automatically to go to the house! :o I definitely think some of these constraints may be too visible. Not saying that the compromise between freedom of exploration and not getting the player lost is an easy one, but such a game can surely benefit from a reflection around this point.
- Third piece puzzle: I think a way of making the puzzles less straightforward would be to imagine some rules governing the cogs and how one is to join them together, and not have the ‘blueprints’ telling the player where to put the missing pieces. This way, you can have proper (progressive) riddles. :) Or, the places where you can put pieces/cogs are shown, but not which type, and you have to figure out if you should put one that turns leftwards or rightwards so that the mechanism activates something properly, for example. Well, you get the idea!
- Ah, I like how the purple plants apparently take over the land! It makes the world feel subtly alive (less static). :) (On a side note, at the beginning of the game, I thought these were giant aubergines rather than a mark of evil. XD)
- 4th puzzle: maybe expected, but I notice that the puzzle is considered solved while the final piece (the lower-right cog) is just to the right of its final position; I guess it was moving towards the right place. I am taking it down because I think the pieces were are their final positions in the previous puzzles. (Nothing serious at all, but sometimes, getting such little details help you prevent future huge bugs elsewhere. ;))
- Getting the bell: another Zelda-inspired suggestion would be to give specific usefulness to each of the objects you collect. :) I know, easily said once again…
- Getting out with the bell: the success music continues; just saying, to be sure this is expected. (Which I guess can be, since this was the last part from the main clock.)
- Oh, the South-West lake is unused! I thought crossing it would give you something; for example, it could act as a shortcut. This would make purifying the water more meaningful.
- Back to the first zone: clever use of the purple plants; I think they could definitely be used for labyrinth-oriented riddles. Or for example, oriented some wheel to some direction changes where the purple plants are.
- 5th riddle: once again, solved while one piece appears just a bit off (the pendulum is a tiny bit downward). Maybe all puzzle were like this, in this case, disregard this. X) Ah, passing some dialogue, it does move a bit more upward!
Takeaway: to me, the whole narration and map is great as a basis for an adventure game; I also think both ideas of repairing clocks and having plants pop up as obstacles have the potential for riddles, and the clock one especially as being distinctly different from what Zelda does. My suggestions of having each object have a specific use may be too close to Zelda, but maybe you can have a twist on this by having each object behave specifically in the clockwork riddles?
In its current state, the game feels as essentially narratively driven (and thus a tale, as the title forebodes), but I feel you already have nice elements to build up upon and get an engaging adventure game that makes you think, while departing from Zelda (because I think originality is paramount, but this is a personal quirk and obsession :p). I do not dare advising linking the clocks to passage of time because of Oracle of Ages and even more Majora’s Mask XD, but hey, maybe you can think of some clever time-related twist(s) to connect even better with the time theme. And finally, getting the map smaller (or scaled to whatever gameplay content you decide) but more packed with riddles/challenges could solve the navigation problem (by having a more autonomous player still figure his way out). I may be wrong, but I tend to think that in general, designing things as just enough to contain the main focus gives an interesting result for the player.
The amount of work for designing the map and all the details must have been something, this game could surely go somewhere if you extend it! Do not be too harsh on yourself, I see such experiments as useful to enhance them and possibly enhance yourself in the process. :)