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Clock Tower (PlayStation) Review.

The nightmare returns again!


Welcome strangers as we consort with the Clock Tower series yet again. This sequel to the SNES's Clock Tower (CT(S)) is brought to us once again by the vile minions over at Human Entertainment with their devilish overlord Hifumi Kono sitting at the throne. This time Human Entertainment decided to spread sustained misery over the course of three years across the globe. Releasing the dreaded game in Japan 13/12/1996, North America 01/10/1997 and in Europe on February 1998. The game itself innocently operates under the guise of a point and click adventure more akin to Broken Sword. Then the dreaded Scissorman appears ready to snip you with his shears.


Plot


The plot is a direct sequel of CT(S) albeit with some minor retconning which is expanded on in the PSX port of the original Clock Tower, I won't tell you the retcon otherwise I'll spoil the plot. The story starts by recounting Jennifer Simpson's survival from Dan Barrows a giant malformed cannibalistic toddler. Jennifer managed to destroy Dan thanks to some lazily placed kerosene containers that set Dan ablaze killing him. After this flashback ends Jennifer wakes up in Samuel Barton's office with her new guardian Helen Maxwell. Barton is a criminal psychologist and has been studying the Barrow's manor case because of a recent string of murders that have a striking similarity to Bobby Barrows, aka Scissorman's handy work. Barton is attempting to recover some of the traumatic memories that Jennifer has locked away in order to help the police catch this copycat killer. It is suspected that the copycat Scissorman's ultimate goal may be to kill the two survivors of the Barrows manor incident. Yes, I said two survivors! It turns out that a boy was found around the manor grounds after Jennifer's escape and has been put into the care of the Granite Orphanage. The boy though has no memory and Kay his guardian, whilst he's assisting professor Barton, has taken to calling him Edward for simplicities sakes. From this point, the plot has different diverging paths. The short version though is that Scissorman shows up either to murder Jennifer or her guardian, Helen, depending on who you're playing. After this first encounter, your character decides to take a more active role in the investigation in the hopes of surviving him. This is where the characters may change once again depending upon your character and choices. If your Jennifer you go to Nolan Campbell a young journalist who's investigating the Scissorman case and has a crush on Jennifer. If your Helen you go to "Assistant Inspector" Stan Gotts, because don't you dare just call him an Inspector! He's making sure that people know he's not taking the blame for this case, he is however assigned to assist in the Scissorman murder cases. Both characters will agree to help further the investigation and if you choose their help then your character changes to them. In both cases, this will be because a statue was put into the hands of Rick a former Butler to the Barrows family but who left sometime before the incident. Rick informs Gotts or Nolan that the original home of the Barrows is the Barrows Castle in England and before you find the details he's killed by a seemingly random act. Then you see Scissorman or hear his iconic distant snipping sounds. Once they survive this encounter escaping with the statue and the location of the Barrows Castle then the gang flies off to England in the hopes of finishing the nightmare.


Pros


Clock Tower for the PlayStation (CT(P)) plays very much like the original, CT(S), and gives a genuine feel of nostalgia with its side-scrolling point and click approach to play with some little mix-ups from time to time thanks to the fully rendered 3D environments. The style of play is very much a nod to the CT(S) and a nice touch for anyone who didn't play the original game. I will say though that this will become a Con later on when it comes to certain aesthetic choices.

The music in CT(P) is spot on when it comes to thematic tension building. The music is limited to this purpose and is there to provide atmosphere whether that's intrigue, awe, creeping dread or outright panic. It works wonderfully as the majority of the game has no musical backing track just your footsteps. At one moment inside the research building, Helen gets a fax that simply reads "I'm coming for ya!" As it's read the music creeps in giving a real sense of dread and unease as though some entity is watching you or knows where you are at all times. This actually harks back to CT(S) when you could talk to Simon Barrows in the cage and he'd tell you that "it's watching you" or not in some cases.

Is CT(P)'s Scissorman as scary as CT(S)'s sort of, no, but he is a threat and will jumpscare you like crazy as he pops out of trap doors behind objects and out of the fireplace at times, and don't get me wrong if your not playing a strong character you going to struggle to tackle him one on one before he skewers you with his shears. What I will say is Scissorman acts a lot more entertaining in this. Not just a straight-up Micheal Myers type killer but one that occasional toys with his victims and messes around. Most of these happen in the second scenario. In Rick's house while controlling Gotts I found Scissorman in a rocking chair laughing at cartoons on TV. There's a room at Rick's house as well where Gotts and Nolan can hide and jam the door with a broom handle. This shouldn't stop Scissorman as he's clearly shown in-human strength before and should just bash down the door, but on this occasion, he decides he'll leave it even though he definitely knows Gotts or Nolan are there because they both yelp when he tries to force the door. In a different second scenario when your play as Helen in the library Scissorman even goes out of his way to pose like a statue, which considering Helen's already been attacked by him at the stage, she really should be keeping a better eye out. It's like Scissorman in CT(P) is having fun with his victims and is safely confident in his indestructibility that he finds it easy to mess around unlike CT(S) where he's a straight-up slasher killer. No point describes this better than in scenario three where Scissorman just blatantly follows you out into a death drop. He just doesn't care he's having fun, it's not like he didn't know it's there because your at the Barrows Castle his home turf and presumably that door always opened out onto a sheer cliff face. So yeah there is a bit of laughter that came out of me at these moments but when you think about it isn't this a little bit scarier. I mean a killer that's coming to kill you is one thing but one that's basically so confident that you can't stop him from doing what he wants with you, now that's nightmarish.


Cons


Old polygon 3d now this I'm sure was done for two reasons one been better camera angles and shots in the game's cut scenes, but also because it was simply on the PlayStation. In reality, though I don't think CT(P) needed to use 3d due to the fact that your perspective doesn't really change much throughout the game, usually you are at a side-on view with the character. I think it would have been better if CT(P) had just taken a Broken Sword approach and made it animated. It might have allowed a bit more depth to the game and a more sumptuous environment to explore. As it stands you end up with less detailed backdrops, less detailed character models and less horrific death scenes. So yeah I'd argue this was a large miss-step.

The voice acting in this game is for want of an expletive, is bad. It just sounds like they're reading the lines out most of the time no real emotion or personality from a girl, woman, young man, old man, fat man. Really it's only the odd line that shows up that has a bit of emotion behind it. It's not helped by the games long insistent pauses between most lines of dialogue that makes the characters seem very slow in the head. Fortunately, the voice acting is used sparingly but that in itself generates a problem if you're barely going to use it then why use it at all or why not save it for more important scenes with better voice actors.

CT(P) is also very odd in that despite been on a CD-based console it feels bigger in scope and weaker in depth. "What do I mean by this?" Well in CT(S) you were in a single dark manor indeed the eponymous Clock Tower. This manor was a mystery through and through crawling with danger, puzzles, history and lore but all in one location. In CT(P) by contrast, you're able to go to multiple locations across a city and even end up jaunting off to England. For all this scope though you are given very little extra in story or lore with regard to the Barrows family or Scissorman. Instead, you're given a roster of seemingly superfluous characters and the same story except for one part. This is a rather big part as it has to do with the significants of time. Here we come back to CT(S) and why this series, I assume, was called Clock Tower. You see at the end of CT(S) the Clock Tower plays a significant role as it is the place of the final confrontation. Indeed it is the only way to defeat Bobby Barrows, Scissorman, in CT(S) and it's strongly hinted that only returning time will defeat him. In CT(P) though this is not so and instead Scissorman can only be defeated with a ritual to send him back to the hell he came from. You would think that this would necessitate more story about the Barrows but there isn't a lot in the game that suggests much more only that Bobby Barrows was not the first Scissorman as a corpse looking like Scissorman is found entombed in the castle and seemingly the Barrows occult worship has been going on for centuries. Other than this no new history is really added and you start to kind of wonder why they kept with the title of Clock Tower as it could have easily been "The Revenge of Scissorman". I think it might have been more interesting to explain or discover how Scissorman managed to return which by the way, CT(P) doesn't. I mentioned this early that it's only the expanded cutscene in the PSX version of Clock Tower that'll give you an understanding of how this happened, CT(P)'s story doesn't explain it. This lack of story and the fact that the old lore of time being important to the Barrows twin's demise getting thrown out will have you scratching your head with more questions than answers.

Another Con is the way CT(P) is broken up into separate scenarios which it also announces to the player which is kind of counterintuitive for a horror game. I don't get why they chose to do this it's unnecessary and preps the player for Scissorman attacks when it would have been far more impactful to have the scenario load unannounced and make the attacks seem more random. This way just feels kind of hand-holding.


"Ok this is scenario one are you ready for the nasty man."


I also take issue with scenario two which although having some interesting parts for Scissorman to play also have the two simplest hiding spots in the game. The one in Rick's house I've mentioned but if you're at the Library then it's the front counter you just hide behind the counter and Scissorman never finds you. I might also add that it's pretty much the only hiding spot, which is quite lazy. This makes me suspect that this is so much filler as the last scenario or scenario three is the longest and clearly the main meat of the game which acts much like the old Barrows manor in CT(S) as it's in a castle.


Nerd O Meter Rating


High 3 out of 5


Final thoughts


This was a hard one to review with CT(P) trying to hark back to the past whilst at the same time trying to innovate the series for a new generation of consoles. I kind of think they lost sight of a few things that made CT(S) such a Japanese cult classic. Yes CT(S) has its problems and it's not like I can be accused of nostalgia bias here, after all, I only first played CT(S) a year to two back. I do believe that CT(P) would have been better though in 2D with some good animation you'd of had better environments and better character models these though are just stylistic and can be forgiven. The worst problems with CT(P) are its pacing, the first two scenarios and interludes are essentially padding for the real game you want to play in Scenario three. CT(P)'s dismantling of the established lore only creates more problems than it solves and the story doesn't explain it well or in my opinion at all. There's also a certain lack of danger with stupid stuff stopping Scissorman like hiding behind the only counter or a mop handle jamming a door or sheets... O yeah I forgot the sheets if you're in a room with a bedsheet use it on Scissorman, it's like his kryptonite, he completely losses track of you. This seems rather negative doesn't it but I do feel it needs to be said especially when a good copy of CT(P) will easily put a £100 plus hole in your wallet. That been said it does have good points, Scissorman does still feel like a threat, at least in Scenario three. He also has a lot more personality in this showing different sides to the seemingly immortal slasher villain. These moments can feel quite comical at times but there is an underlined creepiness to it all, helped by the music which is spot on. The story does give you entertaining twists and turns, even though it poorly explains the final reveal. So my final verdict is this, CT(P) is not a bad game it's perfectly playable and is definitely entertaining but does have significant flaws and missteps that work against it. It is in my opinion definitely worth playing but unless you're a collector or purist I'd play this on an emulator and save yourself 100 plus quid.


Reviewed by Nerdy C


Nerdy Cheats/ Hints


Player Select

There is no player Select screen in CT(P). If you want to choose your character, you have to talk to Harris Chapman when your Samuel Barton at the start of the game. Speak to him once and you'll play Helen Maxwell, speak to him twice and you'll play Jennifer Simpson.



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