Sometimes it takes games that first come out in Japan a year or more to be translated and then published in the US. And sometimes games that arrive around the launch of a new system later get sequels with only incremental improvements to the engine and gameplay, making them feel very dated. Both of these factors are at work in Human's Clock Tower II: The Struggle Within, a game that, like the original, features a time-lost mix of 7th Guest and Resident Evil styles of gameplay.
To understand this blend better, realize that Clock Tower II is a point-and-click-style 3D adventure game. The graphics are polygonal, and you take your character through a series of static Resident Evil-like environments, complete with loading sequences as you travel from room to room. You point and click on objects that you want your character to investigate. You click on items from your inventory and drag them to areas you want them to interact with. You click on places you want your characters to walk to and on doors you want them to go through. Yes, the PlayStation mouse peripheral is supported.
The game's storyline begins with you, as a young Japanese schoolgirl, arriving at your aunt and uncle's house. Something strange has recently happened there, and you must investigate the disappearance of your aunt, uncle, and their children. Things don't look good, though - yellow blood and strange body parts adorn the household, and a knife-wielding ghost child has taken up stalking you. Oh, and your recurring problem with the malevolent male personality that shares space in your head is acting up again.
It goes without saying that Clock Tower II's storyline is bizarre, but it's also disjointed and weird to a point that makes Konami's Silent Hill seem like a clear and concise little narrative. There are more than a dozen possible endings to the game, and while you may beat Silent Hill without a strong sense of the events you've lived through, you can finish Clock Tower II several times and still have absolutely no idea what had happened at all. And the interface and gameplay will keep you from wanting to continually go back and find out.The game screams for Resident Evil-like control of your character, but you're left with the archaic point-and-click setup that's slow to acknowledge your commands, occasionally misconstrues them, and sometimes won't accept them for unexplained reasons. According to your character's response, your directional commands are often misinterpreted for another location in the room, something that can cause you to get killed if an assailant is chasing you. Events are often triggered only after you've significantly looked around, and then eventually the game lets you enter new rooms or open drawers in unrelated areas. It seems like an arbitrary way to solve puzzles, and one that doesn't force you to think, but to spend quantifiable time wandering around areas you've been before, pointing and clicking until you can go on. It's like being stuck on a Rubik's Cube, going into the next room, turning on the TV, and coming back later to find the cube solved. It makes sense that your other personality looks at the world differently and can access different areas, but many of the puzzles are simply counterintuitive.
The graphics in Clock Tower II are pure first-generation PlayStation. The character models are so aged-looking that they creak, and their movements are likewise clunky and wooden. The rooms are also sparsely decorated, and loading times rule the day. The music and sound effects are similarly poor, occurring only during tense moments. The translation is much like that found in the original Resident Evil, except without the charmingly camp moments. Instead of, "You were almost a Jill sandwich" or "You, the master of unlocking," you get reactions to appliances like washers and refrigerators in the tone of, "Wow, it's full." A strange noise? "What!" A disembodied limb? "Only a leg!" And so on.
Clock Tower II isn't a good choice for those looking for a solid puzzle adventure or a compelling and scary game - it's neither smart, nor frightening, nor fun. Readers are better advised to look at either the most recent Oddworld or Resident Evil titles, and leave this one for the antique collectors.