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The Chant Review: Psychedelic Spiritual Horror (PS5)

A neon-colored, psychedelic, science-fiction trip into the horrors of trauma at a yoga retreat, The Chant offers something new to the survival horror genre. Though in desperate need of a little more polish, the game is a cult experience that is more than worth a visit.

The Chant Review: Psychedelic Spiritual Horror

A new horror IP has been released and seemingly gone under the radar. Developed by Brass Token, The Chant takes the tried and true tropes of survival horror and adds a little flare to create something new.

Though it does not appear on MPD charts, The Chant is a sum greater than its parts. Spirituality, conspiracy, science fiction, and bright colors all whirl together into a truly unique horror game experience. Like a blood-splattered, demonically possessed LSD trip, The Chant is equal parts anxious isolation and gory action sequences.

This is not to say that The Chant is without flaws. From frame rate dips and clunky handling, the game has more than a few issues. Most of which seem like they could have been taken care of with just another round or two of final polishing. But, given that this comes from a smaller team, a few problems are to be expected.

The Chant is clearly a double-A-level game. But, there is a certain charm to this. It is reminiscent of a B-rated horror movie. What it lacks in budget and production, it makes up for with vision and a lack of executive control. Though not perfect, The Chant is a horror experience worthy of any genre hound’s time. Given that this is the developer’s debut title makes it all the more impressive.

The Chant is now available on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and S, and Microsoft Windows for $39.99.

This review contains minor spoilers for The Chant.

The Chant - Teaser Trailer | PS5 Games

Story – Spiritual Stretching

After a frantic opening chapter, the game introduces the protagonist, Jess. Dealing with resurfacing trauma, she finally agrees to attend a yoga and wellness retreat with an old friend. Arriving at the isolated island paradise, she is faced with unexpected threats. From ravenous cultists gradually losing their grip on reality to cosmic horrors, it is a setting that H. P. Lovecraft himself would be proud of.

Jess stands beneath the stars in a yoga tent.

Jess stands beneath the stars in a yoga tent.

On the surface, The Chant can be viewed as a rather fun story about cosmic terror. For those who wish to dig a bit deeper, a lot of heavier concepts lurk beneath. Processing of trauma, interpersonal relationships, self-care, community, and human’s place in the greater universe are all touched upon. The problem is that they are never fully delved into. More than a few interesting concepts are introduced and toyed with, but none are explored in-depth. This creates plenty of fun ideas to play around with but little to chew on.

Gameplay – Spoon-Fed Clunkiness

The fundamentals of The Chant are comparable to other, more well-known survival horror games but with a little flare and spice. Materials are scattered around the island. These can be used to craft different weapons. Only, instead of shives and ammunition, Jess uses twine and sage to make smudge sticks that ward off entities. Everything keeps a level of new-age spirituality to it. There are also three meters to maintain that equate to physical health, sanity, and spiritual strength. Through actions such as meditating, one meter can be drained to fill another, but all three are important to the struggles ahead. The methods are the same, but the specifics are a fresh change of pace.

The bulk of the game centers around facing animal skull-wearing cultists to find puzzle pieces that lead to a boss fight. Most fights are not as straightforward as hack and slash. Instead, the environment is used as a puzzle itself. As fun as this would be, everything is spoon-fed before reaching the fight. Posters throughout the island create a bestiary that explicitly enemy weaknesses. Film reels found in cabinets or under tables show how rituals are performed, step by step, that just so happen to be the set-up of the next boss fight.

Jess faces a large creature born of the flower.

Jess faces a large creature born of the flower.

Aside from these major points, the game feels like a double-A game. Movement can often be clunky, and enemy hitboxes make virtually no sense. A creature scurrying around that only comes up to Jess’ knee takes damage when the witches’ stick is swung in the complete opposite direction, while a hulking beast requires pinpoint accuracy to hit select points. The Chant feels like an early PlayStation 4 game when it comes to controlling Jess. All of this is compounded by occasional FPS dips and texture loading issues in the rare cluttered section.

Audio and Graphics – A Neon Horror Trip

Visually, The Chant is delightful from afar. Everything looks polished and grand until Jess gets too close. Then, all of the faults cut through. The environment is lush and thriving when viewed from a lookout somewhere high on the island. Characters look impressively rendered while they are living out their day-to-day lives. Monstrosities are brightly colored and intricate with an unsettling symmetry. All of this is until looked at up close as the lack of textures, emotionless expressions, and repeated patterns become glaringly obvious.

Even though The Chant lags behind in modern graphics, it is worth noting that the visual style of the game is something fresh and needed in the genre. Most games focus on building tension and fear by limiting the player’s view and forcing them into the dark. The Chant opts to reverse this. Bright areas with vibrant colors become dreaded because of the implication that a creature is there.

Jess has an unexpected, otherworldly encounter.

Jess has an unexpected, otherworldly encounter.

The island was surprisingly filled with the sounds of a thriving yoga retreat. Dirt paths crunched beneath every step, and thick flower petals squelched as they contracted. The music swelled with each scene. From calming harmonies during a meditation session to brash and jarring dissonance when finding a boss, the music was always a perfect fit. The problem was that none of it was memorable. Rather than being another medium to express the story, the music was purely background and quickly forgotten.

The Chant is a fresh take on survival horror. Swapping dim corridors for neon flowers, there is something trippy about the game that should be appreciated. Jess’s journey is a fun story, albeit shallow. So many windows are peered through but never fully opened. Taking roughly 4 hours to complete, it is a great single-sitting game but could have benefited from a little more meat. It is doubtful that The Chant is going to become a must-play classic, but there will surely be a dedicated cult following in years to come.

The Chant was reviewed on PS5.

Summary
The Chant offers the player a trip into horrors not in the usual settings but at a yoga retreat. An insane cult and neon cosmic terrors separate The Chant from other survival horror games for its unique tone. However, faults in the visual and gameplay polish hold The Chant back from reaching the point of an instant horror classic. Instead, it is a sure-to-be cult classic worth the short journey.
Good
  • Refreshing location and mechanics
  • Colorful while remaining scary
  • Extremely atmospheric
Bad
  • Holds back on potentially deeper story elements
  • Clunky controls
  • Lacking visual polish
7.5
Good

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