Thursday, 27 October 2011

Review: Clock Tower (SNES)

So, T-brains, I hear this is one of the pioneers of the Survival Horror genre? A fine pick for Oktoberfest I might add. What gave you the sudden urge to pick up this retro title?

My colleagues were discussing scary games to get into the spirit of the holiday us Belgians do not celebrate. The usual suspects came up, many of which I didn't think were very effective as a 'scary game.' Games like Resident Evil 5, which completely suck out any possible tension by giving you too much firepower and even an ally to cover you. When we ended on the subject of Metroid Fusion's SA-X, the conversation steered towards Clock Tower.  ...Clock Tower? You mean that really weird franchise with that hilarious Ron Weasley clone? That's supposed to be a scary series? I was assured that it was, but they didn't want to talk too much about it since it would spoil it for me. So I recruited my sister-in-arms and cleared our super busy and important schedule.
Dennis never fails to make me laugh.

First thing you’ll notice in this game is that its interface resembles a point and click adventure, but with a Doom marine mugshot at to bottom left corner. Much like in Doom, Jennifer Simpson (who looks like Alison Brie from Community and Madmen) emotes her state of mind and health through this portrait.

More like Jennifer Connelly, veteran horror film actress from Labyrinth/Hellraiser. In fact.. she looks a LOT like Jennifer Connelly. And she’s even called Jennifer.


Alright, Allie. I’m a scared little boy, so you might need to help me constantly. Luckily we’re in this together. What’s that? Randomised rooms and villain spawns? Crud.
I cannot wait to explore what's behind the shower curtain in the bathroom where the taps dispense blood on me, I’m sure there’s just a lot of iron in the pipes. It’s a pretty old place.
Yeah OK, this isn't so bad. No music, large mansion, echoing footsteps, isolation from your friends and legal guardian, … I’m digging this. I like a good horror scenario that doesn’t get up in your grill and makes things tense within your own mind through the atmosphere and doesn’t resort to scary-ass maniacal monst-

Dying happens frequently because the game makes absolutely no effort at all to explain you anything. Luckily the game auto-saved every time you step into a room and loading your game back up takes like three seconds. Somehow I feel this is detrimental to the atmosphere the game is trying to establish. A more punishing save-system would make the game a lot more tense and extend the playtime considerably. I’d like to propose that Castlevania and Clock Tower should wife-swap their saving mechanics.
Sir, I disagree! Ok, maybe safe rooms would be kinda cool, but if this game were any slower paced I’d have grown cataracts and I wouldn’t be able to see any terrifying imagery. I’m a big fan of the quick save, I was basically planning to do the same thing anyway. You already spend enough time faffing around the mansion from room to room trying to remember where anything is.
To be completely honest. I would totally have abused quick saves as well (and I did until I figured the saving-system out), but I still stand by the fact that the current system doesn't quite work in the atmosphere’s favour.
So, um... I always heard people saying Eternal Darkness invented the whole idea of sanity meters and intentional visual and sound ‘glitches’ to make the game scarier. I mean you’re... you’re getting these glitches too right?
Yeah, I am. Can’t really tell if these are because we are playing a hacked fan-translation on an emulator or because the game is trying to mess with me.
So basically, the game really only has one main recurring threat, and that’s this chappo with the large garden shears.
Yeah, Japan’s got a big thing for scary kids and Clock Tower doesn't miss the mark here. A kid with shears as big as him already spells trouble for me. Even if the kid would be well-behaved it would be a scissor-accident waiting to happen. The fact that he's a deformed bugger too doesn't really give me a lot of confidence. Once again the big lesson here is to judge people by their appearance because the gnarly looking kid is evil as fuck.
That guy was a kid?
9-year old kid in a school-boy uniform with a deformed mug. I liked his happy murder-dance when he got all excited. The main objective of the game is running away and hiding from the child and finding a way to leave with all your friends.
I’m really glad that we had eachother to share info, I’m not sure how long the game would have taken each of us without a few hints from our discoveries.
Yeah, when the game was recommended to me, they did advise me to keep a walkthrough in hand in case of emergencies, as the game really doesn’t explain you anything.
Still, easier than Maniac Mansion!
Playing with a walkthrough would have lessened what little the game would have had to offer though. I’m glad we went in relatively blind and only had each other to fall back on.

Jennifer is not the master of unlocking

Allie’s FUN-CLUSION: So, this game’s short and sweet and it’s not really that terrifying. Regardless,  I think it’s managed to leave a lasting impression on me, in a similar way that Lucasart’s Loom did. It’s very atmospheric and very memorable and it’s the kind of creeping psychological ‘horror’ that I enjoy.
You’re right that it wasn’t very scary, but it did what it set out to do decently. The action scenes were tense and paced pretty well. If nothing else, it was a rather quirky and unique experience. It's a little difficult to discuss the game without giving too much away. I think it's a great effort if you take the hardware and time it was created into consideration. There aren't many similar experiences available in 2D, so it's worth a watch for those interested in the genre or enjoy quirky games in general.
Hey, Tob... Is it wrong that I kinda wanna try playing the sequels sometime?

Do you want me to link the Dennis video again, Allie?

No comments:

Post a Comment