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Clock Tower
Review By: Lyenhardt
Developer:   Human
Publisher:   Agetec
# of Players:   1
Genre:   Horror
ESRB:   Mature
 

Clock Tower was and is an innovative extension of the proclaimed "Survival Horror" genre that was defined by the groundbreaking Capcom hit Resident Evil. It had its own uniqueness to it, and would bring a whole new element of fear to videogaming--the fear of being chased by something continuously, a dreadful 'panic'. And that's what made this game so beloved to the few who played it at its time. Combining a heavy feeling of dread, constant fear, fearful music and sound, innovation, and a linear storyline, this game was somewhat of a 'sleeper hit'. Although not grade A material, Clock Tower will captivate a certain group of gamers who like that quirky feeling of being 'afraid'.

The game takes place in a multitude of settings, ranging from a mansion, to an abandoned castle in Norway. You begin the game in a university, taking control of a Professor named Barton, a criminal psychologist. He has a patient, a girl by the name of Jennifer, who was involved with an encounter with the games main baddie, The Scissorman, a supposed psychopathic killer on the loose and killing with his trademark 'giant scissors'. Then, depending on what action you make, you will either take control of the fifteen year old, female patient Jennifer, or the other protagonists Helen, a thirty year old assistant of the Professor Barton, who happens to be interested in the Scissorman and the Clock Tower case. From there, the story unfolds at a rather fast pace, with a bunch of senseless dialogue sequences, and the story development pretty much ends there. Nevertheless, you will find yourself looking for a statue at one of two possible locations, and, if your choices are right, you will eventually make it to your final destination, a huge castle in Norway, to finally solve the mystery behind the Scissorman.

The gameplay is straightforward, simple, and easy to learn. With the lack of depth comes easiness, which is a definite turn-on to the more "simplistic" gamers. This game is basically a point and click type game, supporting the use of the rare accessory, the mouse. However, this is not a necessary accessory to use, as you will do just fine without it. Anyway, you pretty much have to control the pointer, click on something you want to view/use, and viola, it's done. When the protagonists views something, there will most likely be a response, be it actual voice, or the more common text. Whenever she can get something, she picks it up and keeps it, and the only time she can use something from the environment is when she is under attack from the Scissorman. If you wanted to use one of your items, just move the cursor to the top, and the menu will pop up, and then you would click on it, and you can use it. Most of the time, you can only use these items to progress and solve puzzles. The items you can get are mainly keys, plus some other random items that you would find in its appropriate environment. But, beware, as some of the stuff you view might invoke a visit from the Scissorman, or perhaps another 'evil force' in the game that can kill you...

Progression through the game is determined by what you do, and what time you do what you did. It is basically a big random assortment strewn about, which makes for a lot of frustration if one was trying to get all of the endings without some kind of strategy guide. In all, there are ten endings, five from each protagonist. They are ranked endings also, and are determined by what items you recovered, what and how many people you managed to rescue, how fast you went through the game, and how many times you died. By using all of these things to determine your rank, you get the feeling of being overwhelmed with its complex vastness. Simply put, this game is randomized. The items, the enemies, the whole ten yards. That is one of its innovative factors, but also one of its flaws...

Scissorman...a relentless being hell-bent on your death. He will always find a way to find you no matter what. Being the main "baddie" of the game, you must find a way to finally put an end to his existence. But watch out! This will not be an easy task. When the Scissorman attacks you, it is in real time, and he will follow you through the doors you go through, stairs, and whatnot. The Scissorman attacks during certain preset scenes that are activated once you do something. But, the scenes themselves are randomly generated, and can trick you every time. Imagine playing through the game one time, then, playing through another time. The first time you played through it, that certain locker had nothing in it. But, the appearance of Scissorman was programmed to pop out of that locker, at random. The next time you go by it, preoccupied by the thought of accomplishing that darned puzzle, you are genuinely shocked once he busts out of it, with his scissors clanging away. This factor of fear adds a lot to the environment and appeal to the game, causing an incomparable dread...that heavy feeling in the stomach and chest. Add to the fact that his music is pretty heart racing on its own, Scissorman is one scary dude, and the 'surprise' factor, then you have one helluva suspense/thriller/horror game. Yikes! Also, the Scissorman appears at random, too. Let's say if you just sit there for a while, not moving. Eventually, his music will kick in and you will hear the dreadful clanging and shinging of his shears, and you know you are in for it then. >_<

The Scissorman has a certain music that plays every time he appears, and you better be ready to do some escaping or running. There are three ways to get away from Scissorman: 1.), you can use the "items" around you to your advantage, such as knifes, vases, pots, pans, bed sheets, brooms...just about anything that can cause some type of physical harm against him. 2.), you can use the "environment" to your advantage. During a chase event, you can click on certain places that let you hide from the Scissorman. Hiding has to be the coolest factor about the escape event. It stacks up the dread level immensely. Imagine hiding under a bed, watching the stumbling footsteps of the Scissorman, listening to the high-pitched scraping of metal-on-metal, as he made his way toward you, not knowing if he knows where you are or not. That's what it is like in this game. Places you can hide include...hiding in closets, behind objects, and under stuff. 3.), Panic button. The panic button is pressed repeatedly when the Scissorman corners you, and there is no other option but to 'PANIC'! The cursor blinks rapidly to let you know that you are about to die. Anyway, if you hit the button fast enough, the character will perform a panic attack, i.e., pushing him down, kicking him were the sun don't shine, etc. Regardless, Scissorman is not badly hurt from this, and your character will run out of the room automatically, and he will be back on you in no time. Only when you use methods one and two, will he be put down momentarily. Even then, some of methods one and two foul up, causing you to die or only damage him long enough to run out of the room. Also, whenever you perform a Panic attack, the cursor changes color, to show how much stamina you have. There are 3 levels of stamina. When the cursor is white, you have full stamina. When the cursor is a light red, it is medium, and when the cursor is dark read, it is low. Whenever you use the Panic button, it goes down a level. When your stamina level reaches low, and the S.man traps you, forcing you to use it, it will not work, and you will be killed. Your stamina will slowly recover when it is medium or less....

Since this game was released in early ninety-seven, it was somewhat lacking in terms of graphics, especially since it had been released in Japan, then ported over here after a while. While, at the time, they were average, they still boasted some horrible effects. Bad polygon clipping, dull, tasteless environments, and horrible textures, and god-awful FMVs, all accounted for the negative graphical effects. But, on a lighter note, some of the character animations were good for its time. From the odd, diabolical stride of the Scissorman to the reaction to some type of stimuli from within the game, it was overly decent.

The voice-overs in CT were possibly a small notch above Resident Evil, but not by much. But, this is perfectly understandable, seeing since it was a fairly new concept off Playstation games. Yet, it is not acceptable by some. Most of it just sounds cheesy, fake, and uninspired. The music, however, was pretty amazing in itself. Scissorman's music created a legitimate feeling of dread, panic and fear all at once, and the rare in game music was scary as well, but could have been used a tad more to keep up the tension. The music at the ending is a fine example of the quality sound in this game. But, the use of other sound effects doesn't go unnoticed. The clanging of Scissorman's industrial size scissors, the eerily, yet, purposely misplaced crashings and sfx, and the list goes on...

The major gripe in this game is the story. It, as mentioned above, is very linear. It is not really presented in a good manner, and is incomplete at best. Even the intermissions are rather bad, cutting a serious wound in the transition of gameplay to talk sequence, leaving a broken equilibrium of such. Also, another notably bad thing with this game is, of course, the control. Not very responsive at all, even if you had the mouse to help you out. And with the overall presentation of the game, you will most likely not be inspired to complete the game ten times, trying to get all of the endings.

Even with a shallow story, bad FMV, control, etc., this game is a very innovative title to say the least. It has a certain formula that seems to attach the players to it, somehow making them see past its obvious flaws to play the game for its sheer fun factor the first time around. You will experience many moments when you want to play with the lights on, or off if you like that 'feeling'. If you are a big fan of horror movies, the survival horror genre, or like the feeling of fear, this is a game you should consider hunting down if you haven't already. It combined the perfect formula of fear into a game, that so many movies before it had done. Now...I don't think I could say the same about CT2... :)

Overall: 7.5

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