Developer: Hailstorm Games
Publisher: Hailstorm Games
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Platforms: PS4 and PS Vita (Reviewed), Xbox One
Disclaimer: The following game was reviewed on the PS4 and PS Vita. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
Survival Horror games have a unique aspect about them, one which allows for different styles of innovation. These days, the horror genre is going through a renaissance of sorts with it gaining some mainstream credibility. However, it seems the smaller scale indie horror titles, like Lone Survivor or now Claire: Extended Cut, truly are the crown jewels of the horror genre with their careful dedication to ambiance and atmosphere.
Silence In The Hospital
Claire is young woman who endured a rather painful childhood which led to her being separated from her father and younger brother. She now practically lives in the hospital, where she takes care of her bedridden mother whose health had declined soon after. She also suffers from frequent nightmares, which start to take over reality when one night she leaves her mother’s side to get some coffee from the cafeteria, only to find the hospital transforming before her eyes into a dark and corrupted version of itself where monsters patrol and lost souls wander. Claire’s goal is discover why her world has become so twisted and find a way to escape.
The story is told through a variety of methods, ranging from conversations with a canine companion to fully playable flashback sequences. Silent Hill comparisons will come into play, as we slowly learn more about Claire’s past, her family, and her wishes, which definitely works to keep you hooked into the game. There are also many different non-player characters present and these all offer optional tasks, which usually involve finding an item they lost or having a chat with them. It was the interaction with these characters which made Claire an even more fascinating character and how many of these people you help also affects what ending you will get.
Quite possibly the aspect Claire: EC does best is its atmosphere. The sound and art design really come together to create something which will manage to make you jump a few times. Visually, Claire: EC has some impressive 2D pixel art which, as mentioned earlier, may remind you of Lone Survivor. The environments are very dark and occasionally contain some intense imagery, like walls which look like living flesh, accompanied by unsettling noises. Even though the atmosphere is fantastic, and exploration is a core aspect of horror games, sometimes exploring the environments can feel a little tedious. The environments are unnecessarily large and labyrinth like and, despite having a map, it’s not always helpful.
Shadows Of Solace
The game plays much like Lone Survivor where you control your character in a 2D setting. However, the game does not encourage combat in the slightest and advises you to instead seek safety from the enemies who are absolutely relentless. You can tell great care went into making this game due to how polished it is, as there are various levels of detail to everything from the sound to the animations of the sprites. Not to mention, the controls are silky smooth and nicely thought out, so you won’t be getting cluttered or frustrated due to controls.
In this game you get to have two different light sources, a Zippo and a flashlight. The flashlight requires you to scavenge for batteries and can be further controlled by moving the right stick, only if you are not moving yourself. Restricting advanced flashlight movement to standing idle really helps the game and keeps it from getting frustrating control wise. This way, the path in front of you remains illuminated and you don’t have to continuously worry about your right stick movement every single time.
As you make your way through the dilapidated hospital, Claire has two statistics which players need to keep an eye on: health and sanity. Witnessing scary scenarios, having to do something nasty, or seeing monsters reduces sanity – which makes the environment more nightmarish and will eventually affect the player’s health, too. Some monsters aren’t content with just showing themselves, though, and will actively chase you down, a problem which can be solved by putting a few doors between them and Claire, but getting hit will reduce Claire’s health, which will eventually kill her. By finding items like coffee, soda, and candy – or by taking a rest, these two factors can both be restored.
A few Shortcomings
The problem is when dealing with any sort of enemy in this game is a tiring ordeal which can lead to many cheap game-overs. Claire has no way to defend herself from even the most minor of threats, so your only option is to run away and hide, but despite of all the caffeine and sugar this girl has in her system, she can’t bring up the energy to run for longer than five seconds. This can make chase sequences very difficult because enemies aren’t constrained to just one area and will break down doors if you decide to leave, meaning her fatigue will usually kick in before you can find a second door to go through. Hiding spots are also an option, but rarely are these placed in locations where they can be useful.
Navigation is also hit-or-miss with many of the rooms and hallways feeling the same and because of this, you have to constantly bring up your map. Since Claire is a 2D sidescroller, when looking at the map screen, it’s presented in an overhead view. This quickly leads to some confusion about what way left or right might be on a part of a map which says you are going up or down, and it’s not always consistent what direction left or right will take you when going up or down on the map screen. This can become a problem when you are running from an enemy and you either end up going in circles, or just have no idea where you are running to at all. Also, there were only a couple of glitches in the game which closed out the game entirely, but need to be mentioned nonetheless.
Overall Claire: Extended Cut is a flawed but ultimately enjoyable horror game. Although it does still have some bugs to be worked out, it retains a lot of great horror game elements and most importantly, a plot which not only we can relate to, but one which will keep you going just to see and understand more of Claire’s journey. It’s an intriguing/atmospheric experience, one which is worth coming back to.