With uncanny timing for the Halloween season, Clea arrives on the Nintendo Switch. Utilising some stunning sound design, you must sneak your way through a mansion littered with chaos servants and other horrors with your younger brother. A survival horror game with an attractive paper-doll aesthetic, this is a unique little game with a lot to offer.
Set inside a Victorian-era mansion and dressed with gothic-lolita sensibilities, the titular Clea can traverse levels by moving left and right, going through doors and exploring areas until she finds the items required to advance. Strangely enough, the gameplay movement mechanics are very reminiscent of the Atari Lynx classic, Electrocop (without the lasers!). The challenge here is to listen to all the activity around you, knowing when to hide and when to sneak or run to the next area. It's a game that begs to played in a dark room with headphones, which will immerse you in every scary creak and frightening rattle.
The game makes use of an inventory system, which fans of Resident Evil will instantly recognise. You can collect items that work in a standalone fashion, such as potions that heal Clea's scars, or candles that can repel Chaos Servants, but more importantly you can also combine items to create vital items like keys with which you can escape an area. You'll need to keep an eye on your inventory, as some items will be vital to your survival, especially in the harder modes.
The game gives you a couple of very important tools - one is to look both ahead and behind you, which are very useful. More importantly, you can look under door by holding B button - you will want to do this with every door, as you can come to a sticky and immediate end if you just walk in blindly. Caution is the watchword here.
Graphically, the game is sharp, but a little too samey in terms of the level design. It feels a little like a Flash game built with tiles, but the simple nature of the presentation doesn't take away from the gamepley. Everything here is designed to make you focus on what you can hear as much as what you can see, and for this reason I completely understand the lack of rumble in the game - it's very clear where developer InvertMouse wants you to focus. Rumble would detract from that superb sound design, so away it goes.
This is not a game you'll be running through (though the medals encourage you to try and complete a level without being seen, heard or hiding in a cupboard). It requires patience and timing, with a good memory to boot - the puzzles are obscure in places, so remember patterns and symbols if you want to progress.
The game moves the story along via little notes left around the mansion, and as you move further into the game, you'll take on the role of other characters too, which gives a nice sense of progression and variety. In all, the game makes a good fist of providing context for its scares, as bloodless as they are.
While the game won't be giving Resident Evil a run for its money any time soon, it's really not the audience the game is aiming for. This is a subtle and sedate game, which will attract a certain type of gamer. For the price, you're getting a great little game that offers unlockables and several modes to enhance longevity. It's a nice little slice of horror that may be a touch niche for some, but for those that take their time and pop on those headphones, it's a hidden gem of a game. Hide and go sneak indeed!
Stunning sound direction really makes the game stand out, it's a cracking little creeper well worth the price tag. Something genuinely different.