Playing: Clock Tower (SNES) (PS)

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Considered by many to be one of the earliest games of the survival horror genre, Clock Tower (Later subtitled The First Fear) is a little known gem in the history of gaming. Originally released in Japan and later into the US, this retro hit is a surprisingly suspenseful and jump-worthy game that will have most on the edge of their seats.

It’s September, 1995 when four orphans are led to a mansion known as the “Clock Tower” due to it being its most prominent feature. Being led by a Ms. Mary, Jennifer, Anne, Laura and Lotte arrive at the foyer of the luxurious mansion and are eager to meet their adoptive father, Simon Barrows. Fear begin to set in as Mary soon disappears and Jennifer finds the other gone, leaving her to wander about the dark hallways of the mysterious Clock Tower.

With horror games like Dead SpaceSlender and Outlast, I was sure that a simple, pixel SNES game wouldn’t even come close to scaring me. I had heard about it before – being credited as one of the inspirations for future instalments of the genre. But even with that in mind, I carelessly decided to play it in the darkness of my room, deciding that it would be one of those games that you could simply breeze by. I was wrong.

I was surprised by how “survival” this point-and-click game was. I had played the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill games and considered that formula to be survival horror. Yet Clock Tower takes it to an unbelievably base level – with no weapons or offensive items, the best Jennifer can do is hold off the dreaded Scissorman for a few seconds before her life depletes, forcing the player to find hiding places to avoid the maniac. Interestingly enough, her health depletes from running, and if you’re being chased by the game’s slasher, you’re prone to tripping onto the floor, something which I found annoying in films but suspenseful in this video game. The controls are, as you would expect, very basic: Jennifer can only run left and right and interact with objects you click on. It is through this that she collects key items and progresses the story. The introduction of a “panic button” is also important, as it allows Jennifer to escape or complete tasks that would otherwise damage her. The game itself incorporates puzzle elements, which is actually quite difficult in some segments. It also features slightly different plot points in different game plays, often changing room or item locations. The most attractive feature of all in my opinion though, are the multiple endings that players can achieve. Those familiar with Corpse Party would enjoy this aspect, yet some ending criteria can be missed or obscured by gameplay alone, making it difficult to achieve all endings.

Clock Tower’s tense atmosphere is close to flawless, providing players with a sense of anxiety and insecurity about what they inspect and what rooms they enter. Most of the mansion is portrayed with dull colours, diverting from this in the few rooms where there are light switches. Certain events, which are shown to players in a cinematic still, are sudden and grotesque, catching players off guard. The music doesn’t help players in this regard – it only manages to heighten the suspense and tension already instilled in players.

As a whole, I was surprised by how well Clock Tower fared as a suspenseful survival horror. Not only did it completely change my initial opinion, but it also genuinely kept me frightened until I finally completed the game. It’s difficult enough to warrant multiple playthroughs, especially with multiple endings, but keep in mind that some interactions can become tiresome after awhile. if you’re looking for a good thrill, are a major retro-junkie or want to experience some real gaming history – turn off the lights and give Clock Tower a run for its money.

Bry Rating: 3.5/5
Recommended? Basic, but a great cult classic.
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Human Entertainment

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Playing: Resident Evil 6 (PS3) (XBOX 360) (PC)

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Every gamer throughout the world has at the very least heard of the Resident Evil franchise by Capcom. The latest instalment in the RE saga is Resident Evil 6, the first of its kind to feature 4 different story lines and story intersections. Although arguably the worst game of the series to date, the game still continues the storyline in a much wider scale than ever before, giving fans the world over another hit of one video game history’s greatest franchises.

The game’s storyline spans 7 months, starring familiar and newer faces. Leon and Helena, agents working with the president in the town of Tall Oaks, America are faced with a bio-terrorist attack that has turned the townsfolk into zombies. Chris and Piers, BSAA agents who worked in Edonia, are sent to China to rescue hostages amongst chaos and disorder. Finally Sherry, an agent chosen to escort Jake to safety in Edonia, works with her charge to find a cure for the newly developed C-Virus.

The game is by no means a traditional Resident Evil game. If anything, RE games haven’t being RE games recently. With times changing and video games with it, everything seems to be more action filled, more complex and more diverse. And RE6 is as diverse as they come. The storyline is non-linear which makes it harder then usual to understand the overall story of the game. Old characters are a welcome relief to the game which might as well no longer bear the RE tagline, yet the new characters are both refreshing and provide an exciting edge to the story. Yet amidst the heap of characters you’re given control over and the four full length stories available to play, fans quickly realise that this is no longer a survival horror… but an action horror. And that’s when all the magic disappears.

The game is a third-person shooter with rare hints to what RE games used to be. Although most prevalent in Leon and Ada’s campaigns, the good old puzzle solving aspect of the games is present, allowing players to experience the once shining lustre of the RE franchise. The A.I system is revamped for RE6, not only giving the player the option to command the actions of their partner, but allowing the A.I to be more competent and actually useful. Moreover, multiplayer is new feature added, sporting the unique Agent Hunt and the classical Mercenaries, both of which actually highly enjoyable. Another interesting point about the gameplay is that its four campaigns are distinct in their play style: Leon’s is primarily survival horror oriented, a nod to the original games; Chris’s is clearly action themed, forcing the player to keep their fingers on the trigger; Ada’s is heavily stealth based, especially considering it’s the only campaign that does not have an A.I. partner; and Jake’s is, essentially, a mix of all three.

If every other feature of the game was to be forgotten, the few aspects that shines through are the graphics, styling and music. Graphics are absolutely breathtaking, with each scene taking place in a beautifully created setting that immerses the player into the world. Even dull, underground passageways are designed beautifully, as are the flaming debris and buildings encountered in a crumbling China. The characters and monsters of the game are, as always, uniquely styled and portrayed, acting as one of the highlights of the entire game. Their fluidity and high quality animation are also very deserving of praise. As expected of any RE instalment, the soundtrack of the game is a key feature, making players feel exactly what the producers wanted you to feel. Whether it be the suspense of a creepy mansion, or the adrenaline of high speed chases, Resident Evil 6 doesn’t let fans down with its music.

Although it’s not exactly the great addition fans were expecting, Resident Evil 6 is an average continuation of one of Capcom’s most successful franchises. In my opinion, it wasn’t too terrible, but that being said, it could have had a lot of improvements made story and gameplay wise. It is saddening to see though its great departure from survival horror that many have come to love, and hopefully one day, we’ll see the next instalment going back to its horror roots. All in all, RE6 makes a delightful game to play for simple enjoyment, allowing people to enjoy a mix of the goodness of the RE series and an action packed story.

Bry Rating: 3.5/5
Recommended? For RE and Action Enthusiasts Only
Country of Origin: Japan
Developer: Capcom