Claire: Extended Cut for the PS4 delves into the tortured experience of a young woman trying to escape from memories of her past. These memories are brought into vivid reality in some very frightening places and by some terrifying creatures. Grab your teddy bear, pull your covers over your head, and read on to see what Claire brings to the butchering table.
Claire: Extended Cut is an updated and expanded version of the game released on PC over two years ago. The game starts with Claire visiting her mother in the hospital. After leaving her mother’s room, she takes a very wrong turn and winds up in a dark and haunted version of the hospital. Things become increasingly worse as she must continue to explore her surroundings to escape and survive.
Claire’s well-being is measured in two ways. She has health and panic indicators represented by a heart and a brain that can be viewed from the inventory screen. If she takes too many hits from the nasties she encounters, or if her mind is overwhelmed by fear, she dies. As you explore, you will find drinks and other items to calm her mind, raise her health, or both. There are save points in the map that are marked with lanterns on the door, and I would recommend you save whenever you have the chance, especially if you are playing on a harder difficulty.
The exploration is on an automatically updated map. Any rooms you visit or any doors you cannot open are marked on the map. The journal will give you a clue as to what to do next, and a large circle will show the approximate area for your next objective. Depending on where you are, you could also revert back to a childhood version of Claire and relive a memory from her life. These are usually great insights into the present as well.
While exploring, you will often find the way to your objective is blocked and I found myself wandering back through the same locked rooms until I found the solution. I rage quitted more than once. The secret is that there is always a way to where you need to go, and it is most likely right in front of you. It could also be reached by jumping over or moving an obstacle. Once you realize what the game is trying to show you, you’ll kick yourself.
It is not a completely solitary existence. During the game, your dog will join you and warn of any monsters by growling when you enter a room. You are also able to meet different people as you explore, and you can help them as well.
There are also puzzles scattered throughout the game. Solving a puzzle will often provide you with the tool you need to advance the game. Some of the puzzles were clever but I found some of them frustrating and had to use brute force to find my way through them. However, it could easily be that I just missed the clues. Not all of them are necessary and there was at least one puzzle that I quit and never returned to complete.
The presentation is where this game really shines. The art style is presented in a 2.5D, pixel format and it fits the game perfectly. Although when using the flashlight or lighter there is a warm glow that illuminates your surroundings but the rest of the world is often obscured by a slight fog or darkness and this only adds to the suspense. Even though you could see the legs or tentacles of the monsters you encounter, you’ll also have a lack of complete clarity and this made them more terrifying as they ran at me screaming.
The sound is also a strong part of the experience and although there is environmental noise and music, the game uses volume to great effect. For example, there are some rooms that are much quieter adding to that eerie, something-is-not-right feeling. There are other places where a monster jumps out to chase you and the volume shoots up to further push the tension and shock.
The game oozes (sometimes literally) with a menacing ambiance throughout, but it is not without its issues. I died in a place that I thought was designed to trap you into dying which I thought was a fantastic surprise. Unfortunately it wasn’t. When I revived at a save point, my lighter and flashlight were not in my inventory. After searching for them, I eventually gave up and tried to move forward with the game. This resulted in me stumbling around in the dark looking for the door indicator to show on screen, so I would know I was at the entrance to another room or hallway. Sometime later, I magically had them again.
Another problem was the inventory. I never found a way to drop an item. I had to use an item to pick up another item that might be necessary to move the story forward. I never knew if the item I picked up was something critically important or just caffeine pills that would make Claire more jittery than a father waiting for paternity test results on Maury Povich. Also, when trying to use something in the inventory I had to click on it multiple times.
The game is probably 4-6 hours long, but I spent more time trying to navigate my way through the levels. I found the game continued to improve as it only became darker, more disturbing, and even beautiful toward the end. With multiple endings promised, the one I received was very satisfying and even though it was not entirely clear, I felt a sense of resolution.
The game is clearly inspired by past survival horror games like Silent Hill, and it uses the backdrop of Claire’s psychological trauma to create a nightmarish world for her to work through those problems in a visual and visceral way. Overall, if you need more survival horror in your gaming life and have a little patience with some of the frustrating parts of the game, you will find a world and experience worth exploring.
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