Games have CHAINGED
Anthology games are not my thing. I just can’t get into DreadX titles and prefer to take my short-form narrative experiences à la carte. The concept itself, however, is rad as hell, which is demonstrated by CHAINGED. The overarching idea is that a buttload of developers all contributed short experiences that make up a choose-your-own-adventure. It’s like Give Yourself Goosebumps books, except sometimes it’s a disturbing version of animal crossing.
CHAINGED was organized by Andrew Pype and consists of a heaping helping of the HauntedPS1 Community. However, the real draw here is just how unhinged things can get. Each developer was only given the context of the games preceding theirs in the branch and wasn’t allowed to communicate with one another. The result is extremely unique.
Antichrist on a tidal wave
You play as Catherine, who finds herself at the end of the world. She clings to the last precious possession she has: her daughter, Lucy. Unfortunately, Lucy is snatched away by the Antichrist, and Catherine turns to her good friend Chronos for help. Her plan is to travel back in time and prevent the Antichrist from ever happening.
Your first choice is a whole lot of nothing. You get to choose whether you travel to Wyoming or Kyoto with no guidance on which one makes more sense. The choices from there, however, get a little more clear-cut. Do you fight tooth and nail, or do you seek help and cut a deal? It’s always a binary choice, though one is not obviously meant to be “good” and the other “bad.” Often, both decisions suck, but you just have to choose the one that might suck the least.
Whatever you choose, you’re dropped into a game that could be any genre. First-person games are well-represented, but you’ll also find games that lean more toward RPGs or even rail shooters. None of them are particularly deep, nor are they very long, but that’s kind of the point of the whole experience.
The CHAIN gang
I initially chose a route that wound up turning me into some kind of time god. That’s pretty cool. Once you’ve reached a conclusion somewhere along the chain, you can view the whole string of games and choose a different branch. You can replay games, but if you just want to skip ahead to the decision-making, there’s the option to fast forward. One of the best parts of CHAINGED is the ease with which you can explore new narratives.
CHAINGED is the sequel to a previous anthology simply called CHAIN. CHAIN was a linear experience with the same idea of having different developers forge ahead in a narrative using incomplete knowledge of what’s going on. The choice-based progression in CHAINGED is not only structurally more interesting, but it also means that if you hit a game that isn’t as well executed as the others (it happens), you can choose another direction and hit a conclusion elsewhere. You can then easily return to the link that you backed out of and try again.
The downside to the format is that I don’t feel it really highlights the developers involved all that well. While the final product is compelling as a whole, the inset games are too short and simple to really get a feel for a creator’s approach. I was more excited to see folks that I recognized, but I don’t think I came away with any new back catalogs to dig through.
It’s great to see communal art projects become more widespread in video games. Considering any singular creator is a mash of focuses, perspectives, and skills, seeing them all directly compare in a singular context is always interesting. I also like to see it evolve past simple themed anthologies and into cohesive narratives.
I sort of wish that the package was similarly cohesive, however. Really, CHAINGED is a launch platform. Every time you select one of the nodes along the chain, it launches a separate executable, possibly in a completely different resolution. I imagine compiling them all into a singular executable would be extremely time-consuming, and CHAINGED is offered for free, so it’s something not worth complaining about. My capture program just really hated it, so I couldn’t record video of it. Whatever.
Oh, wait. It recorded. But it saved it under Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones. That’s weird. I wonder why that is.
Anyway. As I mentioned, CHAINGED is free, and while there’s a lot of content to sift through, it can be easily put down and picked back up later. It’s a well-executed concept and a great showcase for the community’s talent, even if the format makes it difficult for any of them to stand out. It’s exactly the sort of thing that reminds me of why I love this community.