|In Clock Tower II, you play Alyssa, a seventeen-year-old girl who
has just arrived to visit some family friends. She finds the house mysteriously empty, and
herself locked in. With nothing else to do, she has to wander around the house and try to
get to the bottom of a mystery that gets stranger by the minute. On top of it all, she has
a psychotic alter ego that likes to take over her personality from time to time and make
her do evil things. I hate it when that happens to me, so she has my sympathy so far. Any
game where the heroine wanders around a house evading undead and solving puzzles is bound
to draw comparison to the Resident Evil series of games. Clock Tower II attempts to create
a similar survival horror atmosphere and for the most part it succeeds, except that
its not scary, not fun, and the puzzles suck.
Clock Tower II uses a point and click style of control. Click on an area you want Alyssa to investigate, and she shuffles on over to give it a look. If its something noteworthy she remarks on it, does something to it, or allows you to pick it up and save it for later. To use items during the game you select them from the top of the screen and click the curser where you want to use them. This style of game is rapidly fading away, and theres a reason why. Its just not as fun as actually controlling the character. Add to that the point and click interface, which is anything but easy to use, and youre in problematic territory. Sometimes the character doesnt respond at all, and sometimes she responds incorrectly. There are instances in the game where you come out of a room to be confronted by a baddie. After executing a successful juke, you ditch the enemy and sprint toward the door at the other end of the room. Freedom! Nope, not quite. Alyssa gets scared, turns around halfway to the door, mysteriously phases through the enemy thats following her, and runs for the door she just came in from. Theres not a thing you can do about it. If the room youre stuck in is a dead end it becomes a major pain.
Alyssa can also fight the evil doers, if she so desires, but once again the gameplay makes very little sense. You have to point the curser at things you want to use as weapons. Alyssa is too kind hearted to pick up good weapons that are laying around her house, like guns and swords. These weapons are reserved for her alter ego, Mr. Bates. I can live with this, not a problem. If Alyssa prefers to lay down a beating with a candlestick instead of a sword, thats fine. The problem comes because there is no consistency to what you can use as weapons. The things that look like weapons are out, so you have to improvise. You can use things like chairs for weapons, but not all chairs. Only the special chairs-- which, incidently, look the same as the non special chairs-- make good weapons. You might run by a table with ten chairs in front of it without being able to pick any of them up, then run into a room with one chair and chuck it at the bad guy. The worst part is when the bad guy gets back up and chases you out of the room, past all of the chairs that you still cant pick up.
The puzzles are also much too random to make much sense. Sometimes you cant gain entrance to a particular area unless youve thoroughly inspected another, seemingly unrelated area. Solving puzzles relies on one part random chance and three parts methodically clicking on everything you find that looks remotely important. Puzzles will be solved, and opponents defeated, not by cunning or skill, but by copious amounts of clicking and wandering.
Clock Tower II clearly wants to be frightening, but once again comes up short. Alyssa is treated to all sorts of gruesome discoveries along her journey, such as heads rolling around on the floor and legs stuck in the toilet. You wont be frightened though, the graphics and the presentation arent that good. Not even Alyssa seems to be that worried about it. She might see the severed green leg floating in her toilet and say, "Only a leg!" as if it would have been less surprising to see the entire body in the toilet. In any event her tone sounds less like, "Oh my God, theres a severed leg in my toilet!" and more like, "Wow, theres a leg in my toilet. That sucks. I want to go to the mall".
The instruction book says that Alyssa is seventeen, but she looks, sounds, and acts like shes about twelve. Saying shes seventeen is a thin shield designed to deflect criticism that would arise if they actually had a twelve-year old running around getting waxed. Some of the more gruesome moments in the game involve Alyssa getting stabbed or attacked by some form of monster. Sure its disturbing, but its not frightening. Portraying violence to children is a cheap and easy way to shock people, and it requires no planning, no creativity, and no story to back it up. Fear is the sense of something just around the corner, the menace just outside of your field of vision waiting to pounce when you least suspect it. What you get instead is blunt, exploitive, and fleeting.
But how does it look? The graphics would have been average to decent in 1997, but its 1999 and theyre clearly antiquated. This is a severe problem in a point and click style game that offers little more than the room youre supposed to be exploring. With such a heavy reliance on graphics, its strange that they dont look better than they do.
If your looking for some good survival horror adventuring, look elsewhere. If youre a huge fan of point and click games and are still determined to play Clock Tower II, then rent first. As for the rest of the gaming universe, its definitely not worth the time or money.