Clock Tower is a 2D psychological horror point-and-click style game, where the player controls a cursor to direct the main character, Jennifer Simpson, and give commands such as investigating objects or opening doors. The interface is akin to computer adventure games of the 1990s, but simplified to work better with a gamepad.
Clock Tower is unique among adventure games of the era in that it features a stalker pursuing the main character; this delays puzzle solving and requires the player to run in order to find objects or hiding places to fend off or avoid the attacker. The stalker is a 9-year-old slasher named Bobby Barrows/Scissorman, who wields a large pair of scissors. If directly confronted by Bobby, the player engages in a “panic” phase and must repeatedly pound the “panic button” to attack the enemy. If Jennifer is low on health, or the player does not tap the panic button fast enough, Bobby will attack Jennifer and the player will be presented with a “Dead End” screen.
Although the game refers to it as Jennifer’s health, the color of the background where her face is shown changes to represent her current fear level. Blue means she is in a calm state, while yellow means she is startled, orange means she is alarmed, and finally red means she will begin to panic. In the red state, she is more likely to be attacked during a direct confrontation with Bobby. Additionally, while running away from Bobby, there is a chance she might trip over, making her vulnerable if Bobby is close by.
Many of Bobby’s appearances are triggered by the player inspecting certain objects, but there are some cases in which he will come out of a hiding place and chase Jennifer as soon