Welcome to Clock Tower, featuring a clock tower from the Clock Tower series.
This will be a bit of a different review, because 1) Reset Tears reviewing a SNES game?!?, and 2) well, I guess that’s it. I was going to talk about it being an import game since it was never released outside Japan, but that’s not so strange for me. For an English translation, you’re going to have to use an emulator and fan translated rom. It’ll take you all of 30 seconds to find these, so have at it.
Clock Tower is great. A survival horror game in 1995, and it’s great. And even now, I think there’s a lot that horror games today can learn from this classic. In Clock Tower, you play as a girl named Jennifer who has been adopted along with a few other girls–and right when you get to your new mansion home, some kid with a giant pair of scissors starts killing everyone. It’s a slasher film turned into a video game–and more specifically, a point-and-click adventure game.
Yeah, point-and-click… on a SNES. On-screen cursor and everything. It’s pretty damn clunky, and controlling Jennifer with such a method when you need to run from the enemy can be a bit of a pain. But if you stick with it you’ll eventually get the hang of things. As an adventure game, you spend most of your time figuring out puzzles by picking out every thing in you inventory and clicking on stuff everywhere in hopes of making things happen. Like most games of this sort, it’s a bit of a maddening process to pin down the exact combination of elements the game is wanting you to piece together. Such is the nature of the beast though, and for the most part I was able to get through the puzzles okay. (Good Guy GameFAQs was there for me when I needed it.)
Where Clock Tower truly shines is in the horror department. The shrimp with the oversized hedge trimmers, Bobby (though I always called him Rumpel), can show up at any time and give chase. He walks slowly–but unfortunately for you, you can’t run much faster! So you have to be careful about what rooms you go into, so that you don’t get caught in a dead end. You also have to be careful about how long you run, as you tire easily and will need to rest. In these tense situations, it’s often best to hide… and hope the little serial killer doesn’t find you! Unlike many other horror games, you do not have weapons to defend yourself with, and there just isn’t much of anything you can do against your assailant at all. You must run and hide.
This game is also way ahead of its time for implementing a sort of fear gauge. Your character icon changes color depending on whether Jennifer is calm, startled, or in complete panic mode. When in a panic (usually after Bobby jumps out at you from behind some furniture or something), it becomes harder for you to run away. Jennifer flounders about as she runs, and can even trip and fall flat on her face–and all the while, Bobby keeps approaching with that SNIP-SNIP-SNIP of his scissors.
The pixel art for this game is some of the best I’ve seen, and an interesting case of a 16-bit title shooting for a sort of photorealism. The game also does an excellent job with the music and sound. Again, ahead of its time, Clock Tower understood that for good portions of the game, you don’t need spooky music playing. The sheer silence, save for your footsteps across the creaky wood floor, is enough to set the mood. And then, when Bobby appears–BEOOO BEOOO BEOOO BEOOO (wah-wah-wah / wuh-wuh-wuh). It’s the perfect song for this.
The game does a great job balancing the two sides of the horror atmosphere coin. When Bobby’s not around, you’re tense because you can’t know when he’s going to show up again. And then when Bobby’s there, that’s obviously when things get frantic. All in all it’s a must-play if you’re into horror games at all, and if you want to go all-out there are quite a few endings to shoot for. Pretty neat for a title that old, right? Storytelling in gaming format! A horror movie where YOU are the generic teen hoping to not get gutted by the bizarre slasher!
(Note: Art source for the header image)