Sometimes, technical difficulties result in unforeseen circumstances. It’s easy to write-off something as technically inferior; it’s another to recontextualize those problems as an homage to a time gone by. An optimist could take the PS2-era vibes of Silver Chains and find themselves scared stiff. But during my playthrough, I found that this is a title that suffers from its own presentation, especially when it seems like there’s an eShop sale on Resident Evil every other week.
But first let’s talk about what lands right, what lands wrong, and how big of a baby I am when it comes to jump-scares. I’ll give you a hint: even here, I am a big baby.
STORY – ZOINKS
There are certain horror tropes that are popular because they resonate so well. We’ve been locked in massive, run-down mansions countless times at this point, but the setting is still frightening even now. So it was still pretty effective when I found myself cast in the role of Peter, a man who has suffered a car accident and is shuffling his broken body to the nearest mysterious estate. Peter quickly encounters terrifying things, such as blank dolls, closet tunnels, and ghost children.
Things quickly escalate, and we discover that Peter’s connection to the mansion runs deeper than a random vehicle crash. Considering the entire title is only around five hours long, the pacing of the reveals and plot points flows remarkably well and leaves just enough out to make me curious. With this relatively small length of time, it would have been easy to make the story light and traditional, and instead relying on the environment and scares to drag players through.
Don’t get me wrong; we’re not dealing with lasting, memorable characters here. Again, it’s a five-hour campaign. There are some interesting ideas, and the overall plot is interesting, but it’s not entirely something that a whole game can hang its hat on. But for smaller-scale indie horror, the premise amounts to something a bit more substantial than we might expect.
GAMEPLAY – JINKIES
Silver Chains controls how you’d expect: it’s a first-person exploration title. You walk through the scary areas, interact with (a very small number of) things, and easily predict when a jump-scare is going to occur. Those points ended up being surprisingly easy to anticipate, which says something about the level design. Corridors that opened into a larger room always contained some sort of spirit, staring blankly. For those larger open areas that allowed a wide-angle view, there’s usually a child ghost standing ominously at a banister.
I mentioned at the outset of this review that I’m a big baby. That’s true, even if I knew when scares were coming. But I have to attribute my physical twitches and screams to my own nerves, rather than a successful fright the game might have planned. On my second playthrough, I opted to play mid-day, with the television on and my children sitting in the room, to eliminate any environmental influence. I still jumped when my kids suddenly asked me for more chicken nuggets.
I’m just having a problem giving the game credit for my reactions here. The level design adheres to such a predictable set of reveals and scares that it was easy to expect when a turn or twist was coming. On top of that, there were minimal puzzles to complete as part of the progression. There’s a handful of tasks, such as deciphering a code written in blood or following a ghostly map, but the title still amounts to little more than a bunch of corridors with buttons to press at the end of them.
The most intense sequence is also the last five minutes of the entire game. Just as things start to get good, we’re looking at staff credits. It’s so frustrating! There’s a clear source of inspiration that gets repeated throughout (being chased by a lumbering monster, a la Amnesia), but it doesn’t come about in a meaningful way until the absolute last scene.
Another important thing to note is that sprinting is not a consistent form of movement. Sometimes, you need to get out of a room quickly, but trying to sprint will head you straight into a door frame, leading to a game over screen. Auto-saves are fairly frequent, but there’s usually no reason why you should have gotten stuck on the corner of an object in the first place.
GRAPHICS/AUDIO – LOST IN TRANSLATION
This game doesn’t look like it came out this year. Let’s be clear; I’m not saying that as a compliment. Something terrible has happened with the port to Nintendo Switch, and Silver Chains doesn’t look very good. I’ve included a gallery of screenshots that I took during my playthrough to show what the textures have been compressed to. My reference earlier about PS2-era vibes wasn’t about the gameplay; it was about the graphics.
An attempt was made, for sure. The work paid off on the other platforms; it’s really disappointing when compared against screenshots and footage of the PlayStation 4 or PC versions, which both feature photo-realistic graphics. That’s been advertised as a feature of this Switch version, but it really shouldn’t be mentioned. It really seems like another example of how porting to the Switch doesn’t result in a proper representation of the title. Silver Chains joins the likes of The Witcher 3, The Outer Worlds, and Immortals Fenyx Rising as an example of a lesser-quality offering for players.
The visuals aren’t realistic; they’re blocky, stretched, and low-quality. Certain objects were clearly not intended to be seen from certain angles. At one point, there’s a maze sequence made out of crumbling walls and bookshelves, and it all runs together to become a stretch of beige hallways instead of the tense navigation that was intended.
I think what’s most disappointing about how the title looks is that there are ways to do a horror game with lower quality visuals, and there are ways to move to the Nintendo Switch while still retaining the visual fidelity of the original scope. But considering that the original PC release was back in 2020, and the PS4 and Switch versions were both released on the same day, it does seem as though this particular port was not a large point of priority.
Silver Chains was reviewed on Nintendo Switch. A key was provided by Headup Games.