Originally a PS one point-and-click title (which didn't exactly set the survival-horror genre on fire), the Clock Tower series re-emerges on PS2 in its third incarnation with a totally new control system and thoroughly scary storyline. Set in Blighty, with vulnerable teenager Alyssa Hamilton taking centre-stage as the girl who well and truly gets the willies put up her, Clock Tower 3 is a cracking bit of puzzle-solving action-adventure that crawls under your skin... and stays there.
The ghost-dodging begins when Alyssa receives a letter from her mother stating categorically that she must not return to the family's home, for her own safety. Being the obedient sort, she heads straight over to the house in search of her mother, and consequently gets spirited into a whole world of trouble.
In a story that spans several time periods, all set in Old Lahndon Town, Clock Tower 3 notches up the tension to pant-wetting proportions with truly unnerving encounters and mesmerisingly beautiful cut-scenes. The latter are, of course, created by none other than the late, great Kinji Fukasaku, the cult director of Japanese splatter-fest Battle Royale. And, as you'd probably expect from the man whose opus was resolutely banned from being shown in quite a lot of places due to the mind-numbing levels of viscera on display, these cut-scenes ain't for the fainthearted. With each section of the game divided into chapters, it's your mission to unravel the mysterious, violent deaths of victims at the hands of crazed serial killers haunting the family home.
The gameplay immediately differentiates itself from other titles of the survival horror genre, such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, by virtue of the defence system on offer to Alyssa. Whereas Jill Valentine et al had access to guns, knives and all manner of weaponry, all you'll have to get by on is your wits, and a liberal sprinkling of holy water, to help you make it out alive. Featuring a unique Panic Meter, which monitors Alyssa's stress levels, Clock Tower 3 puts you through your paces, with serious frights filling up the gauge and slowing your progress down considerably. If you want to restore the poor lasses' health, it's possible to hide until the serious shakes subside, before entering the fray once more.
Whilst running around evading the various murderous apparitions, you'll also be summonsed by restless spirits who are seeking various sentimental objects (read: tat) from their past-lives. If you manage to locate the item they are looking for, and return it to its wraith-like owner, you'll go on to battle the dead person's murderer. So, you'll find yourself doing battle with a hammer-wielding madman, and other assorted psychos, in an attempt to get to the bottom of the house's mysterious past - oh, and get the hell out of there.
Graphically, Clock Tower 3 has everything you'd expect from a Capcom title - beautifully rendered characters and gorgeous, atmospheric environments. And the cut-scenes are some of the most stunning we've ever seen - albeit the most violent too. If you like your games immersive, involving, and as scary as the cyber men, Zelda from the Terrahawks and Darth Vader all combined into one gloriously scary thing, then this is definitely the one for you. Plus you get to run around a haunted house as a 15-year-old schoolgirl in a short skirt - bonus!
- Remarkable cut-scenes provided by controversial director Kinji Fukasaku, his last completed work
- Unique Panic Meter system used to monitor your character's health
- Do battle with murderous spirits and solve puzzles for restless souls