Clock Tower Review – Horror From Gaming’s Past

Many horror games out there will load up the player with a ton of weaponry to dispose of the legions of the damned that plague you and want to rip your soul straight through your ass. It’s something we’ve come to expect in many of our romps through the genre over the years. Now in Clock Tower, on the other hand, they’re basically like “RUN BITCH!”, “YOU BETTER HIDE BEFORE SCISSORMAN GETS YOOOOOOU!” At which point you skidaddle your blocky low-polygonal ass the fuck on outta there and hide before you get impaled or chopped up. If the box art didn’t convince you enough that you needed to pick this game up and learn early in life about heart palpitations going super sonic thanks to the fucked up minds at Human Entertainment, I’m not sure what will.

Title: Clock Tower
Publisher: ASCII Entertainment
Developer: Human Entertainment
Platform: Playstation 1, Playstation 3 & Playstation Vita (PSN)
Release Date: October 1, 1997 (PS1)
Players: 1

Clock Tower on PS1, which follows up on all the events from the original Clock Tower on Super Famicom that everyone outside of Japan missed out on (you know until fans translated the rom and we’ve enjoyed ever since), picks up right where the original murders left off one year later. Jennifer Simpson who survived all the fucked up murders within the first game returns in this game.

Seriously teenage life for Jennifer has been completely terrible, give this poor chick a murder-free Scissorman-less vacation. You also get to take control of another main character named Helen Maxwell who’s part of the task force looking into the Clock Tower murder cases, and is even the parental guardian of Jennifer. Through both of their stories you’ll also get to take control of some other support cast that show up through the game but these two ladies are the main characters you’ll be most familiar with and the main plot revolves around.

Just like with the original title on Super Famicom, Clock Tower on PS1 is also a point and click survival horror game. Now for some this can be the most frustrating shit in the world because not many games in this genre play this way. You’ll see people frantic as fuck trying to escape Scissorman who busts through a door and they’ll start clicking all over the place in a panic.

You might end up sending Jennifer or Helen careening into walls and furniture, making them look like the dumbest slabs of meat this side of a budgeted 80’s slasher flick. You can’t really do much in the way of combat but every so often there will be something you can throw or use to momentarily stun and slow Scissorman down.

There’s also some light puzzle-solving here and there, but it’s more like a fetch quest than some of the mind benders we dealt with in Dino Crisis or the piano puzzle in Silent Hill. Despite any concerns you do eventually get used to the controls though since the mouse pointer slides and locks onto items and locations of interest making some things much easier for the player.

Granted, it’s a shit ton easier with a mouse versus the D-Pad on a PlayStation controller, but in the end either work just fine. Hell almost every time I played through the game it was using a regular PS1 controller, but how many people out there really own an original PS1 mouse let alone even know one existed since so few games featured it as a controller option? Either way you got options and even more so if you plan on emulating it since there’s always a plethora of things to choose from there.

One of the coolest things about Clock Tower beyond the sensation of fear, is that much of the story will change drastically depending on the actions and choices you make in the game. Points of discussion, items you pick up, locations you visit, who you play as, and so on will all determine one of the ten endings you get for Jennifer and Helen.

Most games don’t take this much time for such detail outside of RPG’s so this is a most welcome addition. It also adds a ton to the replayability of the game which in truth helps a bunch since it’s not a terribly long game to begin with but has a story and setting that’s worth experiencing more than once to see what other results you may get.

You figure each playthrough can also be different with where Scissorman shows up at, so you’ll have to find new escape routes and places to hide til he fucks right off. Though hands down the best unlockable is actually getting to play as our friendly neighborhood slasher, well worth it since how often do we get to play as the antagonist within a horror game? Now suddenly I just want a spin-off game where we get to play as a Slasher trying to get away with a bunch of crimes and the good guys gotta stop us.

Scissorman is hands down the highlight of Clock Tower, the only real threat you end up facing but holy hell are you going to freak out once he appears. Granted, he’s a hobbling little fuck that looks like he smells like a tampon boiled in sewage, and visually the poor shmuck appears to be some absolute mess from the sex dungeon under the Jim Henson Workshop.

But the fact that he can kill you without much effort, track you from room to room, floor to floor, can be hiding in any place at anytime and it will change every time you play the game….yeah that makes him scarier than hell regardless of his design. Those big ass sheers he’s carrying help too, constantly clanging them together while you run for your life.

Hearing him off in the distance getting closer to where you’re at and the music starting to creep in through the speakers, trying to remember the best route out of here where he may or may not find you. Couple that with the inability to truly be a formidable foe against him in combat, it’s a hell of a combo and works the nerves like nothing else, especially for its time at release.

I still think I could’ve kicked his little ass over and took those big boy snippers and just been done with it from the get-go but that wouldn’t have made for a super exciting game.

Speaking of the music, there really isn’t a whole heck of a lot of tunes to be found in Clock Tower strangely enough. Thanks to ambient and tension setting soundtracks that we’ve come to know and love from the likes of Silent Hill and Resident Evil, this is a big departure in some ways since the few tracks they do end up using are placed carefully and have a ton of impact once they’re heard.

Seriously, the actual chase music that’s used ramping up in volume the closer to danger and potential death will honestly fuck with you and as the music fades when you got far enough away or Scissorman leaves whatever room you hid in you suddenly feel your heart not attempting to punch a hole through your chest.

Sound design to me has always been a really important factor into making a horror game that much more memorable and Human Entertainment went in a complete different direction with this and it paid off I think though I wouldn’t have complained with a few more tracks. There isn’t a whole hell of a lot of voice acting to be had either, what little you get sounds very cheesy but somehow in a good way, granted it may not be laugh out loud worthy with the likes of Resident Evil or Countdown Vampires or anything like that but what little they have here is appreciated.

I know the Japanese version of Clock Tower has the same exact English dubbed voice acting in it so they got to enjoy the same level of Rifftrax-worthy acting that we did. I know for some people reading line after line of dialogue isn’t always their thing but it never really bothered me, granted I think it would have made a big difference but in 1997 it wasn’t as common as it is now unfortunately.

So if you want a game based purely around fear and intrigue, solving a crazy ass murder case all the while trying not to get chopped into tiny pixelated bits then give Clock Tower a whirl for real. Given the depth of the story with so many twists and turns with some excellent cheesy but charming nevertheless voice acting and jump scares aplenty it’ll be worth several treks through.

Don’t be fooled by the laughably dated 3D graphics in Clock Tower, yeah they’re dated and memeworthy without context but it doesn’t dial back the frantic nature of the chase as you run for your life. Despite them looking hokey as shit the game is still frightening to experience and fun as hell to enjoy and one horror title you’ll be happy you gave a proper go.

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