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Silver Chains is a horror game with three things in abundance: dolls, ghost children, and lots of cardio. Throw some puzzles, jump scares, and a 20th Century rural English mansion in there, and you’ve about summed up Silver Chains. The game starts with you, as a man named Peter, having crashed your car outside of a mysterious mansion. Spoiler alert: you’ve been here before, and you’re not safe. A good premise – a classic premise – but the execution left a lot to be desired.
The description for Silver Chains tells us a lot about the game; most importantly, its inspirations. These include the Layers of Fear games, the Silent Hill series, Resident Evil, Outlast 1 and 2, Dead By Daylight, and The Slender games. Quite the pedigree to look up to, no? I can spot these inspirations fairly easily in Silver Chains: melting paintings, a long-limbed monster, a puzzle-filled mansion, a run-don’t-fight mentality, and a bountiful supply of journal entries to find. Horror staples, all of them. I only wish that they had been a tad bit more unique.
I’ll start with the good things about Silver Chains. The monster design? A+. Granted, there are few monsters in the game, but the few here are interesting to look at and deeply frightening to gaze upon too long. A strange juxtaposition, but I found myself caught between wanting to look anywhere else and staring directly at these creatures. The game also touts more than a few jump-scares, naturally, and while a couple felt lackluster, several did make me give a comically loud gasp.
Another thing I liked were the ghost children; while scary at first, the game quickly turns that fear into a sense of endearment, and eventually, something resembling understanding. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised when the plot turned out to not be demonizing mental illness – just creepy dolls. And important I feel to mention: I never ran into any bugs while playing, and the game ran easily on my fairly average rig.
Unfortunately, there were a lot more things that I felt critical of. The story starts with more of a whisper than a bang, and while I had the occasional spike of interest as I traversed through the short game (Silver Chains is beatable in a little over an hour if you don’t get stuck on anything, though most people on Steam reported a 3-hour run time), the story often doesn’t supply you with enough meat to truly sink your teeth into. Yes, there is a twist, but one that anyone with a fear of dolls like me can see coming. And then there’s… another twist?
Let’s just say this: the ending of the game feels like it’s falling apart at the seams. It seems like the devs knew what they had in mind, but then rushed through it all in their eagerness to complete it. The monsters are easy to get away from (read: despawn them by hiding in conveniently placed armoires) and don’t appear often enough to give you a feeling of panic.
An event I feel is worth mentioning, based on the hilarity and sheer confusion, was the fact that the voice actor for Peter… wasn’t British for the first two minutes of the game? I spent the first half of the game wondering whether or not Silver Chains was trying to pull the ol’ switcheroo on me! I truly had a theory that I was no longer playing Peter, but a second out-of-place haunted man. I don’t think this was the case, but boy did they accidentally fool me.
There are a few scenes in Silver Chains which just feel downright silly, including a sequence involving an Ouija board moving so strangely fast it looked like a joke. The main monster, The Mother, is obviously only scripted to show up at certain points in the game, and while her limited appearances can be done in a frightening manner, here it becomes just a slightly fearful inconvenience. I was never afraid of running into her during my travels, and thus spent all my time actually running in the halls without fear of consequence. Grammar and the occasional spelling mistakes are also in abundance, which will definitely bother some people more than it bothers others.
Silver Chains felt like it had potential, but ultimately contained nothing worth repeating. It feels like a disjointed series of events that just happen to be tied together by a past tragedy; the last third of the game feels like a different experience entirely, but not necessarily in a good way. I never figured out where the antagonist actually came from, or why these events happened in the first place, or even how or why Peter has come to return to this empty house.
That’s my big question – what are the events that led Peter to arrive back at a place he doesn’t even remember? I suppose that’s the biggest problem with Silver Chains: it has no solid foundation to stand on, and uses tried and true horror tropes as a crutch. But horror tropes are just that – tropes. They are there to enhance the experience, to add depth, not to be the full experience. Looking for a game with these tropes that hold up? Try any of the games Silver Chains takes inspiration from: you’ll enjoy them a lot more.