Two years after launching on Steam, Claire makes her way onto PS4 and Xbox One with an Extended Cut re-release. Are you ready to face your pixelated fears?
Claire follows the adventures of its troubled titular character as she struggles with personal and familial problems. The story begins with her visiting her mother overnight in hospital. She goes to get some coffee to keep herself awake but finds the building has been abandoned. While trying to take the elevator back to her mother's room, reality slips away, and she walks into a nightmarish world of monsters and darkness.
Throughout the story, Claire continues to switch ages and appearances, making for a fragmented narrative in which it's never quite clear what's real or imagined. Generally speaking, however, you'll be tasked with finding your way through several labyrinthine locations, such as the hospital and a school, attempting to chart a safe path to the other side. Along the way, you'll have to run or hide from shadow monsters that attack Claire and increase her panic meter. Depending on which difficulty level you choose, this can either just make the screen go fuzzy or cause physical harm to Claire.
You're accompanied on your journey by Claire's faithful German shepherd, Anubis. As well as looking adorable, he will also growl to alert you of enemies, although this feature is only really of any use on the harder difficulty settings. Together, you'll encounter some other lost souls hanging around rather nonchalantly in the depressive surroundings. You usually have to find an item to "save" them and how many you save will affect the ending. There are also some dialogue choices you can make here and there, but they usually don't have much of an effect on anything.
The environments in Claire are aptly dingy and full of rich, morbid detail, with creepy messages scrawled on the walls and ghostly faces appearing at windows. However, because of the maze-like nature of Claire's levels, you can often spend a lot of time running back and forth along the same few corridors, searching for the correct door or a solution to a puzzle. The puzzles don't give you much to go on which is refreshing in principle but in practice, you'll usually get stuck in one area for a long time while not knowing what to do.
Checking your map in the menu screen is vital but unfortunately, there are a couple of issues with it. The map marks which rooms you've been in after you've accessed them, but this progress is wiped when you load a save file. Furthermore, if you try to select something in the menu while Claire is standing in front of an interactive object, you'll end up using that object as well as selecting something in the menu. For example, if you try to check your map while standing in front of a door, Claire will go through the door while you're still in the menu screen. I ran into some other technical issues as well such as getting stuck in black rooms and being unable to progress, though this has been fixed on PS4 with the 1.02 patch. There are still some other faults at the time of writing, such as the game not creating save files when the PS4 is set to certain system languages. However, it's worth noting that developer Hailstorm Games promise they will address this and the map issue in the next update.
As well as story mode, you can also play Claire in hard and nightmare modes. Nightmare presents a much greater challenge as Claire will take continual damage to her health when she's scared by enemies. This feels unfair as Claire can remain perpetually scared after seeing just one shadow creature. A few times while playing on nightmare, I died despite taking the game's advice and running away from the monster. I even gave Claire health items that reduce her panic and make her immune yet her death was still seemingly unavoidable.
I tried to test nightmare mode out more, but when I saved my progress over a normal difficulty file, the game changed the difficulty mode back to normal, erasing my progress on nightmare. Seeing as the game breaks when you try to create a new save while using some system languages, this can be a serious issue. Hopefully, all of Claire's remaining technical problems will be fixed by the developers who are at least doing a fast job of patching out some of the problems already. However, I was forced to restart the game over so many times because of these kinds of issues that I finally lost patience with it.
Claire does a good job of creating an unsettling world and telling a story that touches on some dark themes. However, it's often unclear how to progress which leads to lots of running around the same environments like a rat in a maze. This, coupled with its various technical problems, can make it a hit-and-miss experience. It's worth playing through once for its story and atmosphere, but despite its various endings, it's hard to imagine enjoying it multiple times over.
- + Interesting, if fragmented, story
- + Effectively designed gloomy world and atmosphere
- + Multiple endings based on your play style
- - Combing the same areas over and over gets tedious
- - Clumsy menu/inventory screen
- - Technical issues with save files