Roundabout the time Let’s Plays were becoming super popular on YouTube the horror game genre took a turn for the…disempowering. See, up until performers on YouTube started screaming at the monster in Amnesia, horror games were equal parts terror and empowerment, with most games in the genre offering the player some way to combat the creatures pursuing them.
Dead Space gave us the Plasma Cutter to dismember spiky aliens, Resident Evil had a veritable arsenal of weapons to fight of zombies. Hell, even Silent Hill which revelled in making the player feel out of their depth gave you a melee weapon to beat the foggy town into submission. Recently, horror games have trended to take more and more away from the player, making it nearly impossible to stand and fight – forcing them to rather run in terror. Despite Alien: Isolation giving you weapons throughout the campaign, a solid 50% of the game is spent hiding in cupboards. Silver Chains follows this route of disempowering horror, taking inspirations from many games that started this trend and seemingly learning absolutely nothing from any of them.
Boiled down to its essential components, Silver Chains is distilled cliché, coming up with nearly nothing original in its brief run-time. All the basics for a standard modern horror game are present here: The car crash outside of a creepy mansion, slow and plodding movement speed, diary pages scattered around the place to provide some kind of narrative that explains why an emaciated demon is chasing after you. All the tropes are here and do nothing to separate themselves from other games that have just done them better. Worse than that, Silver Chains doesn’t quite seem to know what kind of game it wants to be. What it most heavily borrows from games like Amnesia is the concept of hiding from the seemingly omnipresent creature roaming the mansion you’re stuck, except it never fully commits to this idea.
What makes Amnesia so scary is that the monster is always around, you’re never aware of where it could possibly be. It exists separate from the player; it doesn’t exist in your game, you exist in its world. Silver Chains wants to capture this feeling, but the monster chasing you, a seemingly possessed version of the player character’s mother, only shows up in scripted sections which often fire up when the player is staring directly at one of the several closets available to hide him.
She runs into the room, walks around a bit, and leaves. She never poses any kind of threat to the player and only achieves any kind of tangible presence due to her admittedly creepy design. So, remove the threat of being pursued by a monster in Silver Chains and all you’re left with is a series of jump scares that achieve their effect through an inorganic loud noise played over a creepy visual. It’s what you’d expect to see in any low budget horror film that takes itself way too seriously.
If anything that’s what Silver Chains reminds me of; a horror game that wants to be taken seriously but doesn’t want to commit to anything original and thinks audiences will still be terrified by themes we’ve seen in dozens of other games. There’s the classic scary doll that’s possessed by…something, child ghosts bouncing balls against doors and depressed women dying and coming back as some ungodly terror.
It’s dull and uninspired which makes the games short run time a blessing. Once you run around and solve the few puzzles on offer, the game requires you to re-tread all the ground you’ve covered without adding anything new or interesting into the fold to culminate in a conclusion that, surprisingly, is the strongest part of the game. A shame, considering it sharply ends right after the final confrontation with very few attempts to wrap up the story in any kind of compelling way.
Speaking of the “puzzles” in Silver Chains, I must acknowledge how poor the translation in this game is. It goes beyond the occasional grammatical or spelling error in notes (of which there are several), but tripped me up to such an extent that I was stuck on a very basic puzzle far longer than I should have been. An instruction to “turn the lamp” in a series of directions turns out to not mean the lamp itself, but rather the attached handle. Of course, I only discovered this thanks to getting frustrated and trying every possible solution.
I always hate being so critical of games, but sometimes it’s simply unavoidable. Silver Chains strikes me as a poor attempt to cash in on YouTube and Twitch culture without adding anything new or substantial to the cannon. It’s devoid of fresh ideas, compelling writing or engaging gameplay and attempts to make its name by having popular streamers scream out in terror at many of the scripted jump scares. There are far better horror games with which to spend your time and I encourage you to check those out instead.
Last Updated: August 6, 2019