Clock Tower 3

Clock Tower 3

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 5/27/2003 for PS2  

I’m not ashamed to admit it, Eternal Darkness gave me the creeps. I put the game down after that horrifying bathtub sequence and never revisited the game again. I admit it, I’m a complete sissy when it comes to horror movies and games but there’s something different about Clock Tower 3. There’s something about it that made me want to wade through all of the creepy imagery and stick with it until the very end.

The game casts you as Alyssa, a British boarding school attendee who looks strikingly similar to the Japanese schoolgirls that all of the old Japanese men lust over. At the onset of the adventure she receives a letter from her mother that tells her to stay as far away from the family home as possible. All of us were teenagers at one time or another so you can probably guess that the first thing she does is defies her mother and returns to the family estate. As any good horror fan can attest, this is never a good thing.

When she enters her home she finds a mysterious stranger in the dining room. Suddenly he grabs her and just when it looks like he’s about to harm her he lets her go and makes his way upstairs. She’s frightened but apparently logic isn’t her strongpoint because instead of hightailing it the hell out of there, she decides to explore the family home and follow the strange man upstairs. Apparently Alyssa isn’t a big fan of horror movies because the next thing she does is gets down on her hands and knees and enters the all too common hidden passage that she never noticed in her household. After a bit of rummaging and searching she gets thrown into a strange passageway that serves as a time portal of sorts. There’s a brilliant flash of light and Alyssa is transported back to 1940s London set to the backdrop of WWII. Expanding upon more of the story would spoil it for anyone looking to purchase the game but I will say that story takes you all the way from the past until present day 2003 London. Think of it as Bill & Ted but instead of populating the game with lame “heavy metal!” jokes, you get to witness the most gruesome deaths to ever appear in a video game. Prepare to put that therapist on speed dial kids, you’re going to need it.

As you may have been able to guess the story is definitely Clock Tower 3’s strongpoint. It unfurls at such a pace as to keep you informed about what’s going on while not revealing too much at all once. The pacing is just excellent as an air of suspense strikes you whenever you need to enter a new room or approach a blind corner. The game will keep you on your toes, making you wonder what lies around the next corner. It’s a great story that will keep you glued to the TV screen for hours, it’s just a shame that the game is so painfully short. Then again, isn’t one of the qualities of a good story that it always leaves you wanting more?
Clock Tower 3 delivers some cheap chills thanks to some strategically placed camera angles and loud musical cuts, but the more genuine chills come from being unarmed for the majority of the adventure. Instead of being armed to the teeth with pistols, shotguns and rocket launchers you’re given the almighty… holy water? That’s right, your main arsenal is comprised of holy water. It adds some thrills to the game because you know that the enemy has an advantage over you. If anything it makes you dread going into precarious hallways and dimly lit rooms even more so because you’re at such a disadvantage. In a neat little touch there’s a little fear meter that fills as Alyssa is harmed or frightened. The more scared she gets the less control she has over her motor skills. To calm her down you’ll need to either crouch for awhile or drink a particular type of water. The more hysterical she is the harder the time you’ll have running away from the various beings that populate the game. In a nice little touch the more scared Alyssa gets the more scared the player gets.

Controlling your character here is essentially unchanged from Capcom’s other popular survival horror franchises. For those who aren’t familiar with them imagine that you’re controlling a human like you would control a car and you’ve got the gist of it. To add to the game’s problems the camera angles prove to be very crippling, especially in tight or high tension situations. When you’re running away from an axe-wielding monster it’s best to plan your route of escape, of course this is difficult when you can’t see more than 2 feet in front of you. More often than not you’ll find yourself running into walls while your enemies laugh with glee as their weapons connect with your skull.

Maneuvering Alyssa is very akin to driving a 67 Nova in that it feels like you’re controlling a boat on wheels. Why Capcom still decides to stick behind this sluggish and unresponsive control scheme after the countless complaints is beyond me. It makes lining up with objects and controlling with any sort of precision impossible and frustrating. I hope that the next generation of survival horror games ushers in a new control scheme because this current system is far more painful than it should be.

As a whole the game is a Monet. Upon first glance the game looks great, you’ll notice nice touches like Alyssa’s hair, both which flow and waiver in a realistic motion. All of the engine-rendered cutscenes are rather impressive thanks to some great motion capture technology. Characters move, react, gesture and behave in convincing fashion. But as the game progresses you begin to notice its physical deficiencies. Environments range from being intricately detailed to absurdly barren, enough to the point where you can immediately recognize if the location will be pertinent to advancing the storyline upon first glance.

Creepy. That’s the word that best characterizes the game’s audio elements. Go outside and run a few laps in the backyard. Notice how hard your heart is thumping? Multiply that by 10 and you can begin to understand how heart-thumping the game’s music really is. The pieces all have a very haunting feel to them, kind of like that scene from Interview with the Vampire when Lestat is playing that piece on the piano. You know that the piece is classy yet you can’t help but feel that chill run up the back of your spine.

If you play the game you’ll realize that the game’s highlight isn’t the graphics nor is it the atmosphere. It’s something far simpler than that; it’s the game’s gruesome and stomach-churning cutscenes. In order to ensure that the cutscenes would be disturbing to even the vilest human being, Sunsoft hired the man who directed the cult-hit Battle Royale to handle the in-game cutscenes. In an early cutscene you’ll see a soldier get lifted into the air by a mortar only to become impaled on some barb wiring. You might expect the game to fade out from the scene right? Well not quite, you’ll see a close up of the remains of the guy as it focuses on his impaled and battered body. Breaking the tradition set by other Capcom survival horror games, this game actually features some excellent voice acting as well, really lending a convincing atmosphere of fear.

All camera, gameplay length and minor problems aside, Clock Tower 3 is actually one of the better survival horror games that the PS2 has seen. With all of its deficiencies, the game will still provide you with 5-10 hours of thrills, frills and intrigue. It’s not quite as long as we may have liked but if anything, Capcom and Sunsoft have shown yet again why they are the masters of the survival-horror genre. Pick this one up if you’re in the mood to be frightened or if you’re a sick bastard who likes to watch gruesome cutscenes. Either way you won’t be disappointed.
Have you ever been so scared during a movie that you closed your eyes every time the protagonist went to open a door? That’s the feeling that we got from Clock Tower 3, one of the scariest and creepiest games ever made. Sure it’s got some problems but if you’re looking for a fun little romp through horrorville, look no further than Capcom’s latest entry.

Rating: 7.2 Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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