No.3 The Clock Tower series
Clock Tower 2 was my first real experience with a point-and-click game, and while the style didn’t appeal to me at first, I quickly realized that the game was just a little too “me” to ignore. The original Clock Tower for SNES was loosely based on Dario Argento’s Phenomena, and you’ll notice that the main character is named Jennifer and bears a slight resemblance to Jennifer Connelly.
Clock Tower is one of the earliest games I can remember that featured a slasher-type plot, aside from the NES Friday the 13th game.
As mentioned before, you play Jennifer, a teenage girl in an orphanage somewhere in Norway, who is adopted with several other orphan girls by a wealthy recluse named Mr. Barrows. That sounds pretty kosher. The mansion he whisks them away to is named Clock Tower, after its most predominant feature. The game takes off shortly after the girls arrive at Clock Tower, and from there it plays out like an interactive The Burning – and you haven’t met Scissorman yet. The actions you choose in-game can make you have a variety of different endings, but they all lead up to the sequel, Clock Tower 2.movie. If you think that a killer using a large pair of scissors sounds hilarious, you obviously haven’t read my review of
I actually played Clock Tower 2 before the original Clock Tower, and my first experience was waking up to a child’s maniacal laughter in the middle of the night while my boyfriend played. I knew I had to play for myself then. The second game takes place a year after the events of the original game. Jennifer has been adopted by Helen, a psychiatrist, while she focuses on dealing with her trauma over the events of the first game. It’s a very faithful sequel, but here’s where things get tricky: Clock Tower 2 was simply called Clock Tower in the U.S., as the SNES version of Clock Tower was never localized for North America. The Clock Tower 2 that was marketed in North America is called Clock Tower Ghost Head. It has almost nothing to do with the previous two games, but is nevertheless still pretty damned good in its own right. It features yet another school girl, but this one is slightly more unhinged than the others; she’s just been released from a mental institute, and she has a split personality. Her personality is named Bates and he makes her do bad things.
I wish that I had used that excuse a little more frequently as a teenager myself. I’ll admit up front that this game is less scary to me now than it was when I was a 16-year-old girl, and it falls more into the campy category than anything, but it still holds a very special place in my heart. And who can really top finding dismembered body parts in a toilet, along with a mysterious yellow substance all over the bathroom floor during some of the first play moments?
The last of the Clock Tower games is Clock Tower 3 for PlayStation 2, which largely has nothing to do with the first two games either. Now that I’ve completely confused you, I hope I’ve left you wondering “WTF?” enough to go check out the games.
No.2 Rule of Rose
You take on the role of Jennifer, a 19-year-old amnesiac (there are patterns on this list, oh yes there are) who wakes up on a bus. She’s given a storybook by a little boy, whom she follows to a nearby orphanage. After being buried alive by a group of screwy kids and passing out, she finds herself on an airship where she’s tormented by a group of creepy orphans who call themselves the Red Crayon Aristocrats. Her one steadfast companion is a dog named Brown, whom she rescues on the airship. He helps her locate items and distract the mysterious monsters that she encounters.
The Red Crayon Aristocrats aren’t totally heartless; they cut a deal with Jennifer and tell her that under the threat of death, she has to find some weird artifact for them every month. That sounds completely and totally fair, and it would not be wise to disagree with the clearly damaged children.
As you try to unravel the mystery behind the largely ungoverned orphans, you’re treated to melee combat that largely sucks as you play a wispy teenage girl who isn’t very powerful. Even though the combat is a little clunky, the story is just twisted enough that it’ll keep you wanting to progress.
Notably, since the central characters are minors the game was subject to it’s fair share of controversy for including erotic themes, cruelty, and brutality. The somewhat out of place and fleeting sexuality is part of what makes the Red Crayon Aristocrats so wonderfully sinister, and it exposes the larger thought that while most media featuring children would have you believe that they’re sweet, innocent beings of light and fluffiness, they can be downright evil. Not that any of you who attended public high school would have suspected anything differently.
No.1 Haunting Ground (Demento)
My ongoing love affair with mindscrews continues via this Capcom game for the Playstation 2, in which you play a buxom young blond, named Fiona Belli, who has been pulled from the wreckage of a car accident that has killed her parents. Fear not, dear readers, the cage is unlocked and Fiona is able to make fast friends with a canine companion that helps to guide her through the castle and outrun the few but demented inhabitants of it. You’ll spend the game dodging some of the most effed villains in video game history.
The first baddie is the castle’s gardener, a large and cognitively challenged gent named Debilitas, who resembles Sloth from The Goonies. By the time he’s done with you, you’ll be wishing that Baby Ruths were an actual game item. Sadly, they’re not, and Debilitas doesn’t seem to understand that the tiny blond woman in the castle isn’t a doll, and thus her spinal column isn’t spared when he catches up to you and gives you a back-breaking bear hug, giggling madly and exclaiming, “My dolly!” Why not just shoot him or kick him in the balls, you ask? Ah, but it’s one of those games where you get no outside help from combat skill or in-game weapons. If you’re lucky, you get to find a hidden away-room where you can make an alchemical explosive powder that you can set on the ground and HOPE your villain steps on it to save you a few seconds while you continue to run around the castle like a chicken with your head cut off, presumably right into some kind of devastating trap that will kill you in a weirdly gory way.
Alternately, you can hide in a designated hiding spot and hope that your stalkers meander by a few times, mumbling to themselves about how they want to fuck you up. This is especially chilling when you see their feet move right past you a few times as you hide under a bench. (Note: I have hidden underneath a bed in the past for somewhere around five minutes, watching Debilitas amble back and forth. I thought I was in the clear but NOPE. Easily the most infuriating/suspensful moments in my gaming career.)
Coupled with a heart-pounding soundtrack that fluctuates frequently between feverish chase music when one of the game villains is out to get you and creepy ambient noises in the castle, this game takes your terror level up to an unflinching 11.