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Claire: Extended Cut review for PS Vita, PS4

Platform: PS Vita
Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Hailstorm Games
Developer: Hailstorm Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

The good news and bad news about Claire: Extended Cut are one and the same: its influences are clear, as are its contemporaries. This means that it's easy enough to classify, but that also means that it's easy to spot where the game isn't as good as it could be.

Let's start with the basics: it's a 2D pixelated horror game. That puts it squarely alongside the likes of Lone Survivor, Home, and all kinds of games on Steam. Not only that, it's in the same neighbourhood as Neverending Nightmares, and not too far removed from Oxenfree, to say nothing of the Corpse Party franchise. That's impressive company, for the most part…but apart from maybe Neverending Nightmares, it's all company that makes Claire look pretty mediocre by comparison.

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The problem is that Claire doesn't do any one thing as well as any of its peers. Where Lone Survivor sounded incredible, and the Corpse Party games do a good job of grossing you out, and Oxenfree had a really compelling narrative, there's nothing in Claire that really stands out as exceptional. Its soundtrack is practically non-existent. Its gameplay is repetitive, and mostly consists of wandering halls until you stumble upon enemies, at which point you run and hide until they disappear. It does a really lousy job of explaining it controls, and it forces you to remove yourself from the action at regular intervals as you check the map to confirm you're moving in the right direction.

It's not all bad, mind you. Most notably, Claire's graphics do a great job of creating a creepy, nausea-inducing atmosphere — no small feat when you consider what it's working with. 2D or not, when this game throws in blood or gore, it made my stomach turn in a way that most 3D games can't manage. (Though, I'll hasten to add, it doesn't hold candle to Corpse Party.) And on the non-aesthetic front, the game has a pretty decent story; the game is all about the titular character exploring traumas from her past, and it delves into that in a fairly compelling way.

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I don't know that that's enough to rescue the entire game, though. For all the things that Claire does well, you're still left being constantly reminded of games like Lone Survivor that do everything it does, but better. Claire is fine if you've already played its contemporaries and need something new, but if you haven't already played those, go to them first, and then you can pick this up.

Grade: C