Halloween is upon us, so the emergence of Clea on the Nintendo Switch makes for good timing. Grab the pillows, some popcorn and some patience in this stealth-based horror.
But wait: there’s no need to grab the pillows as the game claims to be jumpscare-free. It’s true, there aren’t jump scares in the conventional sense of a cat jumping on a piano, but that’s not to say it won’t make you jump.
The good, or should I say evil people at InvertMouse recommend you wear headphones. Prepared to jump off a cliff with everyone else, I did this, and all this did was enhance the experience and make me feel a little on edge.
While Clea is a horror title, it’s not scary in the conventional sense of blood and guts, and we’ve already established it’s free of jump scares. That said, the presence of Chaos Servants throughout doesn’t mean this is an easy run, and I’d often have my fair share of pant filling.
The premise is simple: your parents have been experimenting on the servants in their mansion, and as Clea, you find that your awkward birthday celebration interrupted by said servants as they roam freely in your home.
Clea is a rich kid, so she and her brother have a maid – who promptly leaves them to eat (birthday) cake and investigate the disturbance. Not wanting to sit still, Clea grabs her brother and embark on a mini-adventure to get a grasp of what’s going on and an inkling on who her family are.
The setting is relatively minimal, and you play from a side-scrolling perspective. She can walk left and right, sprint and sneak. Naturally, the latter is the action you will be performing more often than not so that you can get past enemies without them seeing you, but also to pick up all the very many goodies scattered about.
I’m Not Coming Out
In some respects, Clea reminded me a little of The Coma 2: Vicious Sisters in that you hide in furniture until a threat has reduced. Said threat begins with creepy Chaos Servants walking about, not doing anything in particular but if they see you, will give chase and end your run.
You can just about outrun them, but they will follow you – much to my disappointment, and often shock. Stop to take a breather in an adjacent room then they follow through. Not that kind of follow-through, though I’m sure I did a couple of times.
The characters are particularly scary, and the sound effects aren’t amazing, but with headphones on and the potential threat, they’re quite well-balanced to create tension and enforce the odd mistake – on your part. However, hide successfully or equip yourself with a candle to dispel evil.
It took me a while (ish) to work out what the candles were for. There’s no tutorial as such, just slight visual clues on what to do. I missed the opening room that showed this so didn’t get it at first. I thought the candles were collectables as it’s Clea’s birthday, but when you equip them, the room lights blue and no enemies can harm you until you exit.
Don’t Make A Sound. Actually, Do
The level design in Clea is very no-frills. Most of the time, you will need to make use of the sounds in the game to predict any imminent threat. You might hear the ominous presence of a character and rather than wing it and head straight into trouble; you can peer to the left and right of the screen without moving.
It is a linear experience, however, and you will find that there’s no need for back-tracking or extra filler to make a short game longer for the sake of it, and on that basis, that’s a good thing as less is more. With that in mind, you can expect to finish in one sitting, if you have the guts and aren’t too fearful of what is around the corner.
There are half a dozen levels to contend with, all with stealth on the menu. It was quite surprising to see the many difficulty options on offer as Clea isn’t too hard, but does require patience and a little bit of foresight for survival. It’s fairly forgiving though as you can find cake savepoints. Alas, you can’t eat the cake.
Overall, Clea is a good challenge for stealth fans, but also horror peeps too, due to the ambiguous story of experimentation and Clea’s parents. The sound really made the game overall. It didn’t stand out on its own, nor will it blow you away, but when married with the tensity of sneaking past enemies, it creates a mood worth experiencing.