I don’t usually play horror games. As a regular sufferer of anxiety attacks, if I want to be scared, I just need someone to drop round unexpectedly. However, there was something about Silver Chains, a horror game developed by Cracked Heads Games that appealed to me. On the outset it appeared to have everything I go for in the genre, but how did it fare? Is it a unique terror filled experience or were the only scary things going on, the omissions from the developers? Read our review to find out?
Silver Chains tells the tale of Peter, who after crashing his car heads to the rather foreboding old and decrepit house in front of him. As he approaches, he blacks out and wakes up in of the house’s rooms. How did he get there and just what happened to the residents of the house?
These are the two questions posing the player. Without giving two much away it’s a story that features some fairly typical tropes of the genre. Including child abuse. So, if you are of slightly more delicate sensibilities you might not particularly go for the main story. It’s fairly clear what’s happening within the early part of the game, though the semi-twist at the end takes the storyline off-track a little. The storyline didn’t bowl me over with originality but figured there would still be enough in the game to easily compensate for any storyline shortcomings.
Cracked Head Games have compared Silver Chain with classic horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but from a gameplay perspective apart from the fact it’s a horror game the similarities weren’t immediately obvious to me. There’s also only around 4-5 hours of gameplay, which for it’s price tag I would want a little more.
The basic gameplay premise is to investigate a room, once you have investigated the object the game wants you to, a scripted event opens another door or gives you a jump scare, or someone to run away and hide from. There are a few genuine puzzles in there, but most ‘puzzles’ are simply finding an object so the path unlocks. You’re given a couple of items the first being a lantern, which thankfully does not need fuel and a monocle which allows you to investigate areas more closely. It’s not overly possible to run with your monocle out and you can’t use it in conjunction with your lantern, so things can be a little dark sometimes.
The main antagonist is a ghostly apparition of a women, who when she appears will chase you. If she catches you, she instantly kills you and you have to start again from your last auto-save. (Yep, no manual saves here, so any death will have you going back to before the encounter and doing it again.) If you see here then you need to run and ideally hide in one of the many armoires and cupboards littered about the house. Firstly, she never checks inside them, and you can’t move inside them either, so rather than peeking out to see when she’s going, you just have to wait until the suspenseful music stops.
I would have also like to see a bit more interaction and some fleshing out of the game world. There are very few items you can interact with, except for the items that progress you through the game and diary pages strewn about to provide more background and historical context. Even things like photographs are blurry. Would it have hurt them to throw some family photos in there, it all helps to add to the story. Throw in a few things to interact with, that aren’t important to the story. Allow Peter to sit on couches, look at paintings etc. Ultimately make the game world feel more real.
The final challenge was also a little flat and I found myself being more out of breath out of frustration rather than fear, and took many attempts. It’s impossible to solve on your first try as it requires prior knowledge of the area. Plus, trying to do what you need to, with the antagonist chasing you. Proved frustratingly tricky and difficult to complete, though the rest of the game chugged along at a fairly decent speed with very few challenging things to impede my progress.
I was a little disappointed with the gameplay to be honest. I felt we could have been given a lot more than we did. What we did get was a fairly generic and often far-too-scripted walking sim-like experience. There are a few genuine jump scares in there which help but unfortunately not enough.
Let’s park the negatives now and go on to something a little more positive, and that’s how Silver Chain looks and sounds. The abandoned and falling down house looks great. The cracked walls, broken furniture and dust and mold damaged furniture sets the tone very well indeed. Sure, you could argue that sometimes the furniture looks a little copy and pasted and a reflective mirror wouldn’t go amiss sometimes, but generally visually everything’s good. Mind you I’m a sucker for all those doll and dummy cliché’s like hanging doll limbs and ventriloquist’s dummies.
The sound also does a good job of bringing everything together. The ghostly voices, thunderstorms, creaking floorboards, and slamming doors all pad out the experience. Maybe, those sounds are a little clichéd as well, but I can’t deny the effect they had on the experience for me. My only complaint would be that the weather effects become a constant rotation rather than an engaging feature, so a little variation in those sounds would have made a better impact.
Silver Chain has 16 achievements for you to collect whilst you’re playing the game. However, the collecting of these achievements is probably not going to mean that many people will play the game for a second time, and for a £20 price tag I would expect there to be a bit more of a reason to come back. Alternate endings, or maybe even an extra difficulty mode.