Claire: Extended Cut Review

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Game Title: Claire Extended Cut
Developer: Hailstorm Games
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 303 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

Have you ever theorized about a horror movie or game’s storyline after you play or watch it? I’m talking about an experience that you got into so much that it really hit home to the point that you want to know more, past what was shown. Where you start thinking about the events of the storyline and start making your own theories to try to explain what happened and what the characters were thinking, feeling, and more.

This doesn’t happen to me very often, but a little indie horror title did that this week. Claire is a name in the horror genre that is normally associated with hit franchise, Resident Evil. However, an indie originally released on Steam came to PlayStation this week, and I’m very glad it it. Now, I can share the experience with you and tell you my thoughts. Here is my review of the PS Vita version of Claire: Extended Cut!

Story

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Claire is about a young woman named Claire, whom often visits and looks after her sick mother. While searching the hospital for coffee one night, strange things start to happen. Dark visions, twisted halls, and demonic creatures fill her entire world.  You follow Claire in her journey through these hellish versions of very-real places in her life.

I found the story to be particularly touching for a couple reasons.  First and foremost is that her past, tragedy, and journey are realistic and relatable.  Although the journey seems anything but realistic, when all is said and done, you can really relate to her and her sad history.  That’s one thing that kept me playing.

Gameplay

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Claire is a side-scrolling survival horror adventure game with puzzle elements. In your journey through the game, you will be running through 2D environments while avoiding enemies, maintaining health and mental health with items, and solving puzzles in order to keep going in the game.

The game is a one-time journey, meaning that this isn’t a mission-based experience. You’ll be put into an area, tasked with unlocking story events which will lead you to the next objective. Reaching objectives will progress the story further until the story takes over and pushes forward.

Reaching those objectives, however, is a matter of puzzle-solving, exploration, and running like hell. First is exploration.  Many rooms are locked or blocked by barricades.  A lot of your time will be spent finding alternate paths to your current objective.

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That’s also where puzzles come in. The game has puzzles with optional and required prizes.  Problem is, you don’t know which is which, so doing all puzzles is a necessity.  Solving them is like solving them in games like Silent Hill.  There are vague hints around the area, but no clear hand-holding direction.  It requires a good amount of thinking to solve each one.

But no horror game is true horror without tension and suspsense.  In many areas, you’ll be chased through dark corridors by enemies you cannot fight.  Your only choice is to run and these sequences are very tense and creepy.  Despite being a 2D game, these areas gave me a big sense of paranoia.  One factor that helps is that the enemies follow you through doors and don’t always appear in the same area.

This all comes together pretty well, overall. It can be a bit mind-boggling to find the right path or solve the puzzles, but the way the story is constantly being shown is a good encouragement to help  you push forward.

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Anyone who played the Steam version of Claire will note that it was a buggy mess there.  Extended Cut does have a lot of the Steam bugs removed, but there are a few lingering issues.  Some design bugs are there as well as a crashing issue around one of the key items in the School area.  You can bypass this by dashing as you collect it, but it’s still there and definitely an issue.

Now, length.  Claire isn’t a long game with a normal walkthrough taking roughly 3-5 hours.  Past that is the replay value.  There are several different endings, as well as one true ending that can only be obtained with New Game Plus.

Controls

Bringing the horror to not only the handheld world but also the console world, this game is compatible with the PlayStation TV. The only major difference when playing on the micro-console is that the L/R functions for bringing up the menu is done with L2 and R2 instead of L1 and R1.

Controlling the game isn’t too hard to do. Moving Claire around each area is done with the D-Pad and Left Analog Stick. The L and R triggers pull up the menu to look through Notes, the Map, and Item Inventory. X is used for interacting with objects and doors and Square is used for dashing/running. Triangle is used for jumping, and Circle is used for cancelling options in the menu. There are other control schemes as well.

Presentation

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Visually, the game fits the 2D side-scrolling design. If you look really closely, you’ll notice that there are a few jagged edges here and there. However, there has been an upgrade since the original release on Steam to add more 2.5D effects to the game. Not only is this in the PS4 version, but it’s also in the Vita version.

Aside from the bugs mentioned in the gameplay section, the game plays nicely. Some of the load times can get close to the 6-7 second mark, but that’s passable for a PS Vita game. It’s just when load times exceed 10-15 seconds that I start having problems.

 

Summary

Claire: Extended Cut is a horror game that kept me thinking about the heroine’s journey many hours after I put the game down. Although it does still have some bugs to be worked out, it’s got a lot of things great horror games have shown in the past and most importantly, a plot that not only we can relate to, but one that can keep you going just to see and understand more of Claire’s journey.

9/10

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