VGJ Quickie: Clock Tower

Clock Tower box art. I love it.

Clock Tower

System: Super Famicom

Publisher/Developer: Human Entertainment

Released: September 14th, 1995

CT was one of the first games I played through when I first started emulating old games out of curiosity. I joked that I would emulate games until the FBI knocked on my door – and if they did, to please send Norman Jayden from Heavy Rain.

This is a VGJ Quickie because the game is very short.

August 14th, 2010: The game begins innocently enough, except for maybe the ominous music in the intro. It tells the story of four orphan girls (Jennifer Simpson, our protagonist; Laura; Anne; and Lotte) being brought to the Barrows Mansion in September 1995 by Mary, the woman who worked as a teacher at the Granite Orphanage where the girls stayed. They were brought to the Barrows Mansion because they were told that they were adopted by Mr. Barrows. The Barrows Mansion had the rather curious addition of a clock tower, which the girls noticed before they entered the house.

The girls await the return of Mary, who was supposed to bring Mr. Barrows to them. Mary doesn’t return for a long time, so Jennifer leaves the foyer to find her. When Jennifer leaves the foyer, she hears a scream and returns to find the lights shut off.

What happens here when the player assumes control of Jennifer has unexpected effects on the plot and what ending you get. When I first played the game, I got the scene where Jennifer found someone in one of the bathrooms.

The room was filled with steam. Jennifer heard the shower running and she saw the curtain over the bathtub. She decided to pull it back. What she found was Laura suspended from her hands by the shower head. Then, a giant pair of scissors burst out of the tub.

That was my first encounter with Scissorman. His appearance triggers the song “Don’t Cry Jennifer”, a creepy chase theme.

The “Scissorman”, Bobby Barrows

Fighting or Hiding

CT is an example of a game where you have to hide from a relentless pursuer. Think also the Nemesis from Resident Evil. In most cases, you’ll be able to use certain areas or objects to hide from pursuers, but in some cases, Jennifer will be forced to fight them off to escape death. In these cases, Jennifer’s character portrait will flash as an indicator that you should mash the buttons to escape (proto-QTEs?).

Jennifer can’t fight multiple battles back to back. The color of the background in her portrait represents her health. Too many subsequent encounters and Jennifer risks getting killed anyway, but her health recovers over time.

You don’t get game overs in CT. You get Dead Ends.

Saving isn’t an issue in the game because it autosaves. When you load the game, it picks up from where you left off.

I’ll never look at a bathtub the same way again. O.O

I managed to find a car in the barn on the first floor.

I would not have even looked for CT if I had never learned that it existed from Wikipedia.

The last time I was so immersed in a game was when I first played Heavy Rain. Two HR references in one day! Yaaay!

August 22nd, 2010: One downside of CT is that it can be easy to get lost. The mansion is big, there is no map to access for reference, some areas are randomized from playthrough to playthrough, and some hallways are generic-looking, so it’s easy to get turned around. I seemed to have felt the sting getting lost pretty early on.

I found Insecticide, so maybe I can deal with the frickin’ bugs in that one room.

The Insecticide works, but don’t forget to take the Ham out of the fridge, or you’ll be in BIG trouble later.

Here I alluded to one of the branching paths of the game. In this path, Jennifer finds a starved and crazed man in a cell. This man is Mr. Simon Barrows, Mary’s husband and supposedly the one who adopted the girls. If you don’t give him the Ham from the fridge, he freaks out and attacks Jennifer. The game fades to black, so it doesn’t show what happens, but the crunching sounds make it perfectly clear.

When you’re not getting killed all the time, the game can get boring.

Unfortunately after this point, I suffered some drama with the emulator I was using at the time. It lost my saves for CT, so I got a new emulator and tried the game again on…

October 31st, 2010: Sure, it’s gimmicky. Sure, it’s boring in long stretches. But it’s probably the scariest “new” game I’ve played all year.

I WAS trying to beat the game before, but all my progress was inexplicably lost after my emulator crashed. 😡

This time, my path through the game was a little different.

This really deserves a better description, though I can’t recall all of the details anymore, so it has to be put in slightly generic terms.

Depending on where she goes and what she does, Jennifer discovers the truth of the Barrows family. She finds the corpse of her own father, Walter, in the Mansion. He left behind a note telling his story in case anyone ever found him…

He was a doctor who delivered the Barrows twins, Bobby (AKA Scissorman) and Dan. They ate Walter’s hand upon being born. Because Walter knew that the twins were evil and not of this world, he was trapped and left to die inside of the Mansion. He lasted three days until he perished on November 10th, 1986.

Jennifer’s path through the Mansion led her through a secret underground passage, where she sees a cloaked figure walking ahead of her. Jennifer follows the figure and finds Lotte on an altar. She tells Jennifer about the controls in the clock tower shortly before she dies.

Beyond the altar, Jennifer finds a room with a large red curtain in it. Behind the curtain is the horrible sight of Dan, a large and malformed creature who pursues her despite being pretty slow.

Dan Barrows

He corners her to a steep cliff that had a can of kerosene on top of it. In her escape, Jennifer knocks over the can and the kerosene spills onto a candle. The explosion seemingly kills Dan.

Finally, Jennifer finds an elevator that leads to the clock tower. She is once again menaced by Bobby, but she uses the controls to activate the tower, the sound of which bothers him so much that he falls from the tower and presumably, finally dies.

But then, there’s Mary to deal with.

Mary Barrows was the mother of Bobby and Dan. Mary was also the cloaked figure, the one that presumably sacrificed Lotte at the altar. Mary tries to strangle Jennifer, but she throws her off and she smashes into the circuit board for the clock tower, electrocuting her to death.

My reward? An animation of Jennifer, traumatized and standing on the balcony of the clock tower. The torrential rain dies out and the credits play. That’s Ending B.

Where the hell did Ann go?

Wow, I forgot how mad I got at game endings back then.

Despite my initial reaction to CT‘s ending, the game is still a devilish treat.