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Video Game / Clock Tower (1995)

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Don't cry, Jennifer.

Clock Tower is the first entry in the Clock Tower series of Survival Horror video games, released in September 1995. The plot features Jennifer Simpson, a teenager living in the fictional Granite Orphanage in Romsdalen, Norway. She and her friends (also orphans), Laura, Ann, and Lotte, are adopted by a wealthy recluse named Mr. Barrows, who lives in a mansion known as the Clock Tower, named after its most predominant feature. The game was made available via SNES, WonderSwan, PlayStation, PC and the Nintendo Wii via Virtual Console in Japanese. Versions with new/updated graphics are known as Clock Tower: The First Fear.

The game immediately begins with Ms. Mary, an employee of Mr. Barrows, leading the four girls up towards the Barrows Mansion. She leaves them in the main foyer to go and tell her employer that his new adoptive daughters have arrived and takes an oddly long time of it. After the girls begin to worry, Jennifer offers to go see what's taking them. However, no sooner does she leave the main foyer than one of the girls screams. Jennifer returns to find the room dark and abandoned. She begins to explore the mansion in search of her friends, but soon finds herself hunted by a deformed, murderous little boy who wields a huge pair of scissors. The boy is Bobby Barrows, aka The Scissorman, who will be Jennifer's main stalker and tormentor for the rest of the game.

The game is well-known for its effective jump scares; every time you enter a room, there is a random chance you are either assaulted by Bobby or are faced with some environmental hazard. Sometimes, however, these events do not trigger straight away, or they might even not happen at all, which serves to very effectively build up the tension. Notably, the game's director, Hifumi Kono, cited the works of film director Dario Argento, especially Phenomena, and, to a lesser degree, Suspiria, as the main inspirations for the game's visual style and atmosphere.

On July 12, 2023, WayForward Technologies in collaboration with Limited Run Games have confirmed that Clock Tower will be remastered for modern systems and PC using the Carbon Engine, while including new features such as redrawn artwork, a fully animated intro and motion-comic cutscenes, and an original song performed by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn. It will be planned to be released in early 2024.

This game has examples of:

  • Action Commands: The Panic button. If an enemy catches up to you, the button has to be pressed rapidly to escape death.
  • Androcles' Lion: If Jennifer frees a crow she encounters while wandering the manor, then one of the better endings will involve a whole murder of them coming to her rescue.
  • Anyone Can Die: In the S Ending, Jennifer can escape with either Laura or Anne, depending on her actions, but not both. Lotte can't be saved, no matter what you do. The canon ending is that only Jennifer survives out of everyone the player encounters.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Despite being in Romsdal, Norway, very few names actually sound Norwegian at all. Lotte is the most Norwegian, Jennifer is uncommon, but used (though her last name definitely doesn't pass).
  • Ax-Crazy: A whole family of 'em! The most explicit would be the Scissorman, an antagonist who wants to kill Jennifer because... well, just because.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Every ending where Jennifer lives through the ordeal.
  • Cast from Sanity: Early releases of the game had Jennifer's panic meter drain if she ran for an extended period of time.
  • Cat Scare: There are two boxes in which either a black cat or Bobby can pop out of.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Should Jennifer help a crow, a murder of crows will help her in the final stage of the game.
  • Clever Crows: The intelligence of crows is demonstrated when they come to Jennifer's rescue after she previously saved one of them, and attack Mary, who was ritualistically killing them. This is Truth in Television; crows can recognize human faces and have been known to befriend and hold grudges against people depending on how they treated the birds.
  • Creepy Child: Bobby the Scissorman, and his brother Dan. Not that their mother was any better.
  • Cutting Off the Branches: While Anne or Laura can survive, the sequel establishes Jennifer as the Sole Survivor of their ordeal and that Ending C is canon since a scene has Jennifer shrink back at the mention of Dan's name, something she only learned in Ending C.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: If you decide to have Jennifer say "Screw This, I'm Outta Here" and leave her friends to die by driving away in a car, one of the Scissormen is hiding in the backseat, and apparently stabs her while she's on the road.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • Many of the potential deaths of Anne and Laura. Some of them involve stumbling onto the scene just as they are killed, or their body after the ordeal. Then Scissorman reveals himself and they are forgotten about. By comparison, Lotte gets more dignified deaths (Heroic Sacrifice or Died in Your Arms Tonight) at the expense of being doomed no matter what. Given the genre, this is understandable as their characters exist only to be killed.
    • Endings E and F. You get them by advancing the plot far enough without seeing Lotte die, or choosing the wrong floor in the elevator. While ending D has a logical explanation for why Jennifer dies in that ending (Jennifer doesn't uncover information that reveals Mary's true colors and therefore still trusts her), E and F just abruptly kill the player off as punishment for having missed too many plot-critical scenes. In ending F, Jennifer is even Killed Offscreen.
  • Downer Ending: The two endings where Jennifer reaches the top and dies, and the two where she takes the car back to the orphanage.
  • Driven to Madness: The birth of the twins triggered Mary's obsession with black magic and the occult, leading to her sacrificing people for the human flesh her babies needed to survive.
  • Enfant Terrible: Dan and Bobby Barrows were born as demons. Immediately after birth, they ate their obstetrician's hand and they've only gotten worse since.
  • Expressive Health Bar: Jennifer's portrait in the bottom-left corner becomes significantly more pained as the panic meter fills up and she gets closer to dying.
  • Fan Remake: Originally had one planned as Remothered by Chris Darril until the idea was scrapped and became an entirely different game inspired by The First Fear.
  • Feathered Fiend: The parrot in the cage you come across. Stay away from it if know what's good for you, unless you want to get pecked to death.
  • The Foreign Subtitle: A rare inversion for the game's PlayStation port, as it was subtitled The First Fear to distinguish itself from its internationally released sequel.
  • Game Mod: A text editor is available for the game.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: The game always fades to black whenever Jennifer is about to die in any number of gruesome ways.
  • Hereditary Curse: Thanks to their patriarch's demonic sacrifices, a curse was laid upon the Barrows family that at least one child of every generation would be born as a demon to continue the slaughter.
  • I'll Kill You!: Said by a parrot that Jennifer encounters in one of the bedrooms. (And he can, too.)
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Since they're demons, Dan and Bobby feed on human flesh.
  • Implacable Man: Bobby stalks Jennifer through the mansion and randomly appears every now and then to attempt to murder her. He cannot be defeated until near the end of the game; until then he can only be hindered at best.
  • Interface Screw: When Jennifer's panic meter is blue, she's normal and can probably take a hit from most traps (not counting instant kill ones, or any member of the Burroughs family). As her panic meter changes color (from blue to yellow to orange to red), she becomes weaker. Once it's red, not only is she likely to die instantly from the different traps in the mansion, she also starts tripping when she runs. If Bobby is near when this happens...
  • It Came from the Sink: When the faucet in a bathroom found early on is examined, it will pour blood or maggots on Jennifer's hands.
  • Kill the Cutie: Some or all of Jennifer's friends can be killed. Lotte will always die, while only one of Laura or Anne can be saved in the best (non-canon) ending. Jennifer herself dies in endings D-H.
  • Knight's Armor Hideout: One of the jump scares you can find is if you investigate a suit of armor. It falls over and the body of Laura, your friend, is in there. Either she was shoved in there by Scissorsman/Mary or she tried to hide in it. It was most likely a decorative suit of armor and not fitted for a human being. She dies as her chest is compressed and she couldn't breathe. It most likely wasn't quick either.
  • The Many Deaths of You: While it's possible to get killed from the Scissormen, it's also possible to be attacked by a giant baby, stabbed to death in an elevator, or...
  • Mind over Matter: One of Dan's psychic abilities, which he occasionally uses to attack Jennifer.
  • Mighty Glacier: On one hand, thanks to the size of those scissors, Bobby can end up moving hilariously slow; on the other, it's not helped much by the fact that Jennifer herself really isn't a marathon athlete either.
  • Multiple Endings: There's eight of them. Which ending you get depends on whether or not you make Jennifer figure out the malicious intent of Mary, discover Laura or Anne dead, and do certain other things.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Averted. Since they're not meant to be in this world, Bobby and Dan were born badly deformed and actually have very tenuous health. They both live thanks an enchantment on the Barrows mansion that stops time from progressing normally within, but keeps them trapped. Dan, however, rests inside a chrysalis of corpses and blood, developing a "perfect" body so he can leave the mansion and survive outside.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The game is built around this. For the longest time, you aren't really in any danger or under attack from anything. Most of the time, there's no music, either. The only things you're going to hear for most of the game are Jennifer's footsteps and the creaking of the house. And it is absolutely terrifying. Because you know, sooner or later, something's bound to come at you. But when?
  • Offscreen Teleportation: A justified example. Word of God says Dan is using clairvoyance to watch the mansion, and teleporting Bobby around, thus explaining how he can appear randomly even if it doesn't make sense.
  • Point of No Return: Once you enter the cave, you need to use perfume and a robe to pass a guard dog. The perfume wears off after you're past him, and there's only one bottle — your ending is set and you can only advance.
  • Psychic Powers: Word of God is that Dan has, at least, clairvoyance (through which he watches the mansion), telekinesis, and teleportation.
  • Random Event: A core part of the gameplay and what serves to make the game so nerve-racking. Several items, rooms, and events are shuffled around so that one may have an entirely different experience each time they play.
  • Rank Inflation: Ending S is the best ending you can get.
  • Recurring Boss: After a certain point, Bobby has a chance of randomly appearing in every room, and he can be quite hard to get away from again.
  • Room Full of Crazy: There's a room with a corpse in it where Jennifer can read the ramblings of someone who was slowly dying.
  • Sanity Meter: We have a panic meter, in the form of Jennifer's portrait. It doesn't do much except make her more likely to be killed by traps, cause her to trip more often, and flash when you should be mashing the panic button.
  • Schmuck Bait: There are a lot of interactive objects that either do nothing, or bring danger upon you. Like looking in a mirror with a reflection that might attack you, or loudly playing a piano that will likely draw the Scissorman's attention.
    • C'mon, get in the car! Look, the keys are right there! No need to check first!
    • Investigating certain things (like a closed shower curtain, a suit of armor, or a scream outside) triggers bad events (mainly, the deaths of your friends).
  • Schrödinger's Gun: Your friends are only considered to be dead by the game if you actually see proof of their death. This has actual gameplay implications; it means that the only way to get the S-rank ending, where one of your friends survives, is to never ever investigate any strange sounds you hear and never look in any place where a body could be found, because if you do, the game will take the opportunity to declare one of them dead. However, near the beginning of the game, not investigating a strange noise will trigger the death of one of your friends.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The player can have Jennifer escape the Barrows Mansion almost immediately by using the car in the garage. Jennifer will at first hesitate to drive away, being worried about her friends who are still in the house, but the player can prompt to her to just leave there and then. Needless to say, the endings that result from this aren't the happiest ones: In the first, Bobby is in the backseat. In the second (which happens after a friend is found horribly dead)... Bobby kills Jennifer a few days later. There is a third outcome to this scenario: Should Jennifer head for the car through the courtyard before Anne's death triggers and then leave the mansion with it, the credits will roll and no epilogue appears like in the previous two car endings, implying that without ever coming face-to-face with Bobby, she managed to escape and left her friends behind to die. The game marks this as Ending D, though it far differs from the actual Ending D.
  • Shout-Out: One of the ways Bobby can make his entrance, is by crashing through the stained glass skylight in the stairwell, alongside Anne, who he has impaled with his scissors. This is a direct reference to the opening of Suspiria, where the character Pat Hingle is killed and her corpse is dropped through a prominent stained glass skylight in a stairwell.
  • Slashers Prefer Blondes: Laura is the only blonde girl in the group of orphans and although she can survive, she dies in the canon ending.
  • Spell My Name With An S: Is it Barrows or Burroughs? Laura or Rolla? Ann or Anne?
  • Super Title 64 Advance: The Windows 95 port of the game has been dubbed Clock Tower for Windows 95 on the package and the opening FMV scene.
  • Updated Re-release: The game was re-released on PC and PlayStation with new scenes, new sounds, bugfixes, and new FMV sequences. The PlayStation version also featured support for the PlayStation Mouse where the original Super Famicom version lacked support for its own mouse peripheral.
  • Unbuilt Trope:
    • This game is credited as being the first Survival Horror game that made a lot of tropes for the genre, but it also gave the player even less to work with than most games under that label do. Jennifer is an ordinary girl who is in way over her head, and has no way to fight back against the horrors she encounters, a style that wouldn't become popular in the genre until the 2010s. The controls are also intentionally awkward and clunky to emphasize how little experience Jennifer has with combat, and the most you can do to escape a threat is to run and hide. The few times Jennifer actually does neutralize a threat, it's either due to sheer dumb luck, or because someone else already figured out how to do it, and all Jennifer had to do was flip a proverbial switch. Finally, the game's Multiple Endings are also used in a way to highlight the tragedy of the situation: not only is it impossible to save everyone, but the canon ending is not the Golden Ending. Almost all the characters are Doomed by Canon, and it's only possible to save a few of them. Even then, the canon ending is where everyone except Jennifer, ally and enemy, ends up dead at the game's conclusion.
    • It also codified the Press X to Not Die trope into mainstream video game media. However, what people didn't realize that the whole point of it being included in the first place was to keep the player on edge; to have it so even in the cutscenes, the player remained tense from the constant threat of death instead of the cutscenes providing a moment for the player to breathe and set down their controller. The trope played into the game's Survival Horror nature, instead of being included just for the heck of it.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Jennifer can choose to rescue a crow from a cage. If you have done so, a flock of 'em can come to her rescue in the good ending.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: You get the worst ending in the game by fleeing the mansion in the car without knowing that your friends are dead. Hey, you're the one who ditched the people you care about in order to save your own skin, you deserve to suffer. The ending for escaping in the car after learning that your friends were murdered is still bad, but not quite as much, since you know you can't save them now.
  • Violation of Common Sense: In order to save one of the other girls and get the best ending, you have to ignore someone in danger. Specifically, when you hear a scream from outside in a hallway early in the game, looking out the window will show the girl falling from the second floor to her death. Do not look out the window, and she will inexplicably be unhurt.
  • White Sheep: It's uncertain if Simon Barrows is the Barrows descendant and not Mary, but if so he was a good man, different from his demon-worshipping ancestors and relatives. After the birth of the twins, he reluctantly planned to destroy them and his wife Mary when she became obsessed with black magic, but alas, he waited too long and they were too powerful for him. Mary chose to imprison him and let him go insane rather than kill him.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The game is basically the plot to the horror movie Phenomena, even down to Jennifer having the same first name and looking very similar to the main character of said movie. (Except in the game, Jennifer is not the daughter of a movie star who gets sent to a decrepit boarding school, nor can she talk to insects.)
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: The A rank ending, wherein Jennifer discovers one of her friends waiting for her at the top of the Clock Tower, and runs toward her... Only for Mary to pop up and kill them right in front of her, before trying to kill her as well.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Clock Tower The First Fear


Warp Ability

Jon erroneously thinks he is safe from the Scissorman's grasp after climbing up a ladder to a heightened area, only to be immediately proven wrong afterwards.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (23 votes)

Example of:

Main / OffscreenTeleportation

Media sources: