This latest trek into survival horror territory immediately earns points for its fresh setting and story. Foregoing the usual derelict space ships and zombie apocalypses, The Chant drops players on a remote island, where a peace-seeking spiritual retreat has gone very wrong. But more than just an inspired idea -- complete with creepy cultists and cosmic horrors -- the title organically ties its engaging concept to its gameplay. Brave gamers battle possessed humans, mutated creatures, and plant-like monsters with an unconventional assortment of weapons, such as crafted bundles of burning sage and handfuls of tossed salt, while monitoring and managing their increasingly fragile psyches. Scary situations can trigger panic attacks, so fleeing or finding a spot to meditate can prove as beneficial as unleashing a prism ability, magic-like powers unlocked throughout the game.
Ultimately, players must balance these varied, evolving combat options against the protagonist's mind, body, and spirit, represented by a trio of meters that can deplete depending on the unfortunate situation they find themselves in. It's a novel approach that nicely complements the The Chant's mysterious island and its cultist inhabitants. While the unique concept is welcome, the execution can fall short. Combat can feel imprecise and clunky, and animations often look awkward. Toss in stilted character performances, and the game -- while exclusive to next-gen consoles and PCs -- looks and feels a bit behind the curve. When not battling psychedelic threats, players sort out light puzzles and explore the island to interact with its unhinged denizens and uncover its mysteries. The former activity is serviceable, if familiar fare, but the latter effectively pulls you in with creepy interactions, lore-filled film reels, cryptic notes, and bestiary journal entries. The Chant isn't without flaws, but if you're craving a fresh, cosmic horror spin on the genre, you could do worse than drinking its Kool Aid.