Horror games are a genre of gaming that has been around for a long time. Starting with titles like Alone in the Dark in the early 90’s and being revolutionized with games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, the horror genre is infamous for haunting gamers minds and hearts for years.
HailStorm Games Inc. produced the horror title Claire on the PC in the past but did extensive work in expanding the game in making Claire: Extended Cut for the PlayStation Vita & PlayStation 4. With this new release of the game on consoles, does it haunt us like great horror games before it? Or is this fright train have issues holding it back?
The story starts with Claire as a young girl dreaming of her favorite TV Show but quickly waking up to finding her parents vanishing in her home. Nightmarish beings drag her on the floor before waking up again in adulthood, sitting with her sick mother in the hospital. She gets some coffee on one of the lower floors but soon, the whole location becomes a haunted nightmare for Claire.
What makes the story interesting, like any great psychological horror tale, is the character of Claire. We see her from childhood too her adult self, making us connect with her character while the horrors around her appear. Many little touches in the games world (TV’s with her childhood TV show appearing, a dog following her around, ect) imply that not unlike Silent Hill 2, the locations she visits originate or have some connection to her. Solving the mystery and interacting with world you is key in developing the story and I really enjoyed this plot. I felt invested in the Claire’s escape from madness and it matched what I expect out of a horror tale.
Gameplay & Design
Gameplay in Claire is an exploration-based horror adventure, where you cannot attack foes but rather explore to solve puzzles, learn about the location and get to new areas on the map. Controls for the game are very responsive with movement being mapped to the Analog Stick or D-Pad, pressing the triggers opening up your map/innovatory menu, holding down Square makes you run, pressing Triangle makes you jump and pressing the X button allows you to interact with various objects & items.
One gameplay mechanic is a ‘condition’ system where as you explore or get attacked by creatures, your health state decreases. This is very manageable, as the game offers three difficulty options (Story, Normal, Nightmare) so if you are struggling, you have options to play with. You can restore your condition state by eating/drinking items you find in the game world.
The puzzles are enjoyable to solve, as they make you know your location well and the feeling of dread as you explore makes the horror even stronger. One touch I really liked is that you don’t have to hunt down for a map, you have one automatically when you start the game for every location you visit. This helps a lot in exploring, as despite being in 2D you have doors leading to different locations on the map, so this makes knowing where you have to go a non-issue.
One thing I do need to point out that while the map system is very useful and exploring the world is enjoyable, it is easy to get lost. You get used to this and over come this issue the more you play the game & understand you are in the game world but it is something worth pointing out.
Overall, the gameplay in Claire is solid, with great controls and a great map system ensuring you know where to go despite getting lost sometimes.
Replay Value & Lasting Appeal
Claire: Extended Cut offers a lot, with the game lasting 4-6 hours on a single playthrough in the Story difficulty option but with different endings to unlock & with further challenge provided by the normal and hard difficulty levels, you can get a lot of playtime out of the game.
This part is key in a horror title, as it dictates the mood & tone you are experiencing. And Claire: Extended Cut accomplishes this perfectly. The pixel art is very detailed and expressive, with little animations from the Claire standing out. How the creatures move and the various graphical effects when Nightmarish things happen on screen really stand out and create an oppressing mood that unsettles you.
Musically, it is very fitting for the games world, as the sound design is top notch. The creatures you face sound very creepy and little things like footsteps as Claire walks or the peaceful but still unsettling tune that plays when near a save point stood out to me.
The soundtrack is great too, with oppressive tracks that not only set up the atmosphere of the game but match the different locations Claire visits. You can find a link to the games soundtrack here.
Overall, the games presentation is well done and it looks fantastic on the Vita’s OLED screen. Runs at a very steady frame rate and I had no issue with glitches and performance as I was playing the game.
Story: 4.5 out of 5 / Gameplay & Design: 4 out of 5 / Replay Value: 3.5 out of 5 / Presentation: 5 out of 5
Claire: Extended Cut is a great addition to the Vita’s library of horror titles, with its interesting story and enjoyable gameplay providing a great horror experience. The presentation is on point as well with great pixel art and some excellent design work. While the game isn’t the longest horror game, it has plenty to offer with different endings and various difficulty options. I recommend this game if you enjoy horror titles, more so if you enjoy the genre and own a PS Vita.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Claire: Extended Cut was reviewed on the PS Vita platform with a review code provided by the developer. The game is also out on the PS4 and is cross-buy with the Vita release. Its currently $14.99 on the NA PlayStation Network Storefront.