Only final week I used to be praising games that wanna be bizarre, and as such I need to commend the weirdness of The Chant, a third-person motion journey the place a retreat akin to Jared Leto’s definitely-not-a-cult finds itself crashing right into a bizarre nightmare realm akin to the Upside Down from Stranger Things. The factor is, if something I do not assume it is bizarre sufficient. If you are going to do a game the place the primary character makes use of flaming witchhazel sticks to lash energy-crystal monsters with vagina-flower faces, my view is that you simply go arduous or go dwelling.
Jess is invited to the non secular retreated (on, after all, an remoted island) by Kim, each having lingering points over the unintentional dying of Jess’s sister after they had been all youngsters. There Jess joins Kim, Maya, Sonny and Hannah beneath the non secular tutelage of Tyler, a bearded bro whose dialogue may as nicely be “Everything is cool, nothing sinister goes to occur right here, [wink wink]”. Tyler, whose household owned and operated the island beforehand, has thrown up a few white tents that appear like the Fyre Festival catastrophe reduction ones and referred to as it a day, not bothering to clear any of the close by buildings of alarming skeletons, bizarre ritual leavings, and terrifying bestiary notes. I did really actually benefit from the environmental storytelling, particularly round Tyler’s low effort retreat.
Apparently, no person else bothered to kick even a single tyre across the place, or ask one thing like, “Hey, so what was your loved ones’s deal once more, Tyler?”, however virtually as quickly as Jess turns up issues go critically off the rails to vacation spot Spooky Town, our remaining cease. Tyler slips everybody some mushroom tea and begins a gaggle chant, which cracks open portals to The Gloom (everybody begins calling it that simply on common consensus, I suppose) and causes every member of the group to have a freak out themed round their private points and the color of crystal necklace they’re sporting. Kim, for instance, has outbursts of anger, so has a rage-out together with her purple crystal. Sonny’s yellow-crystal want for respect and affirmation leads him on a egocentric campaign right into a disused mine stuffed with monstrous toads.
The plan is that by gathering everybody’s crystals, amongst different issues, you’ll be able to cease The Gloom and its attendant horrors. Patches of the world are Gloomy, color coded to the aforementioned crystals (so, you’ll be able to solely traverse bits of purple Gloom after getting Kim’s purple crystal), and inside these are wretched eye-floaters and offended fanny-flowers in addition to bigger boss monsters. You may additionally run into Demogorgon-esque creepy crawlers and humanoid cultists with animal cranium heads, all of which might pop up exterior of the Gloom. The skull-heads specifically are a pleasant little bit of enemy design, they usually behave barely otherwise in line with the cranium. Horse-heads cost out and in a bit skittishly, whereas bears take massive lumbering swings.
I spose I simply want The Chant escalated extra sharply from there. It’s like how aliens are sometimes imagined as humanoid-ish, or a minimum of a recogniseable variety of legs. But why be constrained by limbs in any respect? I do know there are limitations in making something, however in a game the place your antagonist is a malevolent manifestation of the human psyche, I hoped for one thing a lot weirder than issues I’d form of already seen in different artwork. You even get shortly used to the Gloom itself, which is form of a cursed coral reef vibe with occasional eye rocks.
Jess is disturbed a-plenty, in any case. Though she will be able to dodge and shellack the monsters with crafted spiritual-ish weapons like burning sage, important oils and salt – the components for that are fairly scarce, so greatest used judiciously – fight is messy. There’s extra precision in balancing Jess’s three key self-resources: Mind, Body and Spirit. Body is your bodily well being, which may be restored by snarfing a uncooked ginger plant. Spirit, for which you’ll eat foraged shiny blue mushrooms (don’t do that at dwelling, youngsters), is used to energy particular assaults out of your crystals, together with slowing time. You can even sacrifice Spirit by meditating and recharging your Mind. It’s form of a step up from the ol’ madness metric. Jess will actually ‘lose [her] thoughts’ when in darkness or traversing the Gloom, and a few enemies will strive psychic assaults. If Jess’s Mind bottoms out then she’ll have a panic assault till you may get someplace that feels a bit safer.
I can see the way it is sensible – Jess has established triggers, for instance, associated to her sister’s dying – however I’m nonetheless undecided how I really really feel about it. Varying mileage and so forth. Having your well being bar successfully break up out into three, nonetheless, does work, and keeping track of every and sustaining a form of stability grew to become bascically my essential concern within the game, and it’s miles extra attention-grabbing than your customary well being/stamina twin bars.
They additionally do not refill after cutscenes or once you return to the camp, which is a small factor, however one I respect. It retains you barely anxious about every encounter, and helps to make The Chant really feel like one continous ordeal. It’s really fairly a compact game, and although Jess has to go to totally different areas, discovering Resi-ish keys to open locked doorways and shortcuts, there’s even a form of quick journey system by means of the Gloom if you cannot bear to stroll round what is sort of a small island. This compression does apply to the storytelling, although, to the extent that you simply get an express speedrun of every character’s points in dialogue virtually instantly earlier than they turn out to be related. It’s a really noticeable sample and I can not assist however assume it might have been teased out a little bit extra.
The Chant will get a bit predictable, in different phrases, each when it comes to the story and the weirdness. For me the clever issues it does did not fairly stability that out, which makes it, as soon as once more, a game that might work rather well for Game Pass.