For the longest time, I could not enjoy horror games. Most were either not actually scary or were scary in the wrong way. I had never actually played games like Silent Hill or more recent games like Outlast. After playing these games, I figured out how important horror games are to the gaming industry. When developers manage to create a tense environment or enemies that are legitimately creepy (or preferably terrifying), players will be the ones to truly benefit. If developers fall short or create a less than stellar world to explore, horror games tend to fall flat on their face. For me, Claire falls right between these two possibities.
Claire: Extended Cut sports some very convoluted areas that help to keep the sense of confusion and lost-ness. These areas were initially interesting to explore while attempting to learn more about Claire herself and the world around her. The problem is that these areas become frustrating once it becomes clear there is only one way through or that the path through is very hard to see. These complicated and confusing areas feel very reminiscent of Silent Hill 2 and it’s apartment or hospital levels. I feel Claire’s levels share too much with Silent Hill 2’s because both games suffer from the obnoxious ‘locked door’ or ‘broken door’ phenomenon. This is when there could be 1000 doors and 997 of them would be inaccessible. While I understand that this is part of what makes the world feel whole and helps keep players confused, this phenomenon is very frustrating and often takes away from the fear when being forced to explore the same area for a long time.
I felt the same feeling while trying to figure out Silent HIll 2’s areas. At first, I felt anxious and was dreading the next time the game would throw something at me. Although, shortly after running through the same area over and over again, I realized how little the areas actually scared me. Whether it be because I learned where all the enemies were (and how they worked) or I was getting frustrated because I could not figure out where I’m actually meant to go. I want to be completely clear here. If you, as a player, can make consistent progress throughout the game, then Claire would be a wonderful, albeit short, game. Personally, my first playthrough took roughly 4 hours and I managed to collect a lot of items and discover many optional areas. In these areas, I met several characters that I could choose to talk to and help.
At the end of this playthrough, I was given an ending based on my decisions throughout the game such as what I said to who, who I chose to help, and how well I maintained my sanity levels. All of this gives players one more thing to focus on while they traverse the pixelated, 2.5D game world. In fact, getting around the creepy world of Claire feels familiar and easy to understand. Walking around, interacting with doors and objects, hiding, and using some of the menu items works well enough. My only complaints would be that item management isn’t very intuitive and using the map can be a true pain since ‘marking the map’ seems to be kind of useless. Either way, playing the game felt natural even though I’ve never played a game in quite the same style as Claire.
I’m avoiding talking about what players will do throughout the game or what kind of challenges and enemies players will meet. This is because there aren’t that many ‘enemies’ in the game and there aren’t that many puzzles in the game either. This is all because the entire game consists of three main (and very complex) areas. These areas all have a ton of useless doors and hallways that either can’t be accessed or must be unlocked from behind first. This wouldn’t be an issue at all if there were a way to actually mark the map so that each of these useless doors were easier to avoid when players become lost. Although, I do feel like being lost is meant to be a major element in the game even if it wouldn’t be hard to figure out the exact path you’d need to take to quickly get through the game after the initial playthrough.
All in all, Claire is a visually pleasing game (all except the blindingly bright white screens) that starts out spooky and really gets players into a sense of dread. Through eerie sounds, creepy NPCs, and a complex story, Claire manages to retain it’s horror status without being all the scary after the initial area. I did have a lot of fun playing Claire and was only ever bothered when I simply could not figure out where to go. As a fan of games like Silent Hill, I can say that Claire is a fun, short horror game with interesting characters and a complex plot.
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