Clock Tower 3 Review
Since the inception of the Resident Evil series in 1995, survival horror has been one of the biggest draws in the gaming industry. Numerous franchises have been created, all trying to deliver the scary good fun of the original Resident Evil. No matter what survival horror game you play, there are two important elements that must be included. The game must be really, really gory, providing a great deal of shock value, and the game must above all be scary. Clock Tower 3, while certainly gory in the extreme, fails to meet this second criteria, as it is not only not scary, it is laughably unfrightening (sic).
Set in modern day England, Clock Tower 3 tells the tale of young Alyssa Hamilton, a teenage girl sent away to boarding school at a young age. Shortly before her 15th birthday, she receives an ominous letter from her mother warning her not to come home at all costs before her birthday, so of course the first thing she does is rush right home to find out why. Upon arriving, Alyssa finds the house empty, except for a mysterious and dangerous looking man who tells Alyssa that her mother won't be coming home for a long, long time. Apparently feeling the need to verify this fact, Alyssa opts not to call the police but to search the house for "clues". Shortly after commencing this search, she finds a secret passage she never knew existed that holds a statue of her mother and a bottle of holy water. Armed with this bottle, Alyssa resumes her search to find out what has happened, and quickly finds herself plunged into a world of pseudo horror that makes most B rated horror movies seem like academy award contenders.
Graphically, Clock Tower 3 is absolutely average in every way. The backgrounds in the game are fairly plain for the most part, though there are some areas that have rather nice detail. There are also some very neat looking special effects in the game. Whenever you see an explosion, the fire and smoke look very realistic. However, the game is terribly plagued with aliasing issues throughout. All the characters sport lots of detail, but the jaggies sprouting from their limbs makes it hard to appreciate this level of detail. In addition, all the backgrounds have that lovely, shimmering 'step ladder' effect that really detracts from the games visual aesthetic. Worse still, the game seems quite grainy overall. Some horror games like Silent Hill 2 have used this type of look on purpose to great effect. However, in Clock Tower 3, it seems more like a lack of visual polish on the developers part. This is really unacceptable, too, since the game makes use of pre-rendered backgrounds that have worked so well in the Devil May Cry and Resident Evil series. All in all, Clock Tower 3 won't be a game people play for its look.
Unfortunately, Clock Tower 3 is also a game that won't appeal to many from a gameplay perspective either. Mush like other survival horror games, a great deal of the gameplay in Clock Tower 3 involves finding key items that allow you to progress in the game, which requires a lot of backtracking. Frequently in the game you will encounter ghosts of people who died of unnatural causes. They will often prevent you from progressing, or otherwise harass you until you find a 'sentimental item' that will bring them peace. They in return will usually give you useful information or items that help you on your quest.
In every level, there are certain enemies known as 'stalkers' who continually hunt Alyssa as she attempts to progress. Since she is armed with nothing but holy water, she cannot combat them and must run whenever they come after her. Whenever they get too close and try to attack her, Alyssa's Panic Meter goes up. The Panic Meter is a visual representation of how scared Alyssa is. If the meter fills all the way up, Alyssa will officially panic, causing her to run about wildly, stumble, lose her line of sight, and more. If Alyssa gets hit while panicking, she will die. While this sounds like a fairly cool twist on the survival horror theme, it unfortunately is not done very well. All Alyssa needs to do when being pursued is find a hiding place. There are specific hiding places in the game that Alyssa can use, such as inside lockers, behind curtains, etc. However, you often don't even need to find such a place, as all you really need to do is run to a place where the stalker can't get to you, and your Panic Meter will slowly go down. Even if you run into a hiding place with a stalker directly behind you, they will often lose sight of you as if you magically disappeared instead of climbing into a locker. Some times they won't be fooled so easily, but for the most part, finding a hiding place, or a place that is unreachable for the stalker means complete safety. This type of flaw in the gameplay is so easily manipulated that it completely takes away any element of fear you may otherwise have. In fact, the scariest part of Clock Tower 3 is dealing with the often glitchy controls that cause you to get hung up or turned around when you can least afford it. The game uses a control scheme similar to that in Devil May Cry, but it doesn't work nearly as well, and is so awkward that you never really get used to handling the game.
Of course, you don't need to manipulate the hide system to be free of fear in this game, as Clock Tower 3 just isn't scary at all. None of the monsters in the game are frightening, and none of the usual tricks of elevating tension and suspense work well. The game simply tries too hard to make you feel scared, instead of implementing elements that will have you scaring yourself. To put it another way, most episodes of Saved by the Bell are more disturbing than this game, and that is sad indeed.
The sound in Clock Tower 3 is perhaps its best feature, as the game has some fairly nice dialogue and somewhat spooky music. All of the voice actors have authentic English accents, and most of the dialogue in the game is convincing without being too cheesy. The music consists mostly of dreary organ music that picks up in pitch whenever something that is supposed to be scary is about to happen. Of course, all this does is forewarn you of any impending shock, making the game that much less scary. The sound effects in the game are the best part of the sound in Clock Tower 3, but that only makes sense since most of them were recycled from the original Devil May Cry.
When you get right down to it, Clock Tower 3 is a big disappointment in almost every aspect. In fact, aside from sounding fairly good, the game stops just short of being a complete flop. Anyone looking for a good scare would be wise to stay away from Clock Tower 3, and instead check out any of the Resident Evil or Silent Hill installments they may have missed over the years.
4/19/2003 Ryan Hartmann