(Disclaimer: The copy of this game played was purchased by the reviewer.)
In the spirit of the Halloween season, I wanted to review a spooky game that I normally don’t hear on the tip of people’s tongues, but one that I feel deserves the attention of those who enjoy horror games. Certainly inspired by the Silent Hill series, Claire is a 2D horror game that has it’s faults. But that does not stop it from being an engaging and atmospheric time. Really nice artwork combines with some great sound design to make it an experience that if you are in for an hour then you are in for the whole time.
It’s of note that this is a review of Claire on Steam. The developer has released Claire: Extended Cut on PS4 and Vita. This version of the game is not yet released on PC.
Claire is a side scrolling adventure horror game that has its main influences right up in your face. It’s not ultra-recent, being released in 2014 on Steam by Hailstorm Games, and it isn’t super long. It does offer the re-playability of alternate endings, which can help extend the base game time. Expect four to five hours of ghastly wandering on your first time through — unless you are just in sync with the map and room layouts right off the bat.
Claire puts you in the shoes of the titular character as she wakes up from a dream she was having as she was sleeping in a chair in the hospital room her mom is staying at. It doesn’t take long for things to turn south coming awake, and you will spend a good amount of the game not just finding the rest of your family, but finding out about them. You’ll find yourself exploring two other main environments besides the hospital you find yourself in, and all are rendered in gross, dank, disgusting glory.
As mentioned, Claire is a 2D side scrolling game at its heart. The controls are responsive enough, as this is not a precision platformer they don’t need to be super tight. This really can be compared to a pared down 2D Silent Hill when it comes to game play (though not to bash Claire, it can’t reach Silent Hill levels of quality in its story).
It also adds a bit of Amnesia mechanics in that you also have an anxiety level to worry about as well as health, and being scared shitless will make you lose health until you die. There are plenty of items around to help offset this, as well as batteries for your flashlight. You do have a lighter if you don’t want to use the flashlight or are out of batteries. It really behooves you to explore in this game so you can be as buffed as possible, and you also find notes to help fill the story, as well as find bound spirits to help out.
That brings me to my main gripe of Claire, and one that I can see turning off a few people trying to get into this game. While you explore in 2D space left and right, your map is a top down. This can make it extremely awkward to competently traverse areas without constant referral to the map. It gets better as you learn the areas, but when the shit hits the fan and you have to run and hide from the baddies you WILL find yourself in areas you didn’t mean to head into.
I can understand if the 2D sprite style of the game makes it so some just won’t really connect with the horror. For those who can still get spooked and unsettled by pixels as much as polygons, you are in for a treat. The faults in the game play are almost made up by the quality of the visuals alone. It’s like someone made SNES versions of NIN music videos. I adore it.
The music and sound also compliment the experience, which certainly serves it well since the developers wanted to pay honor to one of the masters of atmospheric sound design. The soundtrack was also just recently added as a bit of extra DLC for $.99.
There is not a large amount to say about the technical settings of the game and its performance as its a 2D pixel game. Of note are the many resolutions, and the ability to play windowed. Claire supports both game pads and keyboard/mouse for control, with the ability to rebind your main actions. The only time I ever had a hitch in the game is when it would save, and that never fusses with game play since you are in safe rooms to save.
Claire isn’t a masterpiece, but it is a damn engaging time despite the flaws inherent in its exploration. The story is one worth experiencing, and offer the player a great spooky time if 2D pixel art doesn’t kill immersion for you. It’s four to five hours of solid playtime is definitely worth full price to horror fans, and makes it a game well worth picking up on sale even if you aren’t.
While not out yet, the developer has patch 1.1 in the works, and it will add even more replay for those in the audience who are completionists with its New Game+ ending.
Claire is available on Steam for $9.99 or your regional equivalent. You can also find Claire: Extended Cut on the PS4 and Vita.