Overview – developed by InvertMouse and published by Sekai Games, Clea is a skill based, survival horror adventure set in a mansion overtaken by hellish monsters. Solve puzzles, avoid monsters and use the environment to your advantage to avoid the monsters that are out hunting you. This title is available for the Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and Steam service. Links to the game will be available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank PR Hound for providing the copy of Clea used for this piece. The provision of this title has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions expressed within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be omitting the story section to prevent spoilers, so I will be moving directly to the gameplay section.
Gameplay – Clea is an unconventional horror experience, using a hide and seek style gameplay system with limited defensive capabilities. Within the Whitlock Mansion, explore the rooms of the house and avoid the monsters hunting you down, peeking under doors, hiding in closets and solving puzzles to access important items. The puzzles that the player must solve include button combination locks and color coded doors that require special keys to unlock, all while trying to remain undetected.
When exploring the halls of Whitlock Mansion, sounds will attract monsters to the room that the player is located in. When a monster is close by, they will be signaled by noises and footsteps that get louder as the danger builds. If the player doesn’t hide or use great care when monsters are nearby by peeking under doors, death will occur quickly as the most common monster will chase Clea down faster than she can run. However, there are some items and mechanics that can keep her safe.
In most areas, there are closets that Clea can hide inside, the monsters will be unable to see her while she is concealed and will go away after a moment. In some rooms there are button prompts that will create noise, these will alert nearby enemies who will be attracted to the sound, allowing Clea to sneak past or hide if a closet is nearby. The strategic use of noise and concealment can be critical to surviving the horrors of the mansion.
During the adventure, Clea will encounter an item called an arcane candle, which will repel all enemies in the room for the time that she is in that room. Additionally, potions can be found while exploring the rooms, which will heal scarring on Clea. The scarring acts as a corruption system, causing creepy apparitions to appear more frequently the longer that the scars are untreated. These important items are scarce so be careful when using them.
Now, each area is a separated into its own chapter, with a cutscene that will play before the stage begins providing more plot details. Alongside the story segments, additional details and clues to puzzles can be found in notes/books that are scattered in different rooms. These notes can be crucial for understanding what is happening in that area, providing critical information that can keep Clea safe. But not all notes are important as some are just filler, with jokes and references to break the tension.
The last thing I want to talk about is the medal system and unlockable items. At the end of each chapter, the player can earn medals depending on the difficulty level chosen. These medals will unlock bonus content that can be accessed in the main menu. Successful completion of other requirements will unlock special costumes and game modes, providing new gameplay challenges and cosmetics for new playthroughs.
Clea can be cleared in a few hours and while this is relatively short, there is a lot of replay value on offer for players. Additional difficulty settings, cosmetic rewards, play modes and multiple endings to unlock give more than enough reasons to return to this title more than once. This spooky experience has a lot on offer for the relatively low price being asked.
Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of the game, starting with the controls.
Controls – Clea has a very simple control method that works very effectively. During the opening section, there is a handy tutorial that allows the player to practice each of the functions freely. While the majority of inputs are simple and work with little lag, there is a minor issue present. Some objects appear very close to each other, this can cause the wrong object to be activated at times, such as activating a door when trying to use a save point.
Difficulty – the difficulty of this title is balanced with the implementation of several settings and modifiers available. When starting the game, there are two settings available with an additional two settings and modifiers unlocked during play. The last part of the difficulty to discuss is the penalties that are suffered upon failure, unless the player saves regularly during each stage, a significant amount of time and progress can be lost when killed.
Presentation – the visual style and presentation of Clea is spooky and atmospheric, with a paper doll style to the character models and enemy designs. This flat look also causes animations to look jerky and unnatural, further adding to the horror aesthetic that the developer was aiming for. The effects used and overall performance is pleasing, with no issues when it comes to frame rates and graphical performance.
The sound design is creepy with a distinct lack of background music during the experience, with footsteps, creepy laughter and other sound cues being used to great effect. The way that the stereo audio is implemented makes the experience even creepier, with footsteps and other sound effects changing in volume depending on the distance to the player. There is a voice over used for the story segments, with fully voiced dialogue that is excellently performed, providing an unsettling tone to all character interactions.
Final Thoughts – Clea is an atmospheric and creepy horror adventure, with a charm that I found to be genuinely haunting during the experience. The use of sound was unsettling as it added to the tension when trying to solve puzzles and get to safety. Aside from the occasional input issue when trying to save or activate objects, this title is engaging and a lot of spooky fun.
The overall quality and presentation of Clea is outstanding given that the game was created by a small team. I applaud the hard work of InvertMouse and I look forward to seeing more from this indie dev, with hopes that the sequel will also come to the Nintendo Switch in the future. I can recommend this release to everyone, with a creepy story, haunting atmosphere and challenging gameplay that anyone can enjoy.
In the end, I give Clea a final score of 4/5. This is a creepy and haunting horror adventure, featuring a graphical style that provides another unsettling touch to the experience. The gameplay is engaging and the use of sound works fantastically, alongside the variety of additional content including special costumes that are based upon releases by publisher Sekai Games. If you want to check this game out for yourself, links to each version will be available below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)
Link to Xbox One version (HERE)
Link to steam version (HERE)