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Chasing Static Perfectly Encapsulates the PS1 Horror Atmosphere

Chasing Static is a first-person PS1 inspired horror title to join the renaissance of indie horror developer Headware Games and it more than earns its place alongside Murder House, Fatum Betula, and Spookware. Previously featured in the 2021 Haunted PS1 demo disc, you play as Chris Selwood as he learns of his late father’s mysterious science experiments in a small Welsh town. Mild spoilers ahead!

Chris returns from his father’s funeral conflicted. While they weren’t close, it’s a difficult event to deal with. Stopping at a small roadside cafe for a late-night coffee he’s nice enough to assist when the power goes out. When it comes back on, nightmarish visions appear, including the kindly waitress crawling on the ceiling like a spider.

After his car crashes during a storm, Chris discovers a couple of eviscerated bodies in Hazmat suits, and I don’t think this is a typical sight in Wales! He finds a seemingly abandoned bunker full of strange audio equipment. As we learn, the Echo Chamber team was researching a phonenomon through radio waves but recently the entire area has been breached, leaving everyone dead. Using a “Frequency Displacement Monitoring Device” (a portable radio with a handheld telescope) you’ll hone in on anomalies—Echoes of past events that give backstory and put you in the right direction.

Speaking with you via radio, Helen is the last remaining researcher and instructs you on how to use the FDMD. Every containment field went down at the same time, an unprecedented event that distorted reality. Helen describes it like sleep paralysis but on a much larger scale, covering the town and surrounding area. She goes on to say that nothing you see is real, just the mind playing tricks on you. But who’s to say that’s not a white lie?

A room full of computer and audio equipment

Music and sound effects fade into the background when using the device allowing you to both hear and see where you need to go, the radio acting like a compass of sorts. These also trigger items to appear allowing you to progress. Controls are basic, movement, and interacting with objects. Important tools like your flashlight and FDMD have hotkey shortcuts so switching between them is simple. Having the radio dish open will slow your movement down a little but Chris is still pretty speedy. The flashlight is only slightly brighter than the ambient light given off by the FDMD, so I was armed and ready with my radio practically the whole game.

The constant rain and ambient soundtrack set the mood wonderfully and complete the retro aesthetic. I don’t know how to describe this without sounding silly but an important aspect of games to me is pleasing menu sounds; if a game has bad ones, well, they really stand out. Chasing Static commits in both the graphics and sound to give you that chunky VHS vibe; the menu itself is a VCR playing a home movie. Aside from collectibles, every line is voice acted, with the entire cast doing a great job.

An owl sits on a tree eating a mouse

Three areas need to be contained and these can be done in any order. Several specific items are needed to progress, however, multiple pickups are scattered around including extras so you will never have to stray too far to find one. There’s even a fast travel system with a charming lo-fi feel to match the rest of the game. Big chunky desktop computers, cassette players, and radio arrays are heavily featured.

There’s a bit of mysterious, X-Files quality to the story. During the memory echoes, characters are literally built from static, which is such an interesting concept—using radio waves as time travel and possibly opening dimensions is scary and left vague enough that it maintains that feeling. I actually dislike when games completely explain things because it does take that uncertainty away. This does a great job of giving you enough pieces to figure it out while also leaving wiggle room.

A small tv is hooked up to a telephone with 4 buttons. Pressing the buttons changes the TV's display

There is no combat in Chasing Static, it’s purely exploration and reliving the past. I don’t know if the devs count this as a walking simulator, but it fits pretty well as one. Collecting notes is optional and I believe only a few echoes are needed to progress through each area, leaving the rest to completionists and extra lore. I encountered two specter-like entities during my playthrough and actually walked directly up to them (clearly I would not survive if this was real life) with no ill effects. There is a pound speaker resembling a gun, however, I fumbled the second time meeting the creature so I’m not sure what effect it has on them.

A medical facility with tools

You know when you’re spooked and start nervously laughing? That was me. Besides one or two NPCs, Chris is utterly alone in this world, wandering around in a rainstorm looking for things that may or may not even exist. He’s a great protagonist and has several “okay well this is messed up” lines giving him an extra touch of realism.

You should be able to get through the game in a couple of hours. Since I am a certified slow gamer in general it took me around four. I was able to gather every collectible in one go, but there are multiple endings to acquire—as is tradition in horror games!

Chasing Static is an extremely polished game made with love for classic horror titles while bringing something new to the table with the focus on radio. It’s wonderful and well worth the asking price. Perfect for the Halloween season.

A Steam key for Chasing Static was provided by Ratalaika Games for review purposes.

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Written by Lor Gislason

Lor is a body horror enthusiast from Vancouver Island, Canada who can be found chilling with their two cats and playing farming simulators. Find them on Twitter: @lorelli_

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