10 Sep ‘Silver Chains’ Review – Debut Game From Cracked Heads Games
“Silver Chains” is a new first-person survival/psychological horror game for the PC and soon to be released on Nintendo Switch, released from indie developer Cracked Heads Games published by Headup Games. I recently got the chance to spend some time with this new title, and I wanted to share my review.
The protagonist is an amnesiac Englishman named Peter, who crashes his car through a fence and hits a tree outside of what appears to be a 17th-century manor. Unharmed, Peter can see an old Jacobean-style manor and decides to seek aid inside. While walking towards the front entrance of the manor, he sees a silhouette of a figure in a second-story window staring at him. As Peter approaches, he blacks out (or perhaps is knocked out). Luckily for you, you don’t have to worry too much about finding a way in, someone was kind enough to throw your ragdoll body on an old rocking chair and pay the electricity bill to begin your quest to escape the manor. While there are quite a few scares and surprises along the way, you essentially spend the rest of the game attempting to escape from a cliché, C-rated nightmare.
Mother, tell your children not to walk my way
Silver Chains seems to borrow from (but never truly commit to the idea of) hide-and-seek games like ‘Remothered: Tormented Fathers’ by ‘Darril Arts.’ You attempt to hide from some malevolent entity, running around the manor in circles like a lab rat, except it never fully commits to this idea. Silver Chains falls short of being innovative; it borrows from many games to inspire from what felt like a promising title but instead fails to learn anything from any of them. What made ‘Remothered: Tormented Fathers’ so intense was that the evil entity was always around; you continuously had to obscure yourself in armoires, couches, etc.
The protagonist lives in a world where the entities are learning about you, while you are surviving in Richard Felton and the Red Nun’s world, never aware of where they will appear. In this case, Silver Chains only shows a version of Peter’s possessed mother who only appears in scripted areas, which always seemed to happen when you were near an armoire. She runs into a room, while you, the protagonist seems to have never run a day in your life! You attempt to run away, but the character runs very slowly. The movement speed reminds me of that person awkwardly looking at you while they take their precious time crossing the street at a green light, so they give the illusion of jogging motions with their arms as if they are “hurrying” to make you feel that they are showing effort to make it across the street but are technically still just walking just as slow. Long story short, it always feels like you won’t make it to the armoire in time to hide, even with a 15-foot head start.
Unfortunately, this game is not based around exploration, which left little to no room for interactivity. Once you step out of the starting room, you quickly notice that most of the doors don’t open—while some become accessible later into the game, some just never open at all. The house doesn’t feel nearly as big on the inside as it looks from the outside. There isn’t much to do inside the manor. The progression was smooth but too scripted.
The soundtrack seemed virtually nonexistent. Music is essential for a horror game—it sets the mood and helps build tension. The soundtrack of Silver Chains cuts in and out throughout the experience, queuing up when you’re being chased and ending after you’ve been hiding for 10 seconds. The rest of the game, you’re left with sound effects. Overall the game feels a bit like an improved version of ‘Gone Home,’ but with worse writing, solid C voice acting, and fewer rooms to explore.
It’s clear that Silver Chains took many inspirations from various well-liked games, such as the ‘Outlast’ series, ‘Remothered: Tormented Fathers’, and ‘Amnesia’, but made an almost similar route but fell short for this disheartened horror game.
I still remember the world, from the eyes of a child
On a more positive note, the game knocked the aesthetics of this ghostly manor out of the park. The house was filled with old photographs, paintings, sculptures and quite a bit of mutilated dolls. All of this, combined with the masterful lighting, inspired a constant uneasy feeling. You never knew if a jump scare was about to happen to give you those goosebumps you are anxiously waiting to notice. The moment the protagonist woke up in the children’s playroom, I was struck by the design and atmosphere. It set me up with high expectations for the game to come. Unfortunately, the rest of the game did not deliver.
Most fans of horror games out there would have seen this all before in some way or another. I always appreciate the little details—being able to open the cupboards, drawers, and interact with the world around you, even if it doesn’t serve a purpose. It gives the whole thing a sense of wonder. One detail I liked about Silver Chains was the “spirit monocle” which, when equipped, allows the user to locate hidden objects or red herrings, to find new ways to progress through the game and access new areas. However, it was easy in this game to remember how to get to every open room and remember what is in it—which is nothing to brag about. Overall, Cracked Heads Games failed at avoiding the user from running around the manor like a lost puppy.
As far as the story went, while I thought the developers started off on the right foot, within the first couple of hours it began to feel rushed. The gameplay seemed to veer off in odd directions without a sense of purpose—a beautiful mess. The puzzles ranged in difficulty—sometimes you could solve them in a matter of seconds, while other times, you’d get stuck on an obtuse basic puzzle for way longer than needed. Most puzzles were poorly conceived and lacked innovation. It felt like I was in a constant scavenger hunt to find a lost item and place it in a designated spot. That’s not a puzzle to solve, in my view—that is an obstacle. They were in no way captivating or challenging, which is a big problem for a game whose very completion hinges on solving said puzzles.
The conclusion was relatively predictable and did not leave me in awe. You are running or crouching around (which is unbelievably slow) while you navigate around the wood-planked attic that appeared to be a poorly designed maze. There are areas to hide behind from the primary antagonist, who looks like a giant skeleton dog while trying not to be caught interacting and picking up items. This interaction allows new game mechanics, but the altercation was poorly executed. At this point, it felt as if the developers became lazy and didn’t seem to put much thought into the A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) being able to free roam on his own when not triggered. The music is nonexistent at what is the direst part of the story, and you are left hearing heavy horse clogs dancing around you for the duration.
The wooden planks cause noise that alerts the antagonist of your whereabouts. Aforementioned, the entities in the game do not learn about you, which left me crouching in an area for an extended amount of time in a small attic feeling like a corralled sheep, while the creature goes back and forth every 5 feet next to you without an opening in site to progress. Instead, the beast is triggered by sound alone, goes to that spot, and waits. Without giving too much away, you confront a poorly-executed AI boss. If you were just one item away, which it did take a while to retrieve them all because of the unintelligent A.I. boss and how slow the protagonist is, then it was inevitable to start over to the beginning of the altercation a handful of times. Those given reasons caused me to stop playing on multiple occasions because of not being able to progress due to the antagonist practically knowing where I was located at all times or not even moving from a 5-foot radius. I couldn’t move for long durations nor escape quickly to be unseen. I was always seemed to be found even when I was sneaking. Once all the items are collected, you end the antagonist and wake up being led out the front door by the ghostly children, which you will sooner or later find out who they are when you play or find out from a spoiler review, I won’t spoil it for you. Overall, the climax of the game felt very disappointing and incomplete.
A few other things I noticed: the game desperately needs more autosave checkpoints, and the navigation system is lacking. With no mini-map, you have no choice but to wander around like a chicken with its head cut off. Additionally, if you enjoy searching for spelling and grammatical errors, you may be in for a fun side quest—the diary pages have several.
Silver Chains excels in graphic quality, and the lighting system is executed very well. The puzzles are lucid, and it appears that the small team at Cracked Heads Games have taken the time to implement the animations correctly without completely ruining the game. The need for more autosave/checkpoints is desperately needed. The navigation system is lacking, no mini-map or additional placement of clues. If you dislike dolls and puppets then this game may not be for you, but then again, my most irrational fear is puppets coming to life (like Billy from ‘Dead Silence’), and I was able to complete the game just fine. On the other hand, if you enjoy searching for spelling and grammatical errors, in which the diary pages have several, then you could have fun and interact with those as a side quest since the game lacks content.
The game consisted of less than two handfuls of cliché jump scares or giggles. The random apparitions appearing in various areas, ball rolling on the floor leading to your next clue, upside bloody down numbers located literally right next to destined spot to unlock a 4-digit lock, and some of which that were applied but didn’t make any logical sense to the story but just for a quick jump scare. Honestly, what was truly grinding my gears from beginning to end, was the title. I enjoy going through a game to figure out why the game was given its title. After completing the story and seeing the credits fade onto the screen, I sat there dumbfounded; I thought I surely missed something, and to my surprise, I didn’t. I have no clue why the developers choose the name for the title. One last thing that frustrated me was that, try as I might, I could not figure out why the developers chose the name “Silver Chains” for the game. There were no jewelry, silver, or chains of any sort located anywhere in the game. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Silver Chains is currently $24.99 in the Steam Store, but I recommend purchasing when it goes on sale. The game lasts on average 4 to 6 hours. It’s not the worst horror game I’ve played. It’s possible to enjoy the cliché story, and you do feel a little anxiety here and there. If the developers were to listen to their reviews and update the game with a few patches (i.e. better AI for the antagonist) then I would gladly replay it. For now, though, it’s simply a PG-rated horror game, that my 9-year-old niece might enjoy but not a 27-year-old like myself.
Overall, I found Silver Chains to be a rather weak debut for Cracked Heads Games. It failed to be innovative, unpredictable, and memorable—all of which are necessary for the horror game genre.
Platform: PC (Reviewed) Nintendo Switch
Developer: Cracked Heads Games
Publisher: Headup Games
Story – 3/5
Gameplay – 4/5
Aesthetics & Design – 4/5
Sound Effects & Soundtrack – 2/5
Performance – 4/5 stars. I am currently using the AMD Radeon VII
Game length – The game took me about 5.5 hours to complete. It took longer than needed mostly due to running around clueless.
OVERALL RATING – 3.1/5 stars.
Moor Insights & Strategy Game Reviewer Zane Pickett wrote this article.