Raised in the Granite Orphanage,
Jennifer and her friends
were wanted as adopted daughters.
It happened in September…
“Laura hurry up!” Lotte, the redhead, tomboyish looking girl calls to her blonde friend. “We want to be there before the sunset!”
“Ms. Mary?” Jennifer, the dark haired girl says timidly to the middle-aged woman, leading them through the thick forest trail. “What kind of place will we be living in?”
“Don’t worry.” Mary assures her, “It’s a very nice place.”
A few moments later Mary points to a large Victorian style mansion with a connecting clock tower, looming above the trees. “We’re almost there. See?”
They enter the large luxuriant mansion. Mary, their newly adopted mother leaves to fetch her husband as Jennifer and the girls take the time to talk among themselves.
“Is something wrong?” Jennifer asks Laura.
“This house makes me uneasy,” she confides to her.
Lotte openly expresses her discomfort as well, and things become awkwardly silent. Jennifer, too anxious to stand around, decides to venture off to find Mary who has yet to return.
She enters into a hallway. Her footsteps thumping loudly against the old wooden floorboards, breaking the otherwise eerily silent surroundings. That is until halfway down, when she hears a blood-curdling scream from one of her friends.
“C’mon, this isn’t funny!” Jennifer says to no one after she returns to the now empty main foyer.
While wandering through the mansion alone she picks up a faint dripping noise coming from one of the nearby rooms. Feeling unnerved but however compelled to investigate, she enters what turns out to be a washroom, and finds a tub with something concealed behind its closed curtain.
Jenifer opens the curtain, and discovers Laura, hanging above the filled tub like a slab of meat on a hook. She weakly calls out to her lifeless body, answered by something that emerges from the water of the filled tub. It’s a short, disfigured humanoid creature wielding a large pair of hinged blades, like scissors.
Despite her hysterical state, Jennifer manages to flee, only to inevitably face more deadly encounters against the serial killer known as Scissorman. And the nightmare won’t end until either he finally gets her, or she uncovers the dark twisted history of the Barrow’s family and escapes the Clock Tower mansion for good.
Retrospection of a Classic:
Few can compare to Japanese craftsmanship when it comes to the depiction horror, and Clock Tower – released on the Super Famicom – is a shinning example of that fact. It would have likely traumatized players back in 1995, but unfortunately due to Nintendo of America’s strict censorship at the time, Clock Tower – like other games of its kind – never had a chance in hell to ever be released in North America, depriving us coddled gamers a sublime experience of survival horror.
That is not saying it’s the most original, innovative, or even the most compelling game ever made. Its point and click style gameplay in particular has long been considered archaic or antiquated for a console game, but it boasts strong aspects that deserve to be admired.
Its atmosphere – which is the foundation of any horror game – is impressive, invoking strong feelings of isolation as you wander through the hallways of the Clock Tower Mansion, hoping to discover clues and quickly solve puzzles to progress before you are brutally killed by a deranged serial killer constantly hunting you. The subject matter is unmistakably violent, gruesome and disturbing, but the game restrains itself from being excessively gory, instead relying more on subtle elements to perpetuate tension.
The game utilizes a limited soundtrack, and it’s one of the perfect examples of how effectively subtle the game can be. The majority of the soundtrack is ambient, with music being used only sparingly for either cut-scenes or as a cue for impending doom, otherwise things such as the thumping of your footsteps will be the only noises keeping you company, as you navigate through the game’s dark environments.
The game lacks a traditional heads up display, instead displaying only a portrait of the main character that changes colour depending on her state, which represents both the character’s vitality and stamina. The portrait also serves in part of the game’s unique mechanics that can greatly influence gameplay; as the character performs physically strenuous activities such as running or climbing, or witnesses traumatic events that effect their sanity, the character’s portrait and colour will change appropriately. This will consequently make the character vulnerable, as they will be too weak to fend off threats, or even run away as they can potentially trip and fall over. Healing items are non-existent, but it is at least possible to restore a character’s health just by simply sitting idle and letting them rest, although the game can tediously demand long periods to restore them back to their default state.
It’s non-linear in the sense that certain elements can potentially play out differently depending on certain actions the player does, doesn’t do, or the sequence in which they are completed in during playthroughs; such elements include: the fate of certain characters, or the triggering of specific encounters with the enemy Scissorman. Although regardless of the amount of variables that can occur in scenarios, the majority of the game’s story will usually develop identically, unless you trigger a premature noncanonical ending, which usually involves your character being murdered – arguably the more provocative cutscenes to watch.
To summarize: Clock Tower is a definitive must play game for survival horror fanatics. Vintage as it may be, it’s still guaranteed to effectively creep you out with it’s strong atmosphere and gruesome subject matter.
Immersion and Concept:
How terrifying would it be to be taken to a secluded environment that supposedly will provide stability and comfort as your new home, only for it to turn out to be a sick pretense set up by psychopaths, who have taken you in just so they can hunt and butcher you for their sadistic pleasure?
You are left all alone to endure through the horror, without weapons, any super powers or even disciplined training. The only resources at your disposal are simply your wits, your endurance, and most important of all: your willpower, or be condemned to a grisly fate, just like your fellow companions. Not exactly the most pleasant experience is it?
Many of us enjoy video games because it makes us feel empowered, it’s fantasy that takes us away from the reality of the dull or mundane. Genuine horror however is the opposite extreme. Its fantasy simulates situations that invoke dread, tension and hopelessness; the very elements that make us feel powerless and vulnerable, as we’re forced to deal with threats that can’t be eliminated in head-on confrontations with the simple application of brute force.
There isn’t any other genre that marriages the interactive medium so brilliantly than horror. Audiences will tend to develop a deeper connection with an experience when it offers a form of interaction, especially if it provides enough depth to be able to apply one’s personal judgment in their actions, such as controlling or guiding the fate of an avatar – a character within the game. This arguably gives considerably more impact to the terror and tension, especially when the hapless character is inadvertently killed. Some may even feel guilt as well as terror when their misjudgment or failure to act caused their avatar to meet an agonizing death. Or perhaps, deep within the recess of their own mind, consider the unsettling possibility that maybe it’s a reflection of their own fate; if they hypothetically faced a comparable situation in the real world.
It’s such psychologically powerful themes that make the genre so morbidly fascinating to some, but probably why it’s generally a niche one. Many can find entertainment in being scared, sure, as long as it’s in a controlled environment, but once uncertainty and tension begins to feel authentic is where most draw the line. What lies after that then, is perhaps for only the more perverse, the minority who revel in the more masochistic tendencies…
So, are you a masochist or a coward?
Clock Tower Opening Theme: