One of the most terrifying elements in any sort of horror project is knowing you are in a dangerous situation, facing otherworldly creatures, and you can’t do anything about it. You’re ordinary and powerless, forced to rely on your wits and what’s around you to survive. It’s a sort of idea that certain games, like Clock Tower, used to bank on to scare players and push them to survive. Clea, an indie thriller from InvertMouse, tries to bank on the same notion.
Clea is celebrating her birthday with her little brother, Edmond, and Florine, one of her family’s maids. Her parents are nowhere to be seen. However, someone else is there for the “party.” It’s a being known as a Chaos Servant. Florine goes off to investigate, leaving the children alone. With no explanations and only the gut feeling that something is very wrong, the siblings are left to try and find out where their parents and Florine are and perhaps find a way out. The thing is, they’re just children and who knows if they can make it out alive.
There are a few things going for the duo, though. Clea and Edmond live in a house with a surprising number of rooms with closets. (I’ve never seen so many bathrooms with closets before in my life.) They can come across candles that can be used to repel the Chaos Servants stalking the halls and, on higher difficulty levels, save your progress. Clea is also quite good at finding and combining items in order to make things like keys to continue on her way and plot her escape from the mansion. Her ability to stealthily sneak through, sense and “hear” when Chaos Servants are about, and peek around and under doors can help keep her alive. Those abilities and your wits might help her escape, perhaps even without hiding in a closet, being seen, or being heard.
The idea that someone is always possibly there, lurking around, is what can most make Clea feel like Clock Tower. Its 2D perspective calls to mind the original Super Famicom release, only without the fear that Clea will start panicking at the sight of a Chaos Servant. Hiding is essential here, just as it was there. You can even use elements around you to lure the enemies, such as the flush of a toilet while you hide in a nearby closet, waiting to make your move. Not to mention, touching an enemy means you’re instantly dead.
There are even elements that make Clea feel like later Clock Tower entries. For example, Clock Tower 3 offered holy water to temporarily stun foes. It helped tell part of its stories with articles and notes strewn about the environment. With Clea, you’ll find notes that help clue you in to the activities of the Whitlock family, why she’s been locked in the mansion, and what is happening around her. You can find candles that, when used, drive a Chaos Servant from the room. The more time you invest, the more you can learn and discover. But, that can also put you in greater risk and perhaps force you to use up some of the only items that can hold your enemies at bay.
Clea is a game that goes some places. It doles information out gradually and as you explore the environment. You need to try and hide to survive. The more time you spend investigating, the more you can learn. Like the Clocktower games, surviving and learning more about Clea’s situation and the nightmarish world around her only comes when you invest more time into exploring and watching how opponents work so you can survive.
Clea is available for PCs.