Over my many years of ingesting spooky media, I have found that the best way to experience horror movies is with friends. Watching these frightening films on your own can be very tense and potentially unnerving, but sharing in these moments with loved ones can be quite a fun time. There is less anxiety when you have a friend by your side, ready to make a quick joke or even to discuss the movie once the credits roll. The same is true when playing scary video games- having a friend cheer you on can make the difference between pushing through the undead hordes or simply giving up the ghost.
During my freshman year of college, I ingested dozens of horror movies with my good friend Taylor. We were living together at the time, and had no random roommates to consider when we planned our weekend events. This meant numerous trips to the local video store to rent tons of terrifying tapes, followed by the necessary stop at Little Caesar’s Pizza for rations. On certain weekends, we would opt to play through video games from start to finish. Most of the time, we burned through classics from our childhood, stuff like Contra or Castlevania II. But on a particular weekend, we found a game that would be the perfect match for our horror movie mania.
The Clock Tower series made its debut in America on the Sony PlayStation in 1996. While this title was marketed as the first in the series overseas, this game was actually a sequel to the original, which released on the Super Famicom in Japan in 1995. The original Clock Tower stood out from other games at the time, featuring puzzles and stealth instead of action and combat. The story follows a young orphan named Jennifer, as she tries to investigate the Barrows Mansion and escape the deranged Scissorman in the process. The game featured a very dark plot and gameplay similar to point-and-click computer adventure games of the 1990s.
Thanks to a fan translation, Taylor and I were able to enjoy this game through a Super Nintendo emulator on my computer. We played the entire game in a weekend, swapping between playing the game and mapping out our next route in the terrifying Barrows Mansion. The entire mood of the game was very tense, using haunting visuals and a foreboding soundtrack to match the anxiety of escaping a madman. One song in particular has stuck with me over the years, Don’t Cry Jennifer.
The opening bass calls to mind the heartbeat of protagonist Jennifer, as she hides under a bed, waiting for Scissorman to pass her by. Jarring guitar riffs mark the entrance of the fiend, as he prowls the room for his prey. Once Scissorman leaves, there is a moment of hesitation. Is he waiting right outside the door? The heartbeat rises in the song, along with a tense ringing melody, waiting for the player to make a move.