What a mansion.

I ran across Creeping Terror recommended on a blog that ultimately praised it as a "modern Clock Tower," and that's depressingly apt, in the negative sense - it's every bit a product of the soulless app factory, devoid of extra effort or charm. The animations in the central pursuit & hiding mechanic are the same every time; the Scissorman equivalent - a roided-up Undertaker with spaghetti hair - will never dance in glee at winning a shoving match with the heroine or click his shears in frustration (or do an equivalent gesture with his shovel-weapon) when she eludes his grasp. A malevolent parrot will never rat out your location. There's no flavor text - you can barely interact with the environment - and almost no puzzles. Nothing that would impart character is included. Every expense was spared.

Creeping Terror is like Clock Tower in the way that, as the simile goes, getting hit by a car is like driving one - the same elements are present (car, person, road), but they're not doing the jobs they're supposed to. The game takes place in an abandoned manor, but the lack of interaction with your surroundings guts the central engine of Clock Tower's horror: the need to explore despite the danger of repeated interactions triggering an encounter with the killer. The game attempts to limits health recovery and light resources in survival-horror fashion, but since it was made with mobile sensibilities (even if no mobile version exists), there are health-restoring rations and batteries in every other room, so you'll never run out of resources or get caught in a tight spot where you have to, you know, focus on the game and can't put down your device. Never mind that this kills tension and suspense. The backgrounds are exceptionally dark, so much so that they actually work against the horror atmosphere: in two of the few moments when the game was actually trying to be scary, I couldn't recognize the dead bodies on screen as such until a second viewing because I COULDN'T SEE ANYTHING. The devs knew that horror games frequently have documents, but they didn't understand that they serve to tell a story in the deserted environments horror tales favor, so you're instead tracking down random papers offering gibberish that goes nowhere and imparts nothing. It's a student game where the student knew the words - um, some of the words, sometimes - but didn't have a clue about the music and couldn't carry a tune to save their skin.

I did like that expending energy to fend off a stalker depletes not only your health but your max stamina, making it progressively harder to run from your foe and more urgent to find a hiding spot. The watercolorish art style could've been something if visibility had been a priority for more than 2% of the game. The game does have a map, which is super-handy, but whenever you use or acquire an item, the second screen (very little conversion was done from the 3DS for the PC: see above) snaps back to your inventory, requiring a bit of button finagling to restore your setup, which is aggravating. The requirement for getting the true ending (B, for some reason) is ridiculous and near-impossible to find on one's own - once you encounter an elevator, stop and look up a guide. Also look up a guide for the game's lone puzzle at the end, as its mechanics aren't explained, and I spent a good time thinking it was glitched.

I suppose it says something admirable that Aksys brought over this mess, as it demonstrates an understanding that the market for Japanese titles is wide enough to support exporting more than just the very best, but man. Man.

I wonder if the title was inspired by the old Lovecraft text adventure The Lurking Horror, but given its origins, probably not.

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