Clea and her little brother are trapped inside Whitlock Mansion. As they desperately search for an escape they must stay on their toes and avoid running into creepy creatures known as Chaos Servants. Why are they trapped inside a big scary mansion with Chaos Servants, you may ask? Well, it’s because their parents have been experimenting with them, of course. This is the basic premise for Clea, a recently released horror puzzler for the Nintendo Switch.
Cleais a simple game on the surface but a bit more complex than you would think. You control Clea and move her back and forth in a 2D world, entering and exiting rooms, heading up and downstairs, and collecting various clues to find your way out. Not too hard, right? Well, mostly. You have to be on the lookout for Chaos Servants who may be hiding behind any door you open. If a Chaos Servant catches you, it’s lights out. To avoid these ghoulish, ghost-like creatures, you have to listen and pay attention to everything. Chaos Servants make noise as they move around the mansion. If you listen closely, you can avoid them. At the same time, you have to be careful with the noise you make. If you’re too loud, you’ll tip off the Chaos Servants, and well, as we already established, that’s bad.
All the promotional material and official descriptions for Clea market it as having “no jump scares.” That’s only somewhat true. What the game means is that there is no pre-planned jump scares that always happen, no matter what you do. Technically that makes the game jump-scare free, however, the first time a Chaos Servant gets you, I’d wager you jump just a little. That’s not to suggest Clea is scary, but it is creepy and effective. The sound design is terrific, and the noise Chaos Servants make when they get you is rather chilling, especially the first time you hear it. For best effect, it’s a game that should be played in handheld mode with headphones.
As mentioned, Clea is a 2D game and the graphics are rather simple but sleek and clean. The look almost gives off a little paper doll vibe, but very detailed paper dolls. It’s a style that fits with the game’s aim.
Clea can get a little repetitive as you visit different floors and rooms in the mansion that look very similar. And the Chaos Servants could use a little more variety. These are merely minor issues in the grand scheme of the game, however. Clea takes a simple premise that could be entirely random but incorporates actual skill and results in a worthwhile game that is perfect for a stormy autumn night. It also serves as a great introduction to horror gaming for the younger crowd, and that’s always a good thing.
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