Mento's May Mastery: Day 19: Claire

OK, I have a few things to get off my chest today for this intro dealie. Don't mistake this as me suddenly getting my ass into gear and preparing ahead of time; that's only for the game appraisals. These intros are very much off the cuff, but occasionally something interesting will happen (by a certain limited definition of the word) and I'll have something to write about.

The first is that there are apparently spambots out there who are copying my title/text before tossing in the requisite links to colorjet printers that can get make you erect for six hours, presumably because I've been successfully spamming the forums for weeks now and they're all getting ideas. If you start reading one of these May Mastery blogs and I suddenly sound a lot more erudite and insightful than usual, maybe hit that flag button just in case. No, don't hit it now. I'm still me. I think? (Man, that The Swapper playthrough really did a number on me.)

The second is that I watched Mad Max: Fury Road today, and am happy to join the thousands of other internet voices in your cyber-ear in highly recommending it. It feels like a proper old-school action movie, the sort of romp you could only expect from the director of Happy Feet 2 Babe: Pig in the City The Road Warrior. It is pretty much that movie in a lot of structural ways, and I think it's been so long since the last one that no-one's able to recall just how weird and uncomfortable those movies are/were. We're used to seeing it through a filter of the massive amount of pop culture it inspired since the previous movie, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, was released 30 years ago. Heck, we just saw a massively popular fighter game release last month with a Master Blaster ersatz. Mad Max has always been about the sheer depravity of a completely lawless society, and the handful of people still yearning for sanity in a world where it's become as precious and rare a commodity as water and gasoline. Anyway, movie's great, you should go see it. And don't worry about those MRA goons, they clearly don't recall Tina Turner's ruthless but even-handed Aunty Entity, or Virginia Hey kicking ass in that white armor get-up. Max has always shared the limelight with tough-as-nails female characters who always seem to want to kill him the first time they encounter him.

(Also, I'm looking forward to that Mad Max game from the Just Cause creators even more now. Feels like I'm ready to jump back into that out-there outback.)


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Talking of hardy female characters, Claire is a 2D side-scrolling Indie horror game that wears its Silent Hill inspiration on its sleeve. In that respect, it's very similar to the equally disquieting and perplexing Lone Survivor by Jasper Byrne. Claire might go even further with the Silent Hill parallels, including maps that edit themselves to account for blockades and locked doors, transitions that suddenly turn banal environments into creepy and potentially dangerous ones, and a stock of healing items that seems to deplete as quickly as it grows while exploring.

The game deigns to take the pacifistic (or helpless, depending on your view) hero approach where the enemies are unkillable and will pursue you, at least for a little while. There's places to hide, but you're better off making a run for it through several doors and try to move on from where you ended up. There also feels like there's a few side objectives, often finding NPCs and helping them with their problems, but for the most part you're simply exploring as many rooms as possible for supplies and to follow a string of objective markers to move the story along. Exploring also means you're greatly increasing the chances of finding a random white noise enemy too, but thems the breaks. (Fortunately, you can run right past them without getting hurt if your reflexes are quick enough.)

Don't worry, this is normal. Well, to a certain extent at least.
Don't worry, this is normal. Well, to a certain extent at least.

Claire also integrates some kind of sanity meter, but I've yet to discover what affects it. There's barely any items that reduce panic, and occasionally the screen gets all weird if you see too many jump scares in close proximity, but there's also times where I've gone into my inventory and seen it be perfectly calm. Either it recovers slowly in "safe" areas, or I'm triggering events that help restore Claire's calmness between the scary moments.

I should probably say what this game's about, huh? Well, I'm not actually sure, to be honest. The eponymous heroine begins in a flashback as her home is ravaged by some unseen force of darkness, leading to her waking up in her mother's hospital room. One quick trip downstairs for coffee later and everything goes nuts, the walls start to bleed and Claire wakes up strapped to a hospital bed with an enormous visceral abomination peering at her from the ceiling. Her faithful pup Anubis scares off the encroaching shadows, frees her and they're off exploring. Anubis doesn't offer a whole lot more than that, besides companionship, but he will start growling if enemies are nearby.

I think I'd be
I think I'd be "dot dot dot" too if I suddenly woke up underneath Red Falcon.

For what I've seen of it so far Claire feels very much like an amalgam of elements from various big-name horror games, the sort that Konami and Capcom no longer feel the need to produce because earning money sucks or something. Many Indie games are taking the first-person route, closely following the example made by Frictional Games's Amnesia series, though it seems just as many are borrowing elements from the style of horror survival that has sadly fallen out of favor with the bigger developers. In particular, Claire shares elements of Clock Tower (female protagonist, pursuing invinicible enemies), Silent Hill (the aforementioned similarities), Alan Wake (a limited, battery-driven light source that seems to have some mild offensive power) and others I might recognize if I was a little fonder of the genre.

Unfortunately, I'm not a big fan of the "unkillable enemies" variant of survival horror. I understand the choice, of course, that in order to set the monsters up as terrifying they need to be utterly unstoppable. That's been a staple of horror media forever. It's just that, sometimes I want to be left alone to explore, to read notes and be fully engrossed with the bizarre horror world the developers have created. If I'm suddenly chased through a dozen doors and end up missing a bunch of locations to check out, it irks me. It's why I was thankful that Silent Hill (almost) always gave you the option to take down enemies if you were determined enough. It's also why I consider Fatal Frame to be so successful at what it does: almost every enemy in every game is vulnerable to the Camera Obscura, but the game's mechanics are predicated on unnerving the player as much as possible while fighting them. They can be exorcised, but you have to stick that first-person perspective camera lens right up in their eerie dead faces as they lunge at you in order to do it.

I love this sort of map system, and I don't understand why more horror games don't use it.
I love this sort of map system, and I don't understand why more horror games don't use it.

I'll say that dropping this game is largely due to personal preference than anything specifically wrong with the game itself. It plays well (or really, as well as a simple 2D side-scrolling horror adventure game can expect to, given you spend most of the time walking around and looking at things), it's not nearly as obtuse as Lone Survivor (for better or worse, I guess), it's fair with its items and telling you where to go (or, at the very least, where you've already been) and does get in a few good scares here and there. If you're into the sort of horror game where you'll wander into an enemy and have to book it and hide, it might be the 2D Indie horror game for you. As for me, I'm going to keep on moving through this pile.

Day 01: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 11: MiasmataDay 21: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 02: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 12: BotaniculaDay 22: Magrunner: Dark Pulse
Day 03: I Have No Mouth, and I Must ScreamDay 13: BotaniculaDay 23: The Nightmare Cooperative & Lilly Looking Through
Day 04: Life of PixelDay 14: Shantae: Risky's RevengeDay 24: Cook, Serve, Delicious!
Day 05: Life of PixelDay 15: Bit Dungeon IIDay 25: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 06: SPAZDay 16: Stick it to the Man!Day 26: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 07: SPAZDay 17: NaissanceEDay 27: Dreamfall: The Longest Journey
Day 08: NightSkyDay 18: The SwapperDay 28: The Banner Saga
Day 09: The RoomDay 19: ClaireDay 29: The Banner Saga
Day 10: Ultionus: A Tale of Petty RevengeDay 20: DokuroDay 30: The Banner Saga
Finale: Papers, Please
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