Clock Tower follows a group of teenage orphans who were adopted by a wealthy man by the name of Simon Barrows. The game begins with them making their way to the Barrows mansion, being lead by Ms. Mary, their caseworker. Almost immediately after the group arrives at the mansion, things start to seem amiss as Mary eventually leaves the orphans alone in the foyer to locate Simon. After a while, Jennifer Simpson, the main protagonist, decides to follow Mary, who is nowhere to be found. Immediately after that realization, Jennifer hears a scream from the foyer. Concerned for her friends, Jennifer returns to an empty entrance and must explore the massive mansion to find out just what is going on. Unfortunately, she soon learns that her friends are not playing hide and seek and are instead the unfortunate victims of a mysterious hedge clipper-wielding serial killer known as Scissorman.
Regarding gameplay, Jennifer must explore the mansion using her wits and the items she comes across. True to the essential nature of survival horror, Jennifer is unable to use weapons and is forced to hide from or evade Scissorman, who can attack at essentially any time. Instead of featuring a classic health display, the player is encouraged to use the image of Jennifer at the lower left of the screen to determine the endurance level of the young protagonist. If the background color of her picture is blue, this indicates that Jennifer has a high endurance and is able to withstand some damage. However, this endurance winds down as Jennifer runs away from danger, and when she is running low on energy, the player must exercise caution as Jennifer is more likely to trip over her own feet or even succumb to some of the dangers the mansion and Scissorman pose.
The replay value of the game is rather high as it features multiple endings, random room changes and item swaps, all designed to keep the player on his or her toes.
Although like many movies released around this time, the story of Clock Tower essentially boils down to a young teenager forced to flee from a killer, the game is more than a slasher story. Its supernatural elements and downright tense atmosphere make Clock Tower stand alone in this category and even renders the ‘slasher’ description inadequate.
Though it was never officially released in North America, a patch to the Clock Tower ROM featuring English translations is available and has arguably helped to spawn interest in the title for gamers unable to read Japanese.
Unlike many games on the SNES, this game is rather dark and morbid. Although this game is nearly 18 years old, some of the scenes and iconic moments are still startling and disturbing. From the first time you discover the fates of Jennifer’s friends to having Scissorman jump out and scare the living daylights out of you, this game will give you nightmares, and you won’t soon forget the sound of those dreaded massive shears.
Since the first game, a few sequels have been released. In my opinion, none of them capture the spirit and the essence which made this original game memorable.
In all, Clock Tower is presents an unforgettable gaming experience that few games have been able to replicate.