We all know the story of The War Of The Worlds. In fact if you don’t, get out as you are no longer welcome reading this article. It was the radio show that frightened your grandparents, the film that enthralled your parents, the musical score that has engaged so many, and the American remake which has disappointed almost everyone who watched it. And it was whilst I was watching the American remake that my distracted mind stumbled on a question I had not asked myself before; if I was an invading alien, how would I go about taking over the planet? That is why today I am writing about Destroy All Humans, the greatest game you’ve never played.
The 1980s to 1990s was undoubtedly the era of the platformer. Bearing witness, as it did, to the spiritual birth of the console era proper, the period can boast many of the best examples of the genre. In those heady days of discovery, the games industry had something of a wild west feel to it; a feeling of a new frontier with fantastic new discoveries being unveiled seemingly every week.
From this brave new world came some of the true luminaries of the industry. The stomping ground of titans like Sonic and Mario, the final decades of the 20th century set the tone for what could be argued to be platforming perfection, refining the genre to the point of virtual perfection.
All I wanted in my early teens was a Sega Saturn. I was desperate for one, however my mum would never buy me one. She was more interested in making sure that I went outside, socialised and got some exercise. Because of this, I can’t really remember how I ended up with this game. It’s also why I hate the outside world and actively avoid conversation with other people. Nevertheless, what I do know is that Delta Force 2 was my first proper first person shooter and formed my expectations of the genre all the way up until Call of Duty Finest Hour.
The Clock Tower games are a series of survival horror games created by Human Entertainment and then picked up by Capcom. There are four games in the series; Clock Tower (1995), Clock Tower (1996), Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within and Clock Tower 3.
Clock Tower (1995) wasn’t released outside of Japan so when the second Clock Tower game was released to the rest of the world in 1996 it was called Clock Tower 2 in Japan but just Clock Tower everywhere else, what makes it worse is that the first two games are actually connected even though the first one has never been released outside of Japan, the third is more of a spin off and the fourth one doesn’t really have any connection to the ones before it but we’ll come to that in a bit. For the purpose of this article we’ll call the first game Clock Tower (A) and the second game Clock Tower (B).
During the late 90’s survival horror games were growing in popularity thanks to the Resident Evil series, but whereas most of the other games had you playing as hardened special forces agents with a vast array of weapons, healing abilities and skills at your disposal, Clock Tower bucked that trend and placed you in the body of a young teenage girl with no abilities apart from running and screaming.
Playing more like the movie Halloween than a typical game, all four games involve young female protagonists with limited or no weaponry and require players to make use of the scenery and surroundings to hide from the heavily armed villain that is on the lookout for her.
The first Clock Tower game was released on the Super Famicom in 1995, later it was ported to the PlayStation1 and renamed Clock Tower: The First Fear. It tells the story of a young orphan called Jennifer Simpson. Jennifer and her three friends, Lotte, Ann and Laura, who are also orphans, are informed that they have been adopted by a Mr Barrows and are brought to the Barrows Mansion by a lady called Mary. As the girls settle in and wait in the foyer, Mary goes off to find Mr Barrows but doesn’t come back. Jennifer offers to go look for her but as soon as she leaves the foyer she hears a scream, rushes back to find her friends missing.
Over the course of the game Jennifer must find her friends, solve the mystery of the mansion and avoid the games villain, Scissorman. Scissorman is a deformed human who wields a massive pair of scissors which he uses to kill. Jennifer isn’t able to defeat him or fight back, all she can really do is run and hide, sometimes Scissorman will find her hiding places in which case she can struggle with him a bit until she is either killed or is able to run off again to find somewhere else to hide. Scissorman’s appearances are usually random but for the most part there is some music or a trigger that causes them, other times he’ll literally burst out of a wardrobe or from behind a shower curtain.
The game also has multiple endings depending on if you completed certain tasks, found friends or solved puzzles. There were nine endings in total, some with Jennifer surviving and others with her dying.
Clock Tower (A) was a moderate success in Japan so it allowed Human Entertainment to create a direct sequel and the first game to be released outside of Japan. Cock Tower (B) was released in 1996 on the PlayStation 1. The game takes place 12 months after the first game, Jennifer has been adopted by Helen Maxwell, an assistant of a psychiatrist who is helping Jennifer get over the terrible events of the first game. During her therapy Scissorman reappears and begins to attack friends and colleagues. This eventually leads the larger ensemble cast back to the Barrows Mansion.
While many aspects of the first game still remain, no weapons, hiding, puzzle solving, the game differed in respect to the fact you could chose the playable character. Essentially all the characters were the same in respect to the inability to fight back but it gave you a chance to see what else was going on in the game.
As with the previous game there were multiple endings, five for Jennifer and five for Helen depending on which you chose as the main protagonist, again some of these end well and some not so well.
I’ll be honest with you right now and say that these games are awful, the graphics are clunky at best, the voice acting is so hammy it could be used in a sandwich and the plot is ridiculous but there is just something about them. I remember playing Clock Tower (B) with my friend on the PlayStation 1 late one night in the dark and I’m not sure I’ve ever been so freaked out by a game.
The two remaining games Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within and Clock Tower 3 don’t have any real connection to the first two games. Clock Tower II deals with a young girl called Alyssa who is adopted yet finds she has another soul living inside her, this soul is called Bates and he’s not a nice man. The game was not well received, critics pointed out the rather obvious plot holes, the ‘so bad it’s bad’ voice acting and the fact that towards the end of the game the character acquires guns and weapons to fight back.
In 1999 Human Entertainment folded and the Clock Tower franchise was sold to Capcom. Clock Tower 3 was developed by Capcom and the only link to the original games is the game play. You play as a girl called Alyssa who returns home to find her mother missing and a stranger called The Dark Gentleman in her house. Alyssa soon learns about her dark heritage, her time travelling abilities and comes face to face with deadly twisted killers. The game style changed from point and click to direct control of Alyssa.
By 2002 when Clock Tower 3 was released the survival horror genre had become saturated and watered down, critics praised the game for trying something different as opposed to the mass of point and shoot clones that had flooded the market. Fans of the series were not as praiseworthy with complaints aimed at the lack of singular villain and that the game did not have multiple endings like its predecessors.
Clock Tower 3 was the last game to be released in the series; currently Capcom has no plans for a new game. There have been rumours of a movie adaptation for years, in 2008 a series of posters were released for the movie but the movie never appeared. According to IMDB the latest update is that David R.Ellis (Snakes on a Plane) has signed up to direct with a release date of 2012……
Personally I think the franchise is due a comeback, despite the game’s many weak points they have retained a cult following and Scissorman is still considered one of the great video game killers. With Resident Evil moving away from the survival horror genre it created I think now is the perfect time for a real survival game to fill the gap.
In 1996, my love affair with “point-and-click” adventures began when I first played Revolution Software‘s title: Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars. The characters were well rounded (and all voice-acted too), and the plot was straight out of a classic adventure movie, and long before Dan Brown thought to pair an American Man with a French lady and sent them off investigating Templars…
The games in the series put players into the role of George Stobbart (2 B’s and 2 T’s) , a blonde-haired American who is visiting Paris for a vacation. In the first game, an explosion occurs and his world is thrown upside down as he chases the streets of Paris for the culprit, with the assistance of plucky Parisian photojournalist, Nico Collard (also called Nicole). The story takes the player (and both characters) all over the world, from Ireland to Syria, and the gameplay consists of typical point-and-click style, with the player moving a cursor on- screen and choosing whether to look at an item or person, interact with it, or use another item on it. It was the clever use of clear, cartoon-style graphics, the enthralling plot regarding the Knights Templar, and the simple but effective gameplay that lead to the games amazing success. Since it’s inital release on PC, it has also been made available on Mac and Sony Playstation, and more recently a “Directors Cut” was released on iOS devices, Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii.
A year later, Revolution created a sequel. Bringing together the same 2 characters, the setting became Central America, and the story revolves around Mayan god Tezcatlipoca and people that are trying to free him to restore his reign over the world. George and Nico end up embroiled in another mystery and have to save the world once more, but this time from an entirely different threat, with their only weapon being a mouse cursor. While the first game was met with critical acclaim, Broken Sword II: The Smoking Mirror received mixed reviews, and many criticised the deviation in plot from it’s predecessor. The gameplay, graphical style and humour remained faithful to the original, but with the focus on bright, sunny vistas rather than dark Parisian backstreets, it divided fans and critics alike. I personally liked seeing the familiar characters being thrust into a new adventure. It was also released on the PC, Mac, Sony Playstation and iOS devices.
The third game in the series, Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon, went back to the series’ Templar roots (due, mainly to fan outcries from the second game), but it took a huge leap of faith in moving from 2D adventure to 3D direct control action game. The classic cursor movement had disappeared, in favour of the HUD on the bottom right of the screen indicated actions that could be taken when approaching an object or person, and indicating which buttons should be pressed on the keyboard or control pad to perform that action. Due to the controls being radically different from its predecessors, and considered clunky compared to other action/adventure games from the same era, the game was criticised for this. The story and graphics (especially in the cinematic cutscenes) stayed true to the series and retained their charm and appeal, and I really enjoyed playing with the characters in 3 dimensions, which added a new depth to the puzzles. The game returned to Paris, but also features Glastonbury (England) and a brief stint in the Congo. The game was released in only 3 formats: PC, Xbox and Playstation 2 in 2003.
The fourth (and final official) game in the franchise was Broken Sword: The Angel Of Death, released in 2006 only on Windows PCs. The game takes place in New York, Istanbul, Rome and Phoenix. The graphics were a more realistic and impressively 3D rendered than had been seen in the previous games, and developers put this down to focusing purely on PC output, rather than accommodating the limited graphics provided by consoles. The gameplay, however returned to a more faithful point and click adventure, and although there were a few tweaks to the original style of gameplay to allow for the 3D environments and characters, it was well received (despite a few control glitches). Due to the more realistic characters, what it gained in spectacle, it lost in charm and unfortunately the series has since fizzled out.
Aside from the released games, a fan-made game appeared Baphomets Fluch 2.5 (translated to Broken Sword 2.5: Return of the Templars) was created by freelancers under the label of “mindfactory”. Staying true to the 2D graphical style and point- and click style gameplay of the first 2 official games, 2.5 was released in 2008 for free download, and received English voice actors (to mimic the original voices) from 2009. While this may be seen as a step backward in terms of style, for a completely fan-made game, it should be applauded as a huge achievement, and recognised as the symbol of fan adoration for the series that it is intended to be (which I strongly recommend you try out).
So, is there a place for Broken Sword in todays gaming line-up? I like to think so. It is less action-packed than games like Tomb Raider and Uncharted, but it still has the same level of charactarisation, plot and puzzle elements of similar games (indeed, George shares a lot in common with Nathan Drake – the spirit for adventure, the humour, the attraction to women). It can sometimes be more like an interactive novel or movie than a game at times, but I feel there is still a place in people’s hearts and minds for that style of game.
With the advent of touch-screen handheld devices and consoles (and the hand-held tablet integration with Nintendo’s Wii-U and Microsoft’s Smartglass), I think this would be an ideal time for a resurgence of the franchise and I, for one, would be willing to welcome it with open arms.
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