Clock Tower – PlayStation
Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: ASCII Entertainment
Release Date (NA): October 1st, 1997
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Continuing my trek through the Clock Tower series comes the first Clock Tower game released in North America, Clock Tower, not to be confused with the SNES port Clock Tower: The First Fear which is the first game in the series.
A year since the Clock Tower murders, Jennifer has gone to Oslo, Norway to seek treatment for her post-traumatic stress disorder. And thus also begins the story for North American audiences. I was fortunate enough to have played through the previous game, Clock Tower: The First Fear, before embarking on the second chapter in Jennifer Simpson’s saga. Clock Tower, or Clock Tower 1996 as I’ve seen it pretty commonly referred to, is everything you can imagine from a horror sequel. You have tons of new characters, all of them either completely fascinated by or in disbelief of this fantastical slasher villain. And of course, you have the comeback of said slasher villain.
The game centers around Jennifer Simpson and Helen Maxwell, Jennifer’s legal guardian who works at the local university. Helen has been taking care of her since the events of Clock Tower: The First Fear, while Helen’s superior, Professor Barton, has been performing hypnosis on her. The game also includes a number of new characters such as reporter Nolan Campbell and his cameraman Kay, and her charge Edward who is the other Clock Tower murder survivor, Rick the Barrows’ ex-butler, cop Stan Gotts, Mr. Sullivan who works at the library, and Harris, Beth, Danny, Baker, and Rose who also work at the University. Depending on the choices made during the game, some of these characters can meet some pretty gruesome deaths.
Having played The First Fear, I came into Clock Tower suspicious of how exactly Scissorman, who had been killed in the previous installment, could somehow magically reappear along with the new details of the Clock Tower murders that emerged such as a second survivor. While the latter was clearly possible in Rank S endings of The First Fear, Anne or Laura could have returned, but Scissorman? No way.
Luckily this suspicion proved in my favor during the game, keeping me inquisitive about what was really going on. Of course even with my early assumptions, Clock Tower still manages to throw in some twists and turns to throw players off. In fact, there were a number of revelations brought up by the end of the game that even I never saw coming.
Clock Tower is a pretty short game, like the previous installment. This time, however, the game is split into three “scenarios” with a specific objective the player must complete (like escaping, getting a certain item, defeating Scissorman). Each of these scenarios takes place at a different location: the first being the University, second being either the Library or Rick’s House, and the third inside of Barrows Castle. The events in the game are also dictated by which of the two protagonists the player starts as: Helen or Jennifer. Between each scenario is a short intermission where the player can check up with the game’s cast and prepare for the next scenario.
The player isn’t confined to a single character for the duration of the game. In fact, the player can wind up using up to three different characters by the third scenario. For example, playing Jennifer’s route and choosing to go to the Library during Scenario Two can allow the player to play as Professor Barton (Prologue), Jennifer (Scenarios One and Three), and Helen (Scenario Two). The characters themselves don’t have any special abilities or characteristics that set them apart; the only changes are the events that occur.
Clock Tower is also the first game in the franchise to use three-dimensional graphics, like most PlayStation titles did. While kind of blocky and not as detailed as the sprites from The First Fear, this graphical change managed to also make an impact on the gameplay as well. Although the game uses the same flat hallways from the original game, almost every room in the game has various depths that can be exploited to space the player from Scissorman. For example, the first scenario takes place at the University where tables and other objects can be circled to help dead-end rooms become survivable.
The Panic button and hiding spots have also been revamped in this installment. This time when in Panic Mode, the cursor only locks onto objects that the player can use to either hide in or use on Scissorman. Sometimes a single item can even be used for both. For example, a rack of clothes in Scenario Three for Jennifer can be used as a not-so-great hiding spot, then tipped over onto Scissorman to trap him for a quick escape.
Although the changes have helped make Clock Tower a little easier when it comes to fending off Scissorman, it hasn’t necessarily made the entire game easier. In fact, I found that Clock Tower was just a little bit harder than The First Fear. In The First Fear, Jennifer’s job was to progress the Barrows Mansion all the way up to the Clock Tower in order to escape. The game had a small number of items that could be picked up, and Jennifer found them in a pretty logical order. For example, the can of insecticide was found in the first area where it had to be used to get the key for one of the first area rooms. And while there was some back-tracking, it wasn’t too bad.
In Clock Tower, any items you pick up throughout the scenarios carry on to the next as long as they haven’t been used. For example, in the first scenario the player finds an oil can, however there’s no use for it until the last scenario, where it is used to obtain a specific item needed to unlock the better endings. The areas in each scenario are also multi-layered and generally allow the player to move between floors at will. This can cause a lot of unnecessary backtracking for the player in an attempt to locate all of the items needed for an area. And of course, since Scissorman typically appears after a certain amount of time anyway, this also means more attacks.
The numerous puzzles in this game coupled with the constant threat of Scissorman actually did make the game more suspenseful. And to be honest, Clock Tower had about four times more Scissorman attacks in it compared to The First Fear, even though it took me around the same time to complete both games. This really does work in Clock Tower‘s favor, as it makes completing the scenarios all the more urgent.
Clock Tower did lose something that made its predecessor so great, however, and that is the variety. In The First Fear, items and rooms in the Barrows Mansion would actually change places depending on the playthrough. Although Scissorman-events by room and some character deaths still tend to vary, like The First Fear, key items can be found in the same rooms no matter how many playthroughs you make. I suppose the two different player characters and versions of each scenario make up for that a bit, but with the lack of challenge that mixing up items made, it makes them only worth playing to see how the story unfolds in different ways.
While I don’t think Clock Tower was a particularly bad game, it doesn’t really capture the horror of the original title. The plot often comes off like a weird B-movie horror title, with some really cheesy dialog, character deaths, and a lot of downright weird characters (including a pedophile and hebephile or two). That isn’t to say it isn’t worth playing, however. Give it a spin sometime, it isn’t too difficult to find a copy of online, and if you’re interested in horror adventure games, you owe it to yourself to at least give it a try.
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