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Claire: Extended Cut

Claire: Extended Cut
0
COMMENTS
SCORE
80%%
DEVELOPER: Hailstorm Games
COMPANY: Hailstorm Games
PLATFORM: Xbox PlayStation PC / Mac
POSTED:

When cute, pixel art is used for evil. It's great.

There is a dearth of interesting, small scale horror games that truly succeed in actually making you think. It's been a long time since survival horror actually meant anything and, before Until Dawn last year, most gamers had probably given up hope of seeing anything to truly pique their interest.

It's refreshing then to see indie developer Hailstorm Games step into the breach with Claire, a small scale, 2D adventure that covers a host of challenging subject matter in its lean running time. The game has actually been out and about on Steam for a couple of years but this Extended Cut has seen a graphical overhaul, with new lighting and shadow effects, plus a few tweaks to the story so that this is as close to the teams original vision as possible.

So what is it?

It's technically a side scrolling 2D game, where you are tasked with exploring the bizarre world Claire finds herself in. Mainly taking the form of her memories, but twisted into ghoulish nightmare parodies of what she once knew, you'll explore a hospital, school and apartment block. All of which are large sprawling areas that you can hustle around with the aid of a map.

In gameplay terms it's a pretty simple sidescrolling adventure. You wander from room to room, using your map and the various doors to navigate, some might have items, some might have clues, some might have people or puzzles to solve. You can jump, but it's very rarely required, and you absolutely CANNOT kill anything (kind of). Enemies take the form of menacing shadow creatures that can chase you from room to room if you don't escape fast enough, you can duck into well lit safe areas to dodge them or hide in cupboards for a temporary reprieve. This last option doesn't seem to work as well as it should though, as enemies have a habit of just standing outside of your hidey spot until you emerge. Boo!

The game is fairly open ended, as while you have objectives to complete in the form of finding a light source, checking out avenues of escape and so on, you can also choose to search rooms for items to help you, and help those also stuck in this limbo. The beauty being that the more people you choose to help then the more of the story you'll uncover and the better the ending you'll receive.

Oh, you also have a pooch sidekick called Anubis. I've got to be honest I kinda feared for his life but it seems, beyond plot points and the fact he growls when enemies are near, he doesn't really serve much of a purpose. Plus, he vanished entirely for me in the last third of the game with no real explanation. Come back Anubis - I miss you despite your uselessness! It's a shame your doggie doesn't do much other than serve as a faithful companion but maybe that's the point.

In gameplay terms it's a pretty simple sidescrolling adventure. You wander from room to room, using your map and the various doors to navigate, some might have items, some might have clues, some might have people or puzzles to solve. You can jump, but it's very rarely required, and you absolutely CANNOT kill anything (kind of). Enemies take the form of menacing shadow creatures that can chase you from room to room if you don't escape fast enough, you can duck into well lit safe areas to dodge them or hide in cupboards for a temporary reprieve. This last option doesn't seem to work as well as it should though, as enemies have a habit of just standing outside of your hidey spot until you emerge. Boo!

It sounds basic but the look and feel of the game is what helps to elevate it. Environments constantly shift and Claire herself alters in appearance and age as she experiences traumatic memories from her past and present. The environments feel menacing, enemies feel relentless and the fact you have a regular health meter alongside one for your sanity speaks volumes. Physical damage isn't the only thing to be afraid of.

The story is wonderfully told, with plenty of nuance and understanding, our protagonist isn't perfect and some of her memories aren't to be trusted either. Finding and helping other lost souls helps her understand herself and the eerie world she finds herself in and the ending, depending on which outcome you find, can be rather harrowing or upbeat - and everywhere inbetween.

This is an ideal way to spend a night or two. The game clocks in at around five or six hours if you explore every nook and cranny, plus you can always try again for a different ending once you hit the finale. There are a few niggles around the map not logging objects correctly, enemy AI and random bugs but hopefully the upcoming patch will deal with them. Still despite a few flaws this is an intriguing and nailbiting way to pass the time - and one that will leave you thinking long after it's over, which is something few games accomplish.

 

 

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