Clock Tower Review by: EirinnOne of the best games of it's time
Tick...Tick...Tick... Funny how everday sounds can suddenly become so unnerving, given the right, or perhaps, the wrong circumstances. A good scary story always plays on these elements, turning simple things, from dolls, to cradles, to footsteps, and yes, even the ticking and chiming of a clock. Clock tower is no exception, it plays on the little things. Anyone can make Zombies and ghosts scary, but it takes a special touch and certain ambience to make the everyday object seem frightening. But Human manages to pull it off with each entry in the Clock Tower series.
The story opens with four orphans, Jennifer, Ann, Laura, and Lotte, being taken to a mansion to meet the man who is adopting them: Simon Barrows. Upon arriving, Ms. Mary (the woman who brought the girls to the mansion) leaves the girls in the main parlor to wait while she goes to get Mr. Barrows. After waiting a few minutes, the girls get antsy, and so Jennifer walks into the hall to find Ms. Mary. What happens next, I will leave for the player to find out. Suffice it to say, the nightmare that becomes Jennifer Simpson's life for the next few years, begins.
Alone in a mansion, being hunted like an animal by a man with three foot long shears, bent on impaling you, you must try to find a way out alive. Every door knob you try, is locked. With panic growing thick, will you survive? The controls are simple and very easy to learn. You just point and click. Click in front of, or behind, Jennifer to make her walk in that direction. Double click, and she will run. Pressing x makes her stop walking or running. Pressing and holding the a button will bring up your inventory. And you may also press L or R to make Jennifer run left or right (respectively). Be careful though, as running causes Jennifer's stamina to drop. Stamina that she'll need if she's going to survive an encounter with Scissorman. If her stamina is high enough, you can struggle with Scissorman by tapping the panic button rapidly. If you succeed, she'll stun him long enough to get away. If her stamina is too low when she encounters scissorman, she'll lose the struggle, and it's bye bye Jennifer. The wise thing to do when there's another exit is to run, but if Jennifer's stamina is too low, she runs a risk of stumbling and falling, leaving her vulnerable to her attacker. There are four levels of stamina, which are indicated by the background color behind Jennifer's picture.
Blue = Well rested
Yellow = Beginning to tire
Orange = Fatigued
Red = Exhausted
You can recover stamina by holding the x button to make Jennifer sit down and rest for a bit when able. Along the way, you will witness some truly horrifying things, from crazed men, and decapitated creatures, to rotting corpses, and even your friends beind murdered while they beg you to help them. Some of the images in the game, you may actually find disturbing. It's all part of the fright you must endure if you are to escape the clock tower mansion alive, and stay that way. The paths you choose will determine the outcome, and which of your friends, if any, will live. To get out alive, you must look for every clue you can find, to unravel the mystery of the clock tower and it's inhabitants. It won't be an easy task, but it will be an interesting one, and one you won't soon forget.
At first look, you'll see smooth sprites and backgrounds. The environment is very believable, and the shadows are very well used to create a creepy ambience, that will keep you on the edge of your seat. The close up view of Jennifer (the "picture" referred to earlier) is very detailed, clean, and animated. From her mouth moving while she talks (though no voice over is present, just text), to her hair swaying and facial expressions when shocked or afraid, the animation is very fluid. Impressive indeed, for an SNES game. The colors are nice, though as you might expect, many of the rooms are designed simillarly, resulting in less variety of colors, but this is hardly a fault when one considers the design of the level. Many of the images appear to be actual phtographs, put into the game, and they are done very well, resulting in sharp graphics in every scene, in-game, and cut-scene alike. One of the things that really impressed me though, was Jennifer's movements. Not only were here movements fluid when walking and running, they were also very realistic. Just try making her run one direction, then turn and run the opposite direction without stopping, and see how her hair flows out in individual strands, rather than just one solid piece as many games would do. Also the way she shifts her feet when you do this, and slides a step, throws her arm out for balance, and turns in a single fluid movement. And the final detail that caught my eye, was the way her skirt sways side to side realisticly, with each step. No complaints here on graphics. Real, smooth, detailed, fluid, what more could you ask for from an SNES game?
This aspect was just as well thought out as the graphics were, if not more. There is no background music, but this isn't a bad thing. It actually creates far more suspense. The deathly silence as Jennifer walks down the dark, empty hallway, watching every step of the way, expecting to see scissorman pop out at any given moment. This eerie silence is only broken by the sound of Jennifer's heels, clip-clopping on the hard floor, and the squeals of the door hinges. This combines with the shady graphics to create a very creepy atmosphere. The occasional scream of a misfortunate friend of yours, piercing through the still night. The sound seriously delivers. There are two tunes to be heard: one is the "creepy" tune, that plays sometimes when Scissorman is near, and sometimes when you enter certain rooms. The other, being when you are being chased. These two tunes are perfect as well, with the former setting your nerves on edge, and the latter emphasizing fear and panic. Once the panic music starts, you are not out of danger until it stops. The sound of Jennifer's heels on the stairs and ladders is also a nice touch. With all of this, and several other small sounds that you will hear, that are meant to startle you (and often do), I could only find one complaint, and that being that Scissorman's shears give a deeper sound than I'd have expected. More of a chopping sound than a sharp sound. Still, depending on various factors, this could be accurate. No negative points there, and even if there were, all of the other successes in sound would make up for it.
With eight listed endings, one hidden ending, and two alternate forms of the eight listed endings (so nine to eleven endings) plus several shocker deaths that could count as an ending of their own, this game has plenty to offer by way of storyline depth. As for gameplay depth, it more than delivers, with several puzzles to solve along the way, a few well hidden items that you will need in order to obtain the best ending possible, and numerous paths you can take, that branch out into more paths. There is definitely a great deal of depth to be had here.
This is one of the best displays of writing skills I have ever found in a game. The story is so engrossing. While it may start out shallow, it quickly develops into a deep story, with shocking twists and turns that you definitely won't see coming. That is, if you can survive long enough to get to the plot twists. This one is packed with surprise after surprise all the way to the end.
With so many endings, it'll keep you playing over and over, on your way to the best ending. With the convenient continue feature, if you get killed, you can pick back up moments before the fatal mistake that costed Jennifer her life. While I'll doubt you'll replay it to uncover every single ending unless you're a hardcore fan, I myself replayed it until I got to the "B" and "C" endings, got frustrated, and put it down for a bit, and I've yet to pick it back up. The cause for my frustration being that I only failed to get the "S" ending (which is even better than the "A" ending) because I had failed to do one thing that had nothing to do with the ending of the game. And worse, this mistake was made at the beginning of the game, which meant I had to start over from the very beginning of the game, if I wanted to get anything better than the "B" ending. With so many twists, you never know how one little seemingly irrelevant action will create a ripple effect and alter the outcome of the entire game. For example (you might not want to read this if you're opposed to a tip) there is a key you'll want to grab in a box that's in the first room in the second stretch of hallway. However, sometimes this box is empty, and sometimes it isn't. What causes it to change? I've yet to figure that out. I can appreciate things like this, but they can also sometimes be annoying to some players. This is the only seemingly random event I've found, however, and I do think there is a trigger event that changes it. Little things like these combine to make the experience more varried, but the one I experienced may actually hurt the addictiveness level. Finally, the need to play the entire game again, may easily cause you to opt to put the game down for awhile before trying again, as most of the frightening events are set events, and will be the same each time through, so it may feel redundant and will certainly lose most of it's fright factor. It is for this reason only that I give addictiveness a nine.
This game has many puzzles of sorts, and is huge. You must traverse the mansion sveral times to find everything you'll need, and realistically Jennifer will not see the use of some items or come up with the ideas for some actions until she sees the problem. For example, you may see an item you want to investigate, but cannot reach. Jennifer however will not follow your prodding to push an object to stand on, until you make her see the item. Also she will not see certain items until she finds clues about them (you won't see them either). Bearing these things in mind will greatly aid you in your quest to find the truth and find an escape from the mansion. You will have to go from room to room, as you find bits of clues that often make no sense to you, but will in time. These things add to the difficulty. Also there are certain unexpected events in which you will have only a split second to save yourself. Always keeping an eye on Jennifer's picture will be a big help, as there are times you will need to panic (press b rapidly), and you won't know. You'll have to stay on guard constantly, always ready to panic in case of an unexpected attack. These types of surprises are what bumps this game from a four to a five in difficulty.
First things first: My personal rating is a perfect ten, but quite honestly, I tried to find a reason to rate it less than a ten. Had I not been so determined to do so, it likely would have gotten one. This game is nothing short of a masterpiece of the horror/survival genre. A game this good only comes around once in a great while, and it's just the beginning of a great series.
In conclusion, clock tower: The first fear, is a great game that I recommend to anyone that enjoys a good horror game. With a large variety of endings, variations on the in game storyline, and a gripping overall story, this game offers an incredible amount of depth, especially for an SNES game. It may be a point and click, but don't let that deceive you, as it's alot of fun, has good controls, and manages to keep you on the edge of your seat every step of the way. With everything a fan of horror/survival games could want from a retro game, Clock tower: the first fear is a must play. Ready for a scare, and a great story? Look no farther, this game is for you.