Insert Disk collects Clock Tower: Ghost Head (JP)/The Struggle Within (US) and the Door Of Fear Demo (JP), all for the PlayStation 1 (PS1).
Today’s retro game review is part 4 of a massive 6 part Halloween special. This episode I look at the second 3D Clock Tower game. Specifically; Clock Tower : Ghost Head (JP)/The Struggle Within (US) and the Door Of Fear Demo (JP), all for the Play Station 1 (PS1).
This classic horror gaming series broke new ground in its first 3D outing of the game. The PlayStation was due a sequel known as collects Clock Tower Ghost Head in Japan and Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within in the US. As a bonus collectable the demo known as “The Door of Fear” was also released.
This time we are off to Japan, no Scissorman, Jennifer or the Barrows Mansion. This time we follow a young school girl called Alyssa as she comes to terms with her split identity and Struggle Within.
Greetings and welcome to episode 4 of this special 6 part miniseries of Clock Tower. So far we’ve covered the chronological releases, pricing, Clock Tower, The First Fear, Clock Tower 2 and The Door of Fear. If you missed any of the series so far I recommend going back to watch it first. Don’t worry, I’ll wait here for you. In this episode we are taking a look at Clock Tower Ghost Head, also known as Clock Tower The Struggle Within in the US.
It was 1998 and Human Entertainment decided it was time to shake up the series. Jenifer’s plot line now seemingly abandoned the game now picks up a story of a 17-year-old high school called Alyssa. The plot is set up by explaining that Alyssa’s soul originally had a different personality named Mr. Bates residing in it. After therapy Alyssa begins to remember her association with Mr Bates through her mysterious amulet. As Alyssa arrives at her father’s friend Phillip Tate’s house in small town of Salinas it becomes clear that there is some sort of curse relating to a character called Maxwell. Upon trying to destroy the curse Alyssa loses consciousness and awaking in hospital. All is not well however as the hospital is filled with zombies. Before long she is stalked by a man with a hatchet and wearing an oni (or devil) mask named George Maxwell. From there the plot goes even stranger with tales of cursed twins and revenge.
As you might expect, this is all a radical departure from the happenings in Norway. The common thread though is the game play. It’s the same point and click method and mechanics of light puzzle solving combined with evading an ever looming stalker. Initially you’ll find yourself walking around a large house making all kinds of gruesome discoveries. It is straight in to the action in contrast to the previous game. There are some interesting subtleties to the game as you activate the amulet. Certain puzzles and places can only be accessed by using the amulet. This provides that extra level of game play missing in some of the other titles in the series. The voice acting is obviously intended to be creepy but comes off as a little comedic at times. For a series that is quite confusing to track there’s what must have been a very confusing moment for US audiences as Alyssa looks at a poster for The First Fear that has the Japanese artwork. It’s all a rich tapestry though so interesting to see the Japanese /Western crossover quirks. Moments of the game aren’t exactly what I’d call scary but there are at least moments that are genuinely creepy. Moments where you are being pursued by a young girl can get quite tense. As with much horror it can come off as slightly cliché but the execution is really solid so I did have a positive experience whilst playing.
So, how does it play? Well I have to say straight out that I’m not a huge fan of this game. Having enjoyed the character development of Jennifer and Bobby in the first entries this segway in to Alyssa’s story just doesn’t really fit. For that reason it’s almost best to see this game as a spin off rather than a numerical sequel, just in case this series wasn’t complicated enough. In the US the game was released as the Struggle Within. I can’t help thinking that marketed as a direct sequel to the first 3D clock Tower this wouldn’t tie together as a series very well. In some respects I’m not too disappointed that the UK didn’t receive a release of the game. Of all the entries in the series, this game just sticks out as awkward and confusing. Most of the game play mechanics are the same as before. It just lacks that continuity with the other entries in the series. It’s certainly not as bad as some online reviews suggest, it just doesn’t do anything different or contribute anything new to the series. It does act as a nice time filler though and if you are in to your horror games it’s an overall enjoyable experience.
In terms of packaging for the Japanese edition the front cover is acceptable along with an engaging back cover. Inside expect a spine card, promotional material, CD and of course a game manual.
The manual also departs from the style of previous entries. It’s much more dark and storyboard driven. Overall though a nice package. To collect this Japanese edition look to pay around £10 or around $15. For the US release, the Struggle Within expect to pay closer to the $80 mark. Although this is a title that seems to be gaining in price despite it’s rather mixed reviews. For around $15 Ghost Head is well worth collecting. For the US edition Struggle Within, well it’s going to be exactly that. Parting $80 for a distinctly average game will certainly be a struggle for all but the core fan base.
Personally I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add this one to my collection. I really couldn’t defend it as an essential title though had I not been a collector of the rest of the series. This was the last PS1 outing for the Clock Tower series, it was also the last game that Human Entertainment would make. After a 4 year break the rights had moved to Capcom and the next release would be on the next gen console of the PS2. It would also be the first time that Japan, United Kingdom and the United states would receive a chronologically similar title release. The PS2 has landed and so had the long anticipated Clock Tower 3.
Join me next time as I open up Sony’s black box to witness a re-birth of the series.