"In the mountains of Romsdaaren, Norway, stands the Barrows Family Mansion. This mansion had a large clock tower by which the locals tended their flocks in the surrounding fields. The local people called the mansion the Clock Tower. In 1986, the mistress of the Barrows Mansion gave birth to twins. From the day they were born however, it was obvious the twins were not normal and were evil. The twins were given the names Bobby and Dan, who were later to become the murderous Scissormen. In 1995, Jennifer, a young girl from Granite Orphanage, whose parents died when she was quite small, was lured into the Barrows Mansion where she was attacked by a monster wielding a giant pair of scissors. That monster was the grown-up Bobby. She managed to escape from the terrible horrors, destroy the monster, and flee the mansion. For the next year all of Norway was caught up with the sensationalized Scissorman Murders.
"But then a new series of brutal murders swept the front pages of the local news ... the Scissorman had returned! After her rescue, Jennifer had been taken in by Helen Maxwell, an assistant professor of criminal psychology. Helen had heard every detail of Jennifer's encounter and now she searched for any information that could put an end to this killer. How could this madman be back? Somehow she had to find the secret to the seemingly immortality of this crazed, psychotic lunatic. But the murders are moving closer and closer to home. Will she survive long enough to uncover all the secrets that could finally destroy him forever?"
If you're not hooked by now, don't bother reading any further. If, though, you are ready to face the evil that is Scissorman, read on.
Clock Tower is, as concerns the history of adventure games on the Playstation, an anomaly. It plays much like a 1940s black-and-white parlor murder mystery that you watched on any city's Chiller Theater when you were a kid (unless you're a Just Adventure staff member; we would have seen it first-run at our neighborhood theatre for a quarter); except it is in color and on a console system and ... well, you get the point. It is an old-fashioned, point-and-click horror game that would be more than welcome on any adventure gamer's computer.
Clock Tower was released in 1997 by Human Entertainment Japan. It is the sequel to another game called Clock Tower released for the Japanese Nintendo Super Famicom in 1995. The first Clock Tower was never released in North America, so there was no need to name the sequel Clock Tower 2. There was a Clock Tower 2 later released for the Playstation, but it was not a sequel to the second Clock Tower, which was named Clock Tower but was actually a sequel to the Japanese Clock Tower. I could go on like this for another paragraph or so, but I think I've screwed with your minds enough already.
Even though Clock Tower is perceived as what might be construed as a "slasher" game, it actually relies very heavily on its characters, their personalities, and their reactions to horrific situations. In fact, this is the only game I can ever remember in which a character stumbles upon a mutilated body and actually falls to her knees and regurgitates in disgust instead of the usual, nonchalant "I stumble upon dead bodies every day" claptrap we are usually fed.
You cannot be a hero in Clock Tower, only a heroine. You must play as one of two characters, either as 15-year-old Jennifer Simpson, the star of the original Clock Tower (which was released in Japan as ...) or as Helen Maxwell, an assistant professor of criminal psychology who profiles serial killers like Scissorman and is also Jennifer's mentor and confidant. There are also at least 25 more characters in the game; not only do they serve as red herrings, but one of them is also the new Scissorman ... but which one?
The character you choose to be determines the course that the game will follow, and it is suggested that you play as both characters just so that you can experience all of the different scenarios. There are five different endings per heroine for a total of ten endings. The conclusion you see depends on your actions and progression through the different scenarios. While this might have sounded like a great idea on the drawing board, it is actually a huge deterrent--a game will sometimes abruptly end, and you are not sure what event triggered the ending, and if you have not recently saved the game, well, then you are up the creek ...
Map screens, similar to those in Gabriel Knight 2, simplify travel, and noninteractive intermissions advance much of the plot. The 3D-animated graphics, while not outstanding, seem to add rather than detract from the eerie ambiance of the game, as does the sinister music that plays whenever Scissorman is in the immediate area. By the time you arrive at Barrow's Castle for the denouement, you really do care who lives and who dies.
Scissorman, who at first glance seems to be a ludicrous character while swinging his grotesquely oversized scissors, gradually grows into a menacing figure. He randomly appears at the most opportune times, and as you cannot kill him, you must devise ways to escape from his shears. Sometimes it is simply a matter of running from the building he occupies, but more often than not you will find yourself hiding in closets, under benches, or in toilet stalls as you patiently wait for the metallic echo of his scissors to fade away. If all of this running and hiding from Scissorman sounds too much like an action game to you, believe me when I say it adds immensely to the fear factor and also increases the urgency you feel to solve another link in the puzzle before he claims another victim.
Do give Clock Tower a try--you won't be disappointed. You may even find yourself sleeping with the lights on for fear of Scissorman sneaking into ... [Editor's note: The remainder of this review seems to have been snipped short.]
Final Grade: B
If you liked Clock Tower:
Watch: The Snake Pit
Read: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Play: Clock Tower 2