It’s starting to get to that time of year when you need to start planning for Halloween. Will you be dressing up and hitting the town or will you be settling in for a night of scares in front of the T.V.? Of course a growing number of gamers will be in the market for some spooky fun on their favorite console and Claire: Extended Cut is one of the first this season to hit the XBLA Fans desk, that might tick that particular box. Claire: Extended Cut is a survival horror game from three-man indie team Hailstorm Games which originally released back in 2014 on PC. The studio has now brought the game to Xbox One with a few updates and additional scenes and with a fancy Extended Cut subtitle.
Here’s what I liked:
Fascinating story – The real highlight of Claire: Extended Cut is it’s excellent narrative. We pick up the story as Claire is visiting her sick mother in hospital. On her way to get some coffee, she starts having visions, and we soon learn that these are the same as the nightmares she is already plagued with but they now seem to be penetrating her waking hours. As the game progresses we learn more about Claire’s nightmares, mental health and the circumstances which drove her there. The game touches on themes of grief, suicide and broken family life in a touching yet frank and honest manner. The story is set across three main areas, Hospital, School and Apartment as we delve further into Claire’s past to discover her secret. The game is also said to have five different story endings, though I only found the one, depending on how you deal with Claire’s visions and the various lost souls that you meet along the way.
Feeling helpless – One of the first things you’ll notice is that Claire doesn’t have any weapons and in fact there is no combat in this game at all. That doesn’t mean you can’t die though and various ghostly figures will do their best to torment, cause harm and generally scare the bejesus out of you. Claire’s only defense is her ability to run and hide. If something does manage to cause you physical harm, there are various energy drinks to be found which can restore Claire’s health and panic levels. I played the game on normal difficulty but there is also a Nightmare difficulty where Claire can actually die from fear as well as low health. Fleeing feels initially unnatural when we’re so used to fighting enemies straight on, but it does get you to re-think your playstyle and strengthens Claire’s narrative and feeling of helplessness in her situation.
Creeptacular – Claire: Extended Cut may be described as a survival horror game, but lets be honest, I didn’t actually expect it to be frightening. So I was fairly surprised to find that the game was genuinely chilling. Claire’s visions reminded me of Silent Hill at it’s best. The ghostly figures which chase you throughout the game looked straight out of a Japanese horror film. The game also uses the Xbox controller’s rumble feature to great affect during particularly terrifying sections, causing me to jump on more than one occasion.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Outdated graphics – This one is probably down to personal tastes, but I have to admit, I wasn’t keen on the graphics. The game sports some retro 16-bit style graphics but the 16-bit era is not one I enjoy to look at. Granted, Hailstorm Games have done a good job in getting some detail into the game but the jaggies were too much for my eyeballs. Whilst some pixel art can be fun, cute and even stylish, these graphics just look old fashioned and dated. The lighting was also a little on the dark side, even for a horror title, but I was able to turn up the brightness settings to counter this.
Needing directions – Since Claire: Extended Cut is primarily a survival exploration game, being lost is probably supposed to be part of the horror and challenge that Claire is experiencing. I felt I was often lost for far too long, which caused any horror I was experiencing soon to slowly turn into boredom. The map system is supposed to work similar to Silent Hill, automatically marking off barriers and locked doors as well as any people that you meet, however, currently it appears to be bugged as only save points were being checked off for me. The long labyrinth like corridors you need to keep stumbling through all start to look the same, and I soon found myself getting tired of the aimless wandering. The problem is further exacerbated if you happen run into of one the ghost-like creatures, forcing you to run back the way you came and hide, only to have to start the long trek again.
Claire: Extended Cut is a fairly short game coming in at just under 5 hours, and it may be even shorter if you don’t get as lost as I did! However, it does have decent replay value, especially if you want to experience all endings, and it’s fascinating and well written story is a real draw. The game’s puzzles could also pad out your playtime depending on your flair for brainteasers though once you’ve completed them, they’re unlikely to cause any issue on a second or third run. I can’t say that Claire: Extended Cut will appeal to everyone. However, some fun can be had by those who enjoy narrative and puzzle style adventures, especially as we fast approach the spooky season.
Score: Reader’s Choice
Claire: Extended Cut was developed and published by Hailstorm Games on Xbox One. It released on September 6 2016 for $14.99. A copy was provided by Hailstorm Games for review purposes.