Clea is a 2D horror game (with some nice 3D depth effects) that wastes no time in plunging you into terrifying darkness as you seek to escape the haunted Whitlock Mansion, which has been overrun by ghoulish creatures such as Chaos Servants and Spiders.
Careful sneaking about is the order of the day; with the slow pace you need to maintain to ensure you aren’t ambushed by the frankly terrifying enemies, the game is extremely tense and is excellent at creating an atmosphere of dread without resorting to traditional jump scares or overt gore. There’s some very clever mechanics in play, such as being able to check under doors before entering a room (thus avoiding an enemy encounter – hopefully) and being able to stretch the camera left or right beyond the standard field of view, again to ensure there’s no nasty surprises lurking ahead in the dark.
What makes it even scarier is that the Chaos Servants and other creatures aren’t pre-scripted to appear in certain spots, so you can be taken aback and overcome at any time – running into one without adequate defence will end the game.
Limited save points that you have to reach in-game only serves to ratchet up the tension, though it can sometimes be a frustration to lose progress if you’re killed just before you reach the next one. Thankfully, stages aren’t so large as to make this an issue for the most part. If you want to make things a little easier, you can make saves unlimited – but you’ll still have to reach the save points themselves – so it’s not as if doing that removes the challenge entirely.
Though the control scheme – which is explained by in-game pictures you walk past in the first room you enter – can take a little getting used to, it soon becomes second nature.
The visuals do as good a great job of creating an air of foreboding, as does the excellent sound design. There’s an excellent emphasis on the sound being not just an atmospheric device, but also to assist with safe navigation; you’ll be able to hear and pinpoint footsteps using audio, especially if you’re wearing headphones – which the game rightly recommends.
Progress depends on you solving puzzles in which you’ll pick up, use and potentially combine objects or use switches in the environment; though I was stuck, scratching my head as to how to proceed a few times, generally the solution isn’t too obtuse – you’ll get there in the end.
Despite horror games not really being my thing, I’ve found Clea to be an excellently inventive and very well designed game that has atmosphere and dread in spades. With near constant, unscripted scares and gently challenging puzzles, along with an intriguing and creepy story, Clea is an excellent game with a unique feel for those gamers who don’t mind a tense, sometimes scary experience with some clever, not too taxing puzzles thrown in for good measure.
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