Head Games: Clock Tower (1997)

Freddy, Jason, Leatherface, Michael Myers….their names strike fear into the hearts of horny coeds, babysitters, and backpackers worldwide. They’ve hacked, slashed, and chopped their way across the silver screen and rightfully carved out a name for themselves one dead hormonal teenager at a time and, despite all of that, they still have nothing on Scissorman.

This brings us to Clock Tower (1997), a game that puts you in the shoes of one of Scissorman’s victims, leaving their survival in your hands as you struggle not to end up a human sishkabob by night’s end. Released at the end of the 90’s, just in time for Halloween, it’s truly one of the most original games to have ever graced the Playstation console. A click and point adventure, Clock Tower is actually a sequel to a previous SNES game that has never been officially released outside of Japan, making it the second in the series, but the first to see a worldwide audience. Clock Tower picks up one year after the events of the first, where heroine Jennifer Simpson has since been adopted and undergoing psychiatric treatment to help cope with the horrors she witnessed at the hands of Bobby Barrows (Scissorman) and his psychotic family. All seems well, Jennifer is on to her way to leading a normal life, the Barrows’ clan is deader than Dillinger, and the Spice Girls are still relevant. Life is good, right? Well, faster than you can say “Cropsy” , Scissorman makes his comeback, slaughtering a security guard right in front of poor Jennifer. All that therapy for nothing.

I know what you’re saying….”How can you compare this goofy, hobbling, psycho with a pair of oversized garden shears to the likes of the legends mentioned above?!” Easy. Play the game and you’ll have your answer. Clock Tower is a virtual slasher movie that oozes atmosphere out the yin-yang. YOU are the victim. YOU are fighting to survive the night. This is the purest form of survival horror you will ever find. Scissorman stalks you relentlessly through the level, forcing you to rely on your wits and environment to save your skin. Bean him over the head with a potted plant, hide in a bathroom stall and pray he doesn’t find you, throw a bottle of ammonia in his face, do whatever it takes to stay alive. Like any good slasher villain though, Scissorman can take a beating and come back for more….you never know when or where he’ll pop up next. Is he laying in wait inside that locker you need to pass? Or his hiding inside the elevator, poised to strike when you open the doors? This is where the game derives most of its tension from, and it works extremely well.

Scissorman has what it takes to hang with the best of them….and Clock Tower (and its Japan only prequel) more than prove it. Two sequels followed, Clock Tower 2: The Struggle Within (which has nothing to do with either of its predecessors) , and Clock Tower 3 for the PS2, but nothing beats the cheesy dialogue, hammy acting, and pure 80’s slasher fun of the first (err…second if you live in Japan.) Pop the pocorn, lock the doors, hide the safety scissors, and dust off the Playstation….you won’t regret it.

Written by Joe Hasson

Joe is just your average ordinary friendly neighborhood sociopath. When not busy watching Elvira reruns, staying up all night playing Splatterhouse, or re-enacting scenes from Conan the Barbarian to a horrified public, he can be found diligently writing his first comic book, taking his first steps into the realm of special effects mastery, and building his hybrid Megaforce flying motorcycle/time traveling DeLorean. He also plays a mean game of Pac-Man.

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