Obscure horror games: Clock Tower (PlayStation)
Last week, I started this series with a look at Clock Tower for the Super Famicom. This week, I'm continuing my look at the franchise with the first title officially released in the United States.
Clock Tower (PlayStation), Human Entertainment
Clock Tower released for the PlayStation in October 1997. The game received mixed reception with some criticizing the slow dialogue-heavy portions and others praising the game's unique gameplay. Regardless, the game has garnered a cult status among survival horror fans with its iconic villain, branching storyline, and cheesy dialogue.
Helen caring for a distraught Jennifer.
The story of Clock Tower follows Jennifer Simpson, the protagonist from the first game, undergoing psychiatric help to recover from the horrific nightmare at the Barrows Mansions. The game opens with Samuel Barton, Jennifer's therapist, and Helen Maxwell, Barton's assistant, and Jennifer's guardian, conducting hypnosis on Jennifer. Helen gets frustrated at Barton's insistent probing of Jennifer about the murders and takes the worn-out Jennifer home.
Although the game focuses on both Helen and Jennifer's stories, the player controls Barton in the opening sequence. Through this sequence, we learn a little about the characters including Harris, a worker at the university, who has a creepy infatuation in Jennifer and Nolan, a reporter, who interviews Barton about the murders.
Depending on choices made during the opening, the player can either control Jennifer or Helen. With having two different paths to follow as well as multiple endings, the story can come to a quick end or advance further towards uncovering the mystery behind the resurgence of Scissorman murders. Although the voice-acting and dialogue can be cheesy at times, the story is satisfying in its simplicity while also maintaining an element of mystery. Without giving away too much, the branching character paths, as well as the multiple endings, add to the game's replayability.
Helen fights back at library.
The stealth gameplay present in the original game is still the core gameplay mechanic of Clock Tower. Jennifer and Helen explore various environments, searching for clues and items while occasionally being chased by Scissorman.
Similar to the original, the player can halt Scissorman's pursuit by hiding or interacting with certain items. My favorite one is in the university scenario where Jennifer tosses a bicycle at Scissorman. There is something about a teenage girl tossing a Huffy at a small, scissor-wielding psychopath that is charmingly hilarious and awesome.
However, the game still suffers from some of the frustrations of its predecessor. Scissorman can still be annoying with the game's seemingly random triggering of his pursuit. The player could have just evaded Scissorman, only to walk into another room to encounter a triggering point for another pursuit from the murderer.
Some of the triggering points are highly amusing though and should be witnessed. I have a long list of favorites, but the short list is Scissorman sending a fax, walking in on Scissorman watching cartoons, and Scissorman's so-0not-obvious hiding spot behind a fish tank.
Scissorman's mad Microsoft Word skills.
Clock Tower is one of my favorite horror games even if the game does suffer from issues such as the previously mentioned frustration of Scissorman's often relentless pursuits. Also, the game does suffer from an incredibly tedious and painfully boring opening introduction. Even though the introduction does provide exposition to the game's story, I really wish they could have executed it better. Running around the university as Barton and talking to very slow speaking characters can become incredibly monotonous very quickly.
However, the game's pace does pick up after the introduction. With the story diverting in different directions and not always reaching the same end, Clock Tower has a lot of replayability. Unlike a TellTale game where the player feels as if their initial playthrough is the definitive story, I wanted to explore the various story paths in Clock Tower. And, of course, this might sound like a negative, but there are plenty of delightfully cheesy moments. From Nolan and Jennifer's unusual relationship to some supernatural elements (fighting off an entire dining room set, for instance), Clock Tower is worth a playthrough for these campy and strange moments alone. If you are a fan of the survival horror genre and can appreciate corniness, definitely check this one out!
Next week I will be moving on to the next game in the franchise. In the meantime check out my article on Clock Tower (SNES)!