Brilliant Madness in Your Final Hours – Playstation 2 – Clock Tower 3 – 2003

Title.jpgClock Tower 3
Playstation 2
Sun Corporation/Capcom
Genre: Survival Horror
2003

There has been a lot of conversation about how great the horror library on the Playstation 2 was in circles I chat with. A lot of these games have hit “cult” status outside of Silent Hill and Resident Evil with a few folks talking about Fatal Frame since it’s managed to continue producing entries up until last generation. In between those games, though, sit titles like Rule of Rose, Kuon, and the follow-up to a little series that found its footing in the US on the first Playstation console: Clock Tower 3.

After the rights to the Clock Tower series switches hands, it fell into the Capcom stable alongside Resident Evil, lending the series a little steam to get attention for its third game. Publisher name aside, the game announced that Kinji Fukusaku who had directed Battle Royale just a few years prior would be in charge of the cutscenes among a handful of other known industry names, some of whom had worked on Capcom’s major series before. The investment in the game’s production was deep, and it seemed like both the developers and the publisher had a lot of resources to draw from.

The last time Clock Tower had changed hands, though, we got a mess of a game with Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within. Understandably, people had a lot of hope for the new game with the names attached to it but were still sore from trusting that the last Clock Tower would live up to the first two games. Personally, my memories of the game were a little hazy, save for a few scenes here and there. In my unofficial pilgrimage to relive some of the games I grew up on and to complete my playthrough of the series entirely, I dug out my copy of Clock Tower 3, booted it up and decided to take a swing at it with some experienced but fresh eyes.
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On the Flip Side of Innovation – Sony Playstation – Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within – 1999

Title.jpgClock Tower II: The Struggle Within
Sony Playstation
Human Entertainment/Ascii Entertainment
Genre: Point-and-Click Survival Horror
1999

Horror movies and games share a lot of similarities in structure, especially when it comes to sequels. In horror films, you may have the same Final Girl and killer for a film or two before you have to move onto a completely new set of characters. Most likely, though, a franchise will try to keep up a similar style of horror and tone for its duration, shifting only when it becomes vital to keep the series fresh and interesting. In similar fashion to films, horror games usually try to stick to their guns until they become too repetitive.

The Clock Tower series had established itself as a tense slasher game. Jennifer Simpson was our Laurie Strode, Scissorman acting as our Michael Myers, hellbent on destroying her and the lives around her. Like the first Halloween film, Clock Tower: The First Fear was a dark and atmospheric endeavor while Clock Tower on the Playstation was more like the second film. There was more of an emphasis on action and the slasher aspect, but it still kept the players’ hearts in their chests.

Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within is our Halloween III.

The real difference between those two works, though, is that there is an audience who appreciates Halloween III for what it was- a failed attempt at turning the franchise into an anthology that worked fine if it was considered on its own merits sans the Halloween name tag. In all of my memory hearing about The Struggle Within, though, I hadn’t heard one good thing about the game. No one was singing a solo of unappreciated merits in the overwhelming chorus of vitriol against it.

As someone who enjoys singing solos about certain games of that sort, I had to finally complete the one game in the Clock Tower mythos I hadn’t yet and see for myself if there was anything worth salvaging.  Continue reading

Live Together, Die Together – Playstation 4 – The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan – 2019

the-dark-pictures-anthology_-man-of-medan_20190830200330.jpgThe Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan
Playstation 4
Supermassive Games / Bandai Namco Entertainment
Genre: Survival Horror Adventure
2019

While I haven’t written about it quite yet, I’ve been pretty upfront about the fact that Until Dawn is my favorite game on the Playstation 4 and ranks among my top horror games period. As someone who has been entertained by horror for over half of his life, this may sound surprising, but it should also speak to the merit of Supermassive Games and the project that they put together. Horror is not an easy genre to navigate, and they found an interesting way to make a compelling story, interesting cast, and tense mechanics to bring the story of Until Dawn to life.

With that, it should be less of a surprise that when I ran into the Namco Bandai booth at PAX last year, my first stop was to see The Dark Pictures Anthology: Man of Medan, the company’s follow-up to their cinematic sleeper hit. While the demo was short, it got me excited to see how the game would play out and what the game would do to stand out from its predecessor. What I played, though, did nestle the game onto the list of my most anticipated titles from the show.

In interviews on The Dark Pictures and what exactly the anthology would entail, it has been explained that Man of Medan is the first of eight planned titles, two of which will be released each year meaning we will most likely see a title every six months. The weight being placed on the flagship game, in that case, is a great one then. While Until Dawn did surprisingly well, it seems reasonable to wonder just how well Man of Medan does to live up to Supermassive’s first game and to set up the remainder of a large undertaking for the developers.

As with most current games, I’ll do my best to avoid spoilers but be forewarned- there may be some bits here and there that could be considered “spoilery”. Continue reading

Through the True Lens of Terror – Playstation 2 – Fatal Frame – 2001

TitleFatal Frame
Playstation 2
Tecmo
Genre: Survival Horror
2001

In general, horror is a tricky genre to be successful in, despite there being quite a bit of leeway as to what “horror” can actually pertain to. Sometimes, horror can be encapsulated by the visuals of a game, making for some gruesome scenes or grisly environments that can offset a player’s senses. Action-horror can give a player weapons and defenses aplenty at their disposal only to let them whittle away as the game continues. Then there are games that don’t even give you weapons, offering either environment or a host of hiding spaces to avoid assailants as you attempt to escape the encroaching danger.

Whatever the specifics are, horror games usually have the primary goal of trying to scare the player. Jump scares can be cheap but effective and atmosphere and digital disorientation can leave a lasting impression but takes a thorough followthrough to pack a punch. There is a delicate balance involving tension, foreboding, art, and programming that has to go into these games for them to achieve their goal.

One game that made this attempt was Fatal Frame, the origin point of a series that never quite reached the popularity of some of its brethren but has a well-sized and devoted following. Touting a rare “based on a true story” label on its cover, the game left quite the impression on me growing up but I never finished the original title, opting instead to play through the second entry with a friend in high school over the course of a night one summer. I’ve had fond memories of the pieces of the series I’ve played in the past, so I decided it was time to buckle in and push through the game that started the series on its quiet course into cult reverence.  Continue reading

Just a Short Trip Back for More – PC – DreadOut: Keepers of the Dark – 2016

20190811102407_1.jpgDreadOut: Keepers of the Dark
PC
Digital Happiness
Genre: Survival Action Horror
2016

Certain games lend themselves to a convoluted and drawn-out mythos. Taking into account some certain popular horror games, you could easily find essays about Silent Hill’s background and characters. Personally, I’ve poured through a number of analyses about Rule of Rose and the symbolism within the world drawn up over the game’s events. While a lot of that is in the eye and explanations of the analyst behind the keyboard, most franchises are not foreign to the idea of adding more to an already existing mythos to explain mysteries or flesh out their universe. It’s what endears people to their work, after all.

The original DreadOut (which I reviewed a while back here) took its inspiration from some already existing mythology, sending a group of trapped teenagers and their teacher up against some of the specters and demons in Indonesian stories. The game didn’t just rest on this, as it had its own plot and story to tell, but the combination of existing and specifically created histories made for an interesting plot to watch unfold as the horrors played out.

Keepers of the Dark is not a straight sequel to DreadOut as one might be led to believe from the title and timeline. I say this not only informationally but as a bit of a warning for the discussion to follow since there is almost no way to discuss the game without referring to elements from the original DreadOut and possibly giving some spoilers. Acting more like a “missing chapter”, according to the game’s page on Steam, it sort of takes a quick sidestep from the plot of the original and has events that relate to it. If you haven’t played the original game and don’t want it ruined for you, feel free to turn away now. No hard feelings here, I promise!

Otherwise, take a peek at what I thought of this extra chapter from the DreadOut universe and how effective it may or may not have been as a standalone piece. Continue reading