Indie games have brought about a retro renaissance of sorts and while they can get pretty creative with a low budget, it’s hard to tell the difference between certain games when they’re all pixel art. When developers are working with these retro style graphics, it becomes all the more important to stand out with a unique look and style.
Claire: Extended Cut strives to do just that with a 2D pixel art horror adventure extremely reminiscent of Silent Hill. Seriously, you could get knocked over the head, forget what Silent Hill is completely, and still recognize that this game was inspired by it. With such awesome inspiration, does Claire: Extended cut manage to carve out a place amongst its muse, or does this adventure get lost in the fog? Let’s find out!
A Relatable Story and a Horrifying World
What I liked immediately about Claire: Extended Cut, was the fact that it’s protagonist who carries the game’s namesake, is someone you can connect with. I promise I’ll stop make Silent Hill comparisons, but for the sake of this review I feel like it’s important to draw a parallel here between this game’s character, and the ones in the aforementioned series its inspired by.
Silent Hill famed itself by featuring normal, relatable people as the protagonist. This gave the games a low entry-cost and immediately put you in the shoes of the person. As their inherent flaws and perhaps even dark pasts were revealed, the town shaped itself to be a metaphor for their sins.
Claire seeks to do something similar with its stark contrast between the normal world and the nightmarish alternate reality you shift into. The game begins with Claire sleeping in the chair of a hospital room. She’s visiting her mother who is ill and bedridden. We’re immediately hit with a flashback and a nightmare.
This sets the tone for the game, which loves to mess with your head as it shifts between reality and something else entirely. It also likes to jump across time, featuring flashbacks and development into Claire’s character and her past.
The story is by far the strongest part of Claire: Extended Cut. It manages to introduce new and interesting points throughout the tale and it calls to mind universal problems and worries that we all face in our lives. With six endings to earn, the game also features a nice dose of replay value.
It’s a supernatural tale set in a terrifying landscape, but by developing its main character so well, it also managed to be a very real story that anyone can relate to. In that regard, it most certainly pays homage to its inspiration.
You may not have had Claire’s troubled childhood and hopefully you never visited the hellish alternate reality she’s forced to navigate, but regardless, you’ll know her story all too well and it will keep you interested and engaged throughout the four hour experience.
I could have seen this coming out prior to the first Silent Hill as a precursor to the first game on the original PlayStation. High praise indeed, and a story worth experiencing for horror fans.
Explore and Fight the Fear
Claire: Extended Cut is the type of horror game that doesn’t give you any way to fight the indescribable lovecraftian enemies it throws at you. The supernatural horrors that try to hunt you down must instead be avoided at all costs.
As you progress through the game, Claire will have to manage her health and sanity meters. While sanity meters are something we’ve seen in horror before, it plays into her character well as a physical manifestation of her anxieties and worries.
Her trusty canine companion, Ani, will also bark to warn of encroaching enemies, which is nice because otherwise it would be difficult to see them coming down the dark corridors. Beyond this, you can explore and interact with items or notes in your environment, but that’s about the extent of Claire: Extended Cut’s gameplay.
Couple this with the fact that Claire can’t exactly run forever and you have a fragile balance between complexity and simple frustration. As with any horror game that removes combat, it’s important to ensure that the constant running and hiding doesn’t become tiresome.
Unfortunately for Claire, she tires out pretty quickly so I’m sure you can imagine that cycle getting old by the end of the story. The other criticism I have is the level and map design. Despite being 2D, the game employs a non-linear layout which would be fine if the map was easier to read.
It’s presented from a perspective that makes total sense in a 3D game, but confuses the player when we’re navigating a 2D plain. This can make getting lost very, very easy and ultimately slow down the pace that the game needs to maintain for horror purposes.
Despite these complaints, I never wanted to stop playing Claire: Extended Cut. The story was enough to keep me going, even when I felt like I was trying to read a map meant for another game.
Beauty in the Pixels
Claire: Extended Cut uses the tried and true pixel art style, but it adds a layer of depth to it that makes the game stand out from its kin. Whatever the technology behind it, it certainly works here. The amount of detail on Claire’s character model and in the environments really breathes life into the art in a way most pixel art games fail to achieve.
Combine this with a pitch-perfect soundtrack and haunting effects, and you have a game worthy of the horror genre. While it may not offer incredible depth in the gameplay department, Claire: Extended Cut more than makes up for that with its relatable and haunting tale.
Horror fans, you know what to do.
Final Score: 8.5/10
— David Mason (@HailstormDavid) September 14, 2016
Special thanks to David Mason for reading our review! Follow him online: @HailstormDavid
Article by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert date - 9/14/16