As Halloween night draws near, Chad has taken it upon himself to dig into the vaults to bring you some of his favorite horror-themed video games. Can you handle the madness? Read on, if you dare!

For Whom the Bell Tolls

Jennifer finds her father in CLOCK TOWER.Clock Tower has an interesting history as an export outside of Japan. The first Clock Tower was an SNES game that never saw an official release in the US or Europe, although some intrepid translators created an English language ROM. The PlayStation version that was simply called Clock Tower was actually Clock Tower 2, and what was called Clock Tower 2 in the States was actually a mostly unrelated side story called Clock Tower: Ghost Head that merely shared the same play mechanics. Clock Tower 3 was, in fact, Clock Tower 3. Oh well, I guess it’s still better than having 7000 Street Fighter II‘s with the only way to tell them apart being words like “Turbo” and “Super”.

Since the original and second games are in the same continuity, I’m going to cover those two.

Clock Tower (sometimes subtitled The First Fear) begins with the main character, Jennifer Simpson, and her friends Laura, Ann, and Lotte being adopted by a miserly hermit named Mr. Barrows, who lives in a secluded mansion – because that certainly seems above board. A presumably single, middle-aged man adopting four teenage girls to live with him in his secluded mansion? I bet he certainly has the best of intentions, right?

Clock Tower: Finding Lotte
You and your friends are dead.

Jennifer soon finds herself separated from her friends and wandering the mansion by herself, and soon her friends start dying at the hands of a deformed boy wielding a massive pair of scissors. This is the series’ legendary “Scissorman”, a relentless slasher in the mold of Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees. Picture Angus Young on PCP with a pair of gardening shears and you’ll have a good picture of the Scissorman. The gameplay consists of solving puzzles and trying to keep Jennifer’s friends alive to unravel the mysteries of the Barrows mansion. It uses a point-and-click interface not unlike that of the adventure games of the era (think Gabriel Knight or Monkey Island), although, unlike those, you have the ever-present threat of the Scissorman bearing down on you. Sometimes he’ll just come charging into the room, and you’ll have to make a run for it. And even if you do manage to get a head start, there’s a chance you’ll trip…and then you’ll have to buttonmash to keep your head on your shoulders.

The sequel picks up where the first game left off, with Jennifer as the sole survivor of the incident and undergoing psychiatric treatment for the trauma she endured. However, the Scissorman murders have started up again. This time, the game offers several playable characters in addition to Jennifer, and it’s possible that she won’t even make it to the end of the game. The game offers a prologue followed by two “scenarios”, although in reality they comprise a three-act formula.

SNIP! SNIP! SNIP!

One of the things that makes Clock Tower stand out from other horror series is that you play a defenseless teenager. Resident Evil typically puts you in the shoes of a police officer or soldier and provides you with plenty of ammo and weapons. Heck, even Silent Hill will give you a gun or a steel pipe. Clock Tower doesn’t work that way. You don’t have the option to fight Scissorman head-on. You’ve got to run and hide to survive. As a result, it works really well as straight up horror. The gothic mansion is atmospheric, and the creeping feeling that Scissorman could be anywhere with you only having the option of running your ass off gives Clock Tower an uncommonly tense play style.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that the plot and general style of the games is inspired by the films of Italian horror maestro Dario Argento, Phenomena in particular. Clock Tower‘s developers based the central character Jennifer Simpson on Phenomena‘s protagonist Jennifer Corvino who was, in turn, played by a young Jennifer Connelly. Wrap your head around that. Why do I bring this up? Well, if you enjoy Clock Tower you may want to check out some of the films as well; the ones that relate the most thematically are Suspiria, Deep Red, and Phenomena.

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