It’s one thing to pay homage to old generation classics, it’s another thing to make a game look as if it could literally run on the PlayStation 1. Chasing Static is a PlayStation 1-style horror game by Nathan Hamley at Headware Games which is described as a ‘short story’, and a short story is certainly is with a playtime that averages two hours long (Or four hours, if you take things slowly like me). You play as Chris who, after attending the funeral of his estranged father, is given a notebook which was found in his father’s bedroom after he died. Chris is in rural Wales, and stops off at the Last Stop Café in the middle of nowhere to ask for directions from a friendly waitress, Aneira. Suddenly, the lights go out and, after turning the power back on, Chris suddenly finds himself in a Silent Hill-esquire version of reality.
Chris finds his way into an abandoned research facility and, after speaking to a woman called Helen over the radio, discovers that the café has been abandoned for six months and a mysterious paranormal event has affected the nearby village of Hearth and its surrounding areas. Equipped with a Frequency Displacement Monitoring Device, Chris can follow frequency signals that lead to echoes or key items within the map. In an Everybody’s Gone to Rapture style, the echoes are of the scientists working on the site where the anomaly happened, allowing Chris to piece together the puzzle as to why the area is now abandoned and why all that’s left of the researchers are the torn apart bodies of those who couldn’t get away.
Chasing Static‘s map is much bigger than I was expecting, consisting of the underground research facility, the Last Stop Café, Hearth, the surrounding woods and ground zero. The locations aren’t highly detailed, though I did enjoy the intrigue of what each one had in store for me in progressing the storyline. You can explore each one at your own pace and in any order you want, providing you have the key to unlock that area. There’s even a handy fast travel option so that you can easily hop back and forth between the locations you have already visited. This addition was most welcome later on in the game, as the areas are fairly large with not much in them in terms of exploration. Overall, I felt like the map should have either had more exploration aspects in it or been made smaller. It’s similar to Resident Evil with how you’ll notice certain areas are locked and you must locate the key item to come back and access them, but the map lacks the character of the Spencer Mansion and Raccoon City.
You’ll pick up various key items in Chasing Static, some will unlock new areas while others are needed to progress in the story. When you’re leaving an area, the game will kindly let you know if you’ve still got key items to discover in that location, which is especially useful later on in the game when you’re backtracking to make sure you’ve got everything. Just like in Resident Evil, your key item will break once you’ve used it all you can which helps tidy up your inventory to save you scrolling through loads of useless items. You can also use your Frequency Displacement Monitoring Device to locate hidden items, though the tool can be quite finicky as you sometimes have to stand in a very specific spot for it to pick up a signal or trigger an echo.
Helen tells you that there are three machines at different sites that have gone offline and need to be brought back on to contain the anomaly. To do this, you must find three tapes during your exploration, some of which have been purposely hidden by the scientists, which makes you wonder what exactly the machines do. And what exactly they do is something that is never really elaborated on, much like several major plot points in the game, which is the key fault of Chasing Static considering it’s advertised as a short story first and foremost. Bringing the three machines back online is the endgame goal, and doing so will open up the final area which will finally explain what is going on… or a bit of what’s going on, most of it seems left up to the player’s own interpretation. Ultimately, you’ll probably walk away with more questions than what you started with.
Unfortunately, I felt like Chasing Static wasn’t very scary for a horror game. It had one or two moments that spooked me, mainly leaning on jump scares to do so, but overall lacked enough fright to be considered a horror game. Despite this, the technical limitations as well as the artistic choice of going with PlayStation 1 graphics, Chasing Static does not lack in a tense atmosphere. The low-poly graphics work perfectly with the retro horror feel and the eerie soundtrack also matches the tone well too. On top of this, the voice acting is really good for an indie game and definitely helped hold the storyline together. The dialogue felt incredibly natural and well-written, overall this was Chasing Static‘s strongest point.
Chasing Static nails its atmosphere and starts off well, filling the player with curiosity and interest in the mystery of Hearth. Although it isn’t a technical marvel, it doesn’t claim to be and the PlayStation 1 graphics work well with the game’s art style. To mirror the creepy visuals, we have an eerie soundtrack that works perfectly in building up the tension as you work your way around the map. To top it off, Chasing Static has some impressive voice acting and dialogue, which to me was the game’s best feature. Unfortunately, for a game showcased as a ‘short story’, the story is where Chasing Static actually falls flat. What initially begins as a thrilling mystery, inspired by the likes of Silent Hill, ends with a convoluted mess that leaves you with more questions than what you started with and is chock full of horror game clichés. On top of this, although the map is impressively large, it lacks the finer details which would have made further exploration worth it. The notes are fun to find, but don’t tell you much and were a missed opportunity to have some Resident Evil-style notes left by the inhabitants of the village, which could have given us multiple voices to the event that has happened. With only two hours to fill, adding small amounts of extra content here and there and elaborating more on the story would have really made those two hours more worthwhile.