Nostalgia Cuts Deep
By Edwin Velez
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on September 6th, 2016 for Xbox One (Also on PS4, PSVita, and PC)
Developer: Hailstorm Games Publisher: Hailstorm Games
When Silent Hills was officially canned and all things Kojima/Konami ceased to exist, many fans of the series were left to wonder what’s next. With only light murmurs throughout blogs and such, no official Silent Hill title has been announced since. If you need to get your fill of a Silent Hill type feel, Claire Extended Cut will be that placeholder. Claire is a 2D survival horror game developed and published by Hailstorm games. Within the first 30 minutes you will feel some striking tones that embody the fear and atmosphere of the aforementioned Silent Hill series. Thankfully the game standouts out as an original piece all while emulating that nostalgic feeling for fans of true 90’s survival horror games.
During a regular trip to the hospital to visit her mother, Claire notices some things start to become, well, irregular. Her real world nightmare of struggling with a brain-dead relative quickly becomes one of dark fantasies, with shadowy halls lining her venture back to her mother’s room. These halls are not empty however, and in these shadows lurk dark and cryptic figures, looking to harm Claire. You need to not only avoid these creatures, but keep yourself calm if you want to survive. The game features no weapons, and instead puts emphasis on out running, hiding from, and just generally avoiding these creatures at all costs. One of the titles key features is a stress/fear monitoring system, which reacts to the way you play. It would seem that this is from how well you handle situation, either being calm, cool, and collective or jumping easily and darting towards the nearest door. It is a neat feature, as a strong and unexpected vibrate from the controller is usually enough to get a good real life panic out of me. When you are hurt or panicky, you can take a quick peek into your inventory to try and remedy the situation. Usually a nice cold cola or hot coffee can heal either of these issues respectively, with a variety of other items available to do the same in different strides. In addition to that, the game features both a lighter and a flashlight to help guide you through the dimly lit halls. Keep an eye on that flashlight though, because batteries are limited.
I can easily see this game being much harder on the more difficult settings where things like fear have an actual impact on your health, but my playthrough on Normal was a bit more relaxed which I did not mind. Looking back now, I may have found more challenge in the others, as Normal was a bit of a breeze. The hardest part about the game on Normal was using the map. It is not the worst system, but across the three different environments you will visit, it is incredibly easy to get lost. The map looks a lot like Silent Hills maps looked, with “x”s and circles covering the spots you have been and where you need to go. The unfortunate part is how much you will have to look at it because a lot of the spaces look the same, and on a 2D plane navigation is not always the easiest aspect. It still worked, but the option of a transparent mini-map would have been a quick fix. While you roam the halls, you are accompanied by your dog Anubis. He will growl when danger is around, alerting you to the presence of enemies before you actually see them in most cases. At least he is a friend to have along in this twisted nightmare.
The game is paced incredibly well. While the narrative was sometimes hard to follow, the story at hand had some deeply grounded, realistic tones that fit well. The game is anywhere between three and five hours and does not over stay its welcome within that time frame. The game features text dialogue, with some encounters having allowing you to pick the responses. Some of these tie in to what ending you will receive, as well as other decisions you make having a hand in that as well. Occasionally the dialogue was lackluster and did not do much for Claire or her character, but in the peak segments story wise it usually was great. As far as tone setting, the eerie music and noises are fantastic and compliment the overall setting. It is as nostalgic as it gets when it comes to classic survival horror. The bit-style graphics are also a welcome change of pace to what is typically seen in the now modernized genre.
Claire is a solid, spooky experience. While not always scary, it does what it aims to by inducing panic within the player. I wish it was a little more inclusive with objectives, but aside from a few puzzles and fetch quests, your main objective is simply to survive. But again, that is what the title aims for, I just wish there was just something more to dive into. At the end of the day, Claire gets the job done, embodying creepy themes all while keeping the narrative on track. With a solid story and great look, Claire is fit for any fan of 90’s survival horror games that started it all.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
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