The Chant Review

Richard Walker

Your friend Kim has a lot to answer for. Not only has she invited you to a hippy-dippy spiritual retreat on a dodgy island in the middle of nowhere, but her first order of business, upon your arrival, is to bugger up a seemingly innocuous ritual, unleashing all manner of supernatural weirdness. Kim then sets about running off, getting herself into a state, and almost dying, leaving you on your own to deal with all the crap she's let loose with her freak-out. Nice one, Kim. In psychedelic third-person horror game The Chant, you play as Jess, a woman looking to let go of a past trauma. Her grip on reality is perpetually tenuous, and all of these occurrences aren't helping. You'd better do something about it, then, if you can endure The Chant's choppy, oddly paced yarn.


It all starts so peacefully.

While Jess's initial observations that things “feel a bit culty” on the island hit the nail on the head, with everyone dressed in white robes and crystal necklaces - as self-appointed beardy guru Tyler leads the new age nonsense - you'll immediately discover that there's more going on here than meets the eye. And when I say 'immediately', I mean immediately. Once the ritual goes wrong and Kim legs it, you'll be thrust straight into the so-called 'Gloom', where bizarre flower creatures and possessed cultists dwell, and all you have is a crummy, cobbled-together weapon to swing about, and a delicate psyche that could shatter at any moment.

Jess's traumatic past means she's scared of flies and the dark, and such fears chip away at her mind, as indicated by one of three gauges. Should her mind meter deplete, she'll suffer a panic attack, rendering her incapable of using weapons. The only way to recover is to run away, meditate by consuming your spirit gauge, or eat a bit of lavender. Yes, eating raw lavender is good for your mental constitution, apparently. I wouldn't recommend it. Jess has her body to consider, too – your health, essentially - replenished by chowing down on some raw ginger. Grim. Incidentally, your spirit is refreshed by stuffing your face with spirit cap mushrooms. Obviously.


 

During your quest to dispel the Gloom from the island, you'll battle Mandacore flowers, massive toads, and other floral abominations, which boils down to mashing R2, dodging some fairly obvious attack cues, and maybe busting out the occasional spirit-based prism ability. Mind attacks must be countered to preserve your sanity, but The Chant's combat is ultimately lightweight and deeply unsatisfying – every encounter pans out in pretty much exactly the same way. Resources to craft weapons and throwable items are in short supply, too, so you're often left without anything to defend yourself, which proves rather irritating. Jess isn't great with her fists, although she can shove enemies out of the way.

Bolstering Jess's subpar fighting skills are 'prism' abilities, acquired through coloured prismic crystals. They include a sonic scream, which knocks enemies back, one that conjures razor-sharp stalagmites from the ground, and another that causes grasping hands to erupt from the floor and temporarily hold a foe in place. These lend a dose of much-needed variety to The Chant's otherwise rather one-dimensional combat, because the game's craftable melee weapons are largely identical – one sets enemies on fire, another is fast but weak, while the mugwort 'witch stick' keeps the occult nasties at bay.


IT'S BEHIND YOU!

Combat and crap weapons are the least of The Chant's problems, though. Enemy encounters are shoddily designed, the story is poorly paced and not particularly interesting (something about a cult leader in the 1970s, an occult mask, and 'Prismic Science'), and the final boss showdown is laughably bad. There are some saving graces – The Chant's puzzles are fairly well put together, its island retreat is just large, linear and well signposted enough (with a dodgy fast travel option) to be palatable, and its runtime is mercifully brief.

A bizarre supernatural horror, The Chant's setup is a promising one, but developer Bass Token's execution is unfortunately lacking; reminiscent of something you might have played during the early 2000s. Nonetheless, this is a perfectly solid, albeit incredibly weird, third-person experience, and there are far worse ways to kill seven or eight hours. If you're desperate to play a curiously odd survival horror with a cosmic, psychedelic leaning, then The Chant fits the bill.

The Chant

A strange horror experience that isn't all that scary, The Chant is nonetheless an interesting ride while it lasts, despite being marred by a scrappy story and even scrappier combat. It's weird, but not all that wonderful.

Form widget
55%
Audio
75%

The synth soundtrack is actually rather good, while the voice performances are, for the most part, perfectly fine.

Visuals
70%

Uneven. Environments look nice enough, if a mite unremarkable, while characters suffer from a weird, waxy look.

Playability
60%

Jess’s movement feels stilted and the game’s one-note combat can be quite shabby. There’s some fun to be had here, though.

Delivery
50%

A 5-7 hour game you’ll likely only play through once and never again. There’s a lack of attention to detail and polish, and no meaningful extras.

Trophies
60%

A good spread of objectives, but the presence of tasks that demand no less than three playthroughs is never a good thing.

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