Developed and Published by Hailstorm Games
Played on: PS Vita/PSTV
Also Available on: PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Linux, and MAC OS
Claire just wants to take care of her brain dead mother while going to school and trying to live the life of a normal young adult. But a quick run for coffee at the hospital her mother is in takes a turn for the worst. Starting with a mysterious phone call followed by the elevator taking her to a floor of the hospital she has never heard of, Claire starts her journey. As she explores the derelict hospital Claire will start to look back at her life and wonder how she ended up where she is today. Along her journey Claire will meet many people who are also trapped in this strange world, yet, they are unaware of the suffering that surrounds them. It’s up to the player to find out what happened to Claire as a young girl and how she ended up in this strange other world. Her journey will take her through the hospital, her school, and the apartment she grew up in as she tries to discover if she is worth being saved from this nightmarish reality.
Claire: Extended Cut is a 2.5D survival horror game, taking many inspirations from one of my favorite games, Lone Survivor: Director’s Cut. Like Lone Survivor, Claire’s gameplay revolves around exploring multiple decomposing environments and solving puzzles to progress further. The game’s puzzles are what most of the actual gameplay revolves around. In every environment there will be some door to open or some area blocked off that must be bested by the player. The player will have to find the object that clears the way forward by solving a puzzle. In most games, the developers would have simply made this a game of hide and seek by putting the key or bolt cutters you need in a random drawer. But the developers for Claire decided to put some real puzzles in the game. Most puzzles involve putting a set of objects in the right order, or adjusting a clock or set of valves to the correct position to earn the desired object. These puzzles provided enough challenge to be fun, while also being simple enough to not require some obscure clue or piece of dialogue to solve.
In addition to puzzles, Claire also has a sanity and health meter for the player to keep track of. Claire’s sanity will drop when she sees a monster, or witnesses certain events from her past. If her sanity drops too low, Claire will take minor damage. Health and sanity can be kept in check by using various items. Most items only recover health. But if time is taken to search the large levels, you can find various item pickups to quell Claire’s fear.
As far as gameplay is concerned that’s it. That may not seem like a lot but Claire is a game about atmosphere and story. As stated before, all three levels take place in areas that were significant to Claire’s childhood. The only difference is that the strange mirror world Claire is currently in makes them all appear destroyed and broken. This is meant to cast upon the player a level of familiarity, while also making it very clear that nothing is as it seems and anything could happen. The levels, with their layout, prove to be hard to navigate by memory, due to the game being 2.5D. Luckily the player will always have a map they can reference to, to make sure they are never truly lost. The levels are also sufficiently creepy, with every room holding something different, the game really does a good job at keeping the player guessing about what they will encounter next. Even if the game does rely on cheap scare props like blood coming out of air vents and doors making a painfully long creaking sounds I found the levels to hold a foreboding and uncanny air to them.
There are monsters in the game. But these are fairly awkward monsters. There are two types of enemies that will chase Claire. The first are glowers. These come in various shapes and sizes and can attack Claire and chase after her. The second are an unnamed variant of monster that hangs from the ceilings and clings to the ground. This type of monster cannot move quickly but can follow Claire though doors and still attack her. Claire cannot attack or distract either of these enemies. She will have to hide or run away. In Lone Survivor, which I mentioned previously, the character has a gun and can use flares to damage and distract monsters. I personally prefer when a horror game allows the player to fight back like this because it requires more strategy and skill to conserve ammunition and other resources rather than just running to the nearest closet. But even though the monsters can still attack the player, they do it in the most painfully stiff way. The monsters that stick to the ceilings don’t even have an attack animation. Claire will simply walk past them and she will make grunting sounds while B-list quality blood squirts out of her. With the glowers it’s a little better since they actually have an attack animation. But even with this it’s hard to tell if they landed a hit on Claire. No blood or grunting happens so I assume they either can’t physically damage Claire or they miss all the time. It really takes the scare out of being chased by a glower when you can either hide or walk around them without taking any damage.
The story of the game is open to interpretation, especially since there are multiple endings. The main purpose of the story is to look into Claire’s childhood and how her many family members and experiences have shaped her. The story can change based on actions the player carries out within the game’s story. But the main action that changes the game’s story is rescuing people. Like Claire, many people are stuck in this shadow realm. Claire has the power to free them but performing certain actions. The number and type of people Claire saves will influence the game’s ending. But there are many issues with the game’s story. Even though Claire seems to remember the good and bad of her childhood she seems to constantly suffer from autobiographical amnesia. There are many times when Claire seems to have a grasp on what happened during her childhood, while other times she seems not to have a clue. In many memories, Claire sees her dad as a worthless drunk who constantly hurt her mother. In other memories it’s the exact opposite. While the game tries to show Claire as a young girl suffering from not knowing the complete truth, the story comes off as contradictory and poorly told.
The ending, no matter which one you get, justs raises more questions and then kicks you to some scorecard screen. At the end of the game, the player will see a report card of what “grade” they got in the game. The card gives you a score A through F and rates who you saved and how many people you saved among other things. There is very little explanation to how the grade is weighed and how the different people you saved affects the score the game gives. While the story at many points was interesting, (even if contradictory) the ending just kills any bit of curiosity and grace.
Even sadder is that the game suffers from many glitches. This is why the developers released the game in its new form as a free download for PC users who bought the original game. While issues with the new version of the game are not nearly as bad as with the older version, there are still many issues that persist throughout the experience. The first is the dialogue. In most dialogue sections the game has the player click “X” to proceed to the next speech bulletin. The issue is that there have been multiple cases where I clicked the “X” button once but the game skipped through three or four lines of dialogue that I only knew existed because they flashed on the screen quickly. While this didn’t happen that often, it happened enough to be noticeable.
Secondly the game has audio issues. Sometimes when opening a door or turning the flashlight on there would be a quick, heavy sound. The only way to describe it is someone dragging furniture across a hardwood floor. Once again, this didn’t happen often enough to be a major issue. But it did happen often enough for me to get thoroughly irritated with it.
Another issue that may or may not be a glitch is the game’s lack of tutorials. The game never told me how to switch from the lighter to the flashlight. It never told me how to drop unwanted items from my inventory. I still don’t know what the books and butterflies I picked up do. I had to use Google to find the answers to these questions. The only tutorial in the entire game was at the very beginning. It only told me how to run and jump. Square and Triangle respectively.
Frankly the entire game feels a little unpolished and sometimes kind of broken. Since this was released on Vita and other consoles almost two years ago, I don’t see us getting a patch for any of these problems.
In conclusion, Claire: Extended Cut does it’s best. The story may feel contradictory but is very intriguing. The only thing that really holds the story back from being great is that the endings don’t really answer any questions and the lack of explanation for the scorecard that affects the ending. The game’s puzzles are better than most, and exploration coupled with keeping your sanity protected from the events around you was entertaining enough to keep me happy. But even with a compelling narrative and gameplay that entertains, the game feels like a beta rushed to market to replace the previously more broken first attempt. I appreciate the Vita port, as the game still provided scares on the Vita’s small screen. I got this game for $5 instead of $15 and I feel I got my money’s worth. But since the game does feel a bit underwhelming in the technical department, I would recommend waiting until the price drops to at least $10.
I am giving Claire: Extended Cut a 6 out of 10
A story shrouded in mystery
Provides some good scares
Good level design and aesthetics
Feels a bit broken
Monsters have clunky attacks
The ending is underwhelming
Many mechanics are unexplained
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