It doesn’t have much of anything to do with the other Clock Tower games, but hey, you’re running around being chased by serial killers–and at some point there is a clock tower. Good enough for me.
Clock Tower 3 is a somewhat difficult title for me to rate and review. I really like some things about it, and really wish there were more games made of this sort to improve on it. But there’s the thing–it really could use some improving. Clock Tower 3 is not a great game. And I probably have to be in a forgiving mood to call it a good game.
Unlike previous Clock Tower games, you do not fiddle with a point-and-click system, and instead have direct control over the protagonist–this time a British girl named Alyssa. And unlike the original Clock Tower at least, this title has a ridiculous convoluted plot. Basically, she returns from her boarding school and back to her mansion home, but instead of finding her mother she finds The Dark Gentleman. A series of events leads to Alyssa activating portals to time-travel to events involving wacky serial killers… And she’s the descendant of the Rooders, destined to combat the evil forces of the Entities that possess these serial killers (the Subordinates), and there’s wandering spirits that–AW, TO HELL WITH IT. It’s all really stupid, okay? In a way it lends itself well for a ridiculous B-movie type feel to it though, especially with the outright outlandish (very… prototype) motion-captured cutscenes. And then you go to Wikipedia and discover that it was none other than Kinji Fukasaku, director of Battle Royale, who directed this game. Everything about this story just makes you go… whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat
So what about the gameplay? Now, I think this is where a number of things were done well–or at least worked with some clever mechanics. In each of the five levels, you go about solving puzzles and searching for stuff like you would expect of this sort of game. The serial killer of the month will eventually show up, and you are pretty much completely defenseless. You have a limited supply of holy water to temporarily stun the enemy, but beyond that you generally have to run away and hide somewhere. And much like in the original Clock Tower, you have a panic gauge that affects you character’s ability to flee. If you’re cornered and get hit by the enemy a couple times, you’ll have a panic attack (complete with the iconic screeching sound effect from Psycho) and start flailing about as you attempt to run. At times, Alyssa will even just STOP in place and cower for a few moments–just long enough to put you (the player) into a panic as the laughing maniac approaches.
Overall the levels are interesting enough, but I can’t help but feel the execution is lacking in the horror department. And by that, I mean… the serial killers are lame. Or at least, get lamer as they go along. Well, how about this–I’ll review each one:
- Sledgehammer — huge dude with a sledgehammer; since he’s way bigger than you, kind of scary
- Corroder — really annoying guy, but kind of creepy with his gas mask and acid spray attacks
- Chopper — God of War’s Kratos is now a circus acrobat with two axes; in no way scary at all
- Scissorman and Scissorwoman — really annoying twins; they’re basically circus clowns
- Lord Burroghs — literally Cervantes from Soul Calibur
Again, they overall went the B-movie route for the horror. I think they really needed to axe 90% of the story and be more like the original Clock Tower. We don’t need to know the back-story of the twenty characters in the game. None of them are interesting in the first place, so it’s all kind of tedious.
Another thing for the gameplay I begrudgingly must mention… There are boss battles. Yeah, you turn into a mahou shoujo and shoot arrows of light at the serial killers, and make them explode. It’s kind of amazing, in the sense that you’re amazed that what’s happening in the game is indeed, actually happening. These boss battles sucked–especially the last one, which lasted like a half hour to get through.
Bottom Line: If you can pick it up cheap, it can be entertaining to play through. I did not hate playing this game, and at times even enjoyed it–but at the end of the day it’s just too riddled with issues for me to recommend it in any kind of list of good survival horror games. And that said, I would love to see another game try to improve on the formula that this title established. One day, I may need to pick up Haunting Ground and Rule of Rose to see how those compare? Too bad they’re a million dollars now… For now, I’ll just have to look forward to NightCry.