Be careful what you wish for. . .
Capcom recently issued a press release stating that almost 20% of their upcoming product line had been cancelled. Numerous new releases had fallen below their bean counters projections, the most notable being two games that were classified as survival-horror – Resident Evil Zero and Clock Tower 3. Clock Tower 3 was projected to move 450,000 copies and has, according to end of March 2003 figures, sold only 250,000. While this would be considered a success in the pc market, in the console world a quarter-of-a-million copies sold is considered a failure.
Of course, since Clock Tower 3 is primarily an adventure game, Capcom will naturally assume that adventure games on console don’t sell and will never consider placing the blame where it actually belongs, with their marketing department. Yes, Capcom placed advertisements in the console gaming magazines, the same magazines that decry any game that is slowed down by puzzles and of course the reviews held true to form. No, Capcom did not make any attempt to reach out to the adventure community and ask what they would like in an adventure game. Instead, they attempted to appeal to the twitch crowd by adding end-level bosses to what is otherwise a pure adventure game. It goes without saying that the twitch crowd was put-off by the puzzles and the cerebral crowd was put-off by the challenging end bosses and the end result is that nobody wins.
If you are willing to buy into it, Clock Tower 3 has a wonderfully eerie storyline. Much like the previous two installments, the protagonist is Alyssa, a teenage girl who inexplicitly finds her tranquil life disrupted by supernatural events. After her mother mysteriously disappears, Alyssa is sucked into a world where spirits of pure evil commit unspeakable acts of violence (often depicted in cut-scenes as gruesomely as possible) and only Alyssa can free the tortured souls who have been captured by these Evil Servants. The entire story plays out in London, but jumps between the years 1942, 1963, 1982 and 2002.
There are some truly chilling moments, especially when you must run and hide from the crazed serial killers who are in murderous pursuit. Alyssa has a Panic Meter that rises accordingly as she is chased but the meter can be lowered by either finding a Hiding Place or a Safe Point. Safe Points can only be used once and usually offer some sort of defensive action – such as pushing a bookcase onto a pursuant – to help Alyssa momentarily escape. Alyssa’s only other means of defense is to splash Holy Water at her demonic foes.
Each level, or year, of Clock Tower 3 features a self-contained mini-story that depicts the story behind the sad death of a certain individual(s) and the responsible serial killer. These murdered souls roam the level and can only be freed when Alyssa finds and returns an item of sentimental importance. The last soul, around who each chapter is focused, can only be freed if Alyssa defeats the serial killer in an end-boss battle – and this is where the game completely sinks into the abyss of gamer’s hell.
What had been a blissfully enjoyable point-and-click, inventory based adventure game becomes – at the end of every level – an adventure gamers worst nightmare (By the way, CT3 is really not a point-and-click game, but it sure plays like one. What is this aversion that console gamers have against point-and-click games? They react as though they have committed some sort of video game masturbation if they happen upon a point-and-click game – “Oh my gosh, I played a point-and-click game, my fingers are going to fall off!). For an entire level Alyssa uses her wits to escape from these killers that she is so afraid of, but apparently freeing a few souls from purgatory provides her with the courage to suddenly face off woman-a-mano against the deadliest killers in the history of mankind.
As if that weren’t reason enough to quit playing, these end-boss battles are as horribly realized as any I’ve ever played. Armed only with a ‘magical bow’ you must now pummel your foe with an inordinate amount of shots – and we’re talking between thirty and forty direct hits. There are a few special arrows that will allow you to root the killer in his tracks while you fire away, but to make matters worse, once you press the fire button, you can not change your aim so if it is a little to the left or right, tough noogies, you’re screwed. Camera angles shift suddenly and unexpectedly and you’ll often find yourself standing right next to the killer that just moments before was across the screen. What is most bothersome though is that we are expected to believe that this young girl who was seemingly scared to death, is now suddenly a mighty warrioress, unafraid to confront the most deadliest killers in history. What an insult to the gamer’s intelligence. If only there had been an option to defeat the end-bosses using one’s brain rather than brawn.
There are also a few other console standards – besides save points and end-bosses - that rear their ugly heads. There is a timer that keeps track of how long it took to beat the game. Who cares how long it took to beat the game!? The object is too have fun, not race through as quickly as possible. Yet, there is a reward for those who do finish, for once you have completed the game you are given a key that opens a secret wardrobe and allows Alyssa to replay the game wearing a different costume. We’ll pause here while you consider that wonderful replay option. That’s right, you can replay the entire game with Alyssa sporting either a toga, Roman armor, a blue outfit or a club-type outfit. What, no pink tutu?
Games like Clock Tower 3 will be the death of adventure games with their retarded console mentality. Save points and end-bosses are not conducive to a good game and are instead the result of lazy programming. The graphics, especially the cut-scenes, are splendid and the music is top-notch, but what does it matter if the game veers so far off course simply because companies would rather attempt to appeal to action gamers by including a few ridiculously hard fighting sequences. The end result is a badly produced hybrid that appeals to very few gamers and what more evidence do you need than the figures quoted in the first paragraph of this review?
Clock Tower 3 grades:
Adventure aspects – A
Action aspects – F
Final Grade: C