You approach a mansion in the dark of night with your vision limited to inches ahead of you. Suddenly, you notice a light on in a window, with a figure looking your direction. Somehow, you find yourself passing out, only to awaken within the haunting halls of that same building.
Sounds foreboding, right? It’s how Silver Chains, the spook-filled first-person walking sim/puzzler from the team at Cracked Heads Games, introduces the player to the perilous journey that lies ahead of them. It also stars an eerie dummy that’ll remind players of good ol’ Slappy from the Goosebumps books, so yeah, it can be pretty damn creepy; it’s worth noting that it can also be a bit frustrating at times too.
Silver Chains’ tale puts players in the role of a man named Peter who, after crashing his car, finds himself exploring the remains of an empty (and in some ways derelict) mansion. Whilst he has no idea as to how he ended up inside there, he soon starts to feel a sense of familiarity with its halls and begins to recollect his own memories of being there in the past. What helps him are the ghostly figures that seem to haunt the rooms; some of which are playful and want to help Peter get to the bottom of the mystery, and some of which want to bring Peter to an early end…
Listen, Silver Chains probably isn’t going to win any awards for originality with its by-the-books horror narrative, but it did more than enough to keep me invested in the tale. I genuinely wanted to know what exactly Peter’s connection to the mansion was, whilst the diary pages you collect as you explore piece together a tragic story of the family that once lived there. It’s a little predictable, sure, but it also had everything that a good spooky story needs… I liked it.
Gameplay-wise, you’ll spend most of your time exploring the rooms and solving some simple puzzles to open up previously blocked-off pathways. Silver Chains utilises the classic horror game trope of having plenty of locked doors, so you’ll spend a fair bit of time simply trying to work out where you need to go next and how exactly you can get there.
Sometimes, the puzzles are straight forward and won’t require too much thought from the player, with it being a case of working out a safe combination, performing a QTE to reach an item, or simply noticing a code that was written on the wall. Then there are times when you might have to use a special monocle that you find in order to uncover hidden signs within rooms, which will then require you to do a little bit of extra detective work to figure out what you need to do with them.
Unfortunately, whilst most of the puzzles were fine, there were a few times where a lack of direction left me aimlessly wandering around wondering what to do. Sometimes it could be difficult to notice an item in the environment that you need to use for example, whilst other times a pathway may open but you won’t notice because of the samey environmental design.
There was a point where I had to interact with a music box, but I hadn’t seen one AT ALL during my time playing. Turns out it was back at the very start of the game, but it shows how easy it is to miss something and be left flummoxed. Sure, it could be down to me not looking hard enough, but I try to explore everywhere in games like this – maybe an extra clue here or there would have gone a long way, especially with the dark environment.
When you’re not exploring the environment or solving puzzles, chances are you’re being left scared by one of Silver Chains’ many jump scares. Now I know, jump scares aren’t everyone’s cup of tea in horror games, but there were a few here that caught me off guard and saw me nearly dropping my controller. There’s some good sound design on show that helps build this sense that there is an eerie presence across the mansion too, whilst seeing things like messages appear on walls, balls rolling down halls, chairs rocking on their own, or just a huge flash of lightning in the distance helps establish the game’s horror vibe. It’s not the most atmospheric horror game that I’ve played, but it still did a decent job of setting a creepy mood.
Whilst most scares in Silver Chains are harmless, there is one ghost who’s out to get you. The game always makes it clear when she’s coming your way, so you have to quickly find a wardrobe to hide yourself in unless you want to meet an early doom. Admittedly, these sections felt a little bit tacked on because there was ALWAYS a nearby wardrobe to hide in and she disappeared quite quickly so I never felt under threat, but it was still nice to have something a little bit different to add variety to the experience. However, I must admit that the ghost herself wasn’t scary at all… she just looked odd and almost cartoon-like with her weird-looking face.
I suppose the same could be said with most of the game’s visual presentation, with it not really standing out as one of the more attractive horror titles out there. There were a lot of sketchy textures to be found across the mansion, whilst the character models were very basic in design too. Whilst it did have the occasional room that stood out thanks to some unique features, there was never any moment where I found myself uttering out loud, ‘wow… what a mansion’. There was a cool nod to Resident Evil that I found when playing the piano though, so it does at least earn brownie points for that.
Silver Chains is inoffensive for the most part and whilst it did nothing that wowed me, I didn’t find myself bored or particularly annoyed when playing… up until the game’s finale. I won’t spoil anything here, but it ends up feeling like an annoying game of cat and mouse that breaks the pace of the overall experience. Whilst I’m sure a lot of players won’t mind it, I found that it saw the game end with a bit of a disappointing (and mildly frustrating) whimper.
Silver Chains is far from the best horror game that I’ve played, but it offers an intriguing narrative and enough scares to make it a worthwhile venture for horror fans.
Don’t get me wrong, it has its share of moments where it can frustrate due to a lack of direction and the game’s finale saw it end on a bit of a low point, but the overall experience of exploring the eerie mansion and uncovering its secrets did enough to keep me entertained. Silver Chains might not be an exceptional example of the horror genre, but that doesn’t mean there’s not fun to be had playing it.
Developer: Cracked Heads Games
Publisher: Headup Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Nintendo Switch, PC