Here's the bad news: You are just leaving your father's funeral. And here's the worse news: You took one hell of a wrong turn.
These are problems because, while we are in a world of flip phones and coffee-to-go, our boy Chris does not have a GPS and can't read the map he brought along with him. So he does the first thing that makes sense to him: he stops at a closed diner in rural Wales for more coffee and to ask the waitress for directions. She was willing to guide him to the town he was looking for in exchange for a ride home.
Then the power goes out. The waitress gets stuck to a ceiling, and the world turns into what looks like an alternate dimension. If you try to drive away you end up in a big car accident, and if you try to walk down the path beside the diner you end up in a strange loop.
The game has a way of making you feel like you’re lost, wandering aimlessly in hopes of finding something, anything to give you an idea of where you are, or where you’re going. Instead of finding any help, you come across a radio and find someone else also looking for help. The two of them are trapped there until Chris can somehow re-establish the connection between three points using cassette tapes. With no other choice, Chris must explore the wilderness and discover the truth behind a mysterious facility and uncover familiar tropes along the way.
Chasing Static is a first-person, psychological horror game created by solo developer Nathan Hamley. Crafted with the low poly visuals of PS1 classics, it plays like a walking simulator, and while there are certainly elements of horror present in this game, the game doesn't lean very much into the horror re really aren’t many of those elements overall. There’s no combat, nor any jump scares. For a horror game, it feels safe, almost in an out-of-place kind of way. What it does have though is a nice, creepy atmosphere and a great narrative. It may differ between individuals, but the sensation I personally experienced with this game was more of an eerie adventure in a bite-sized short story.
Most of this game is based around exploration. Chasing Static’s progression entails walking around and looking for things (like static!) or solving puzzles, or running away from strange entities. Oddly though, as I said above, there is no combat. The entities can indeed chase you, and if they touch you it will mess with your screen, but they cannot hurt you. During your painless explorations, you’ll come across notes that provide more insight into the past, what the facility was even doing there in the first place, and perhaps why all of the villagers went missing in the first place.
There isn’t really any guide that tells you what exactly you’re supposed to do, so for the first little while I found I wandered a bit aimlessly before I found where I was supposed to go. The game’s scenery works perfectly with its atmosphere, and both send you in circles looking for where you need to be, or what you need to find. The audio also works against you; between the rain and music, the game will lead you to believe that something is stalking you in the dark.
I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Chasing Static has achievements. The game is extremely short, even being padded with unskippable cutscenes and no real sense of direction. Despite my toying around with the mechanics and random bouts of exploration, the game only took me a little over two hours to complete. As it turns out, there are also multiple endings, making for a degree of replayability.
As for bugs and the like, I only personally encountered minor ones (that I’m aware of, at least; maybe I encountered a major one that I thought was just a part of the game). The game played fairly smooth, and I didn’t really have any real problems getting through it.
As a retro-styled game made to suit the era of the PS1, Headware Games did a lovely job. There were some things that were definitely higher poly than what the PS1 would have allowed here and there, but the aesthetic of that era was in place. That strange way the grass blew in the breeze, the pixelated look of the ground, everything put in place served its purpose, and maintained the retro flavor of the game.
Among other things, the graphics keep the game in the realm of lower specs so that it’s available to a larger audience.
If you’re looking for a walking simulator with a creepy atmosphere, or something quick and simple to play, Chasing Static might be for you. If you’re looking for horror, or something challenging, this game will not be what you’re looking for. While the game was beautiful for what it was meant to be, the story and elements fall short.
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