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We tried to escape hell in Chained Together and one of us kept running ahead with no warning

I won't say who but it was Nic

Three burned figures fall to their doom over a hellish landscape.
Image credit: Anegar Games

The co-operative clambering of Chained Together is easy to understand. It's like Fall Guys in the fiery pits of hell, with a tower of fiendish platforming challenges. It brings to mind the mind-shattering failures of Getting Over It and a previous short-lived clamber sim called Only Up. Also, you are chained to your teammates. Every time you fall in this fiery multiplayer de-motivator, you are taking your pals with you, usually right back to the start. At RPS, we are not fazed, this should be straightforward. Nic, Edwin, and Brendan are all disciplined people. Yes, they are bound together in unbreakable irons. Yes, Nic does sometimes leap into the abyss without warning. Yes, they remain divided on precisely what obscene act the giant demon in the game's background is performing with his idle hands. But none of this means they can't work together to escape the inferno. Right?

Brendan: I had to describe Chained Together to someone who does not play games earlier, and settled for "Dante's Inferno meets Total Wipeout, except you're chained to three people". When one person goes ahead, those chained behind are pulled forward. When a straggler hesitates over a simple, easy, FACILE jump, Nic, everyone attached to that person feels that weight and starts to slip hazardously closer to the edge of whatever narrow levitating box you're currently occupying. It is an instantly funny game.

Nic: I’m actually impressed with how much mileage the game gets out of such a simple concept, and I suspect it's down to the designers asking themselves: what would I really not like to deal with right now? Each new set of hazards visually communicates the layer cake of fuckery held within. You stumble your collective way through one hazard, scraping through by the bruised skin of your balls, and then your instinctive jubilation is immediately cut short when you behold the next leg of the gauntlet.

Brendan: I thought it would be a good team-building exercise if we were all brutally demoralised together, shoulder-to-shoulder.

Nic: Sometimes, you accidentally look up, and see the winding route still ahead of you, seemingly scattershot but ruthlessly devised to cause you the maximum amount of psychic damage. Sometimes, you accidentally look down, and immediately shit yourself when you realise how all your hard-won progress is but one slip away from crumbling to nothing. Sometimes, you look back, and like Orpheus, immediately regret your decision as your gaze in horror at your useless flailing chainmates, who have once again failed to heed your wisdom that you all “just eyeball it, boys, we’ll be fine.” But we’re not fine, are we Edwin? Because you didn’t believe in me, and most importantly, you didn’t believe in yourself.

Nic, Edwin, and Brendan dangle from chains while holding on for dear life.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Anegar Games

Edwin: Nic old son, old mucker – I think it’s time for a refresher on the concept of a "countdown". Here is the internationally standardised and accepted formulation of a countdown: "3, 2, 1, go!" Now, please compare and contrast with the following non-standard, unaccepted formulations of a countdown: "3, 2, 1, go???", "3, 2, go", "3, 2....... 1go!", "3, 2, 1, wait, let me back up, 2, 1, go". Cleave to the official phraseology and you will make many friends in life, including the ones you are chained to in hell. While I’ve got you, here are some other lifehacks: when you are the passenger in a hellbuggy it’s important not to tell the driver the pitfalls are "speed pads". When you see a floating island of skulls it is important not to shout "chaos party!" and sprint towards them heedlessly. And when you are tethered to people and you fall off a ladder it is important to get back on the ladder promptly, rather than swinging around it saying "WHEE".

Nic: Look, it’s just no fun if you use "3, 2, 1, go" every time. Sometimes you have to just go on "1". Keeps things interesting. It’s not my fault you failed to pick up on the subtle vocal cues I was putting down. Also, that laser changed its route. I swear it.

Nic, Edwin, and Brendan begin their journey on the ground floor of Chained Together, with their characters looking at one another.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Anegar Games

Brendan: At one point, we tried to institute a "traffic light system" based on our ragged tunics, which were red, amber, and green. But we disagreed on the symbolism of the colour orange. We did eventually develop some useful shorthands though. As unconventional as our countdowns were, they were better than simply gunning it into various hazards in reckless acts of individualism. Yes, I concede our chatter was not always life-saving. Like when we were faced with those moving lasers that would trigger big spikes that THWACK you off the tower. We needed to do measurements, estimates, important calculations. This manifested as Nic standing on some wooden planks with his back turned to the incoming laser, confidently saying: "This is it. This is the furthest point we can safely stand". The laser passed straight through his knees. The spikey block of concrete that erupted from the wall sent him flying, and us along with him.

Nic's character swings around a ladder as Edwin and Brendan try to climb up.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Anegar Games

Edwin: In Nic’s defence, many of his blunders can be attributed to a failure of leadership from Brendy, the more seasoned lost soul in our group. You were supposed to be the rock, the anchor, Brendy, which I guess you were but in more of a dragging-us-to-the-bottom-sense.

Brendan: Get behind me, Satan. (If you go in front it messes up the jumping physics.)

Edwin: Chained Together is a surprisingly efficient personality test, especially when you play it wrong. I was traffic light green at one end of the chain, which is a position best saved for people who like taking the initiative and have good timing, which describes about 50% of Nic, and 0% of me. Still, we made it past that laser in the end, didn’t we? Shame about that spinning asteroid field further up. As Milton wrote, it is better to serve in heaven than be chained to a couple of journalists in hell.

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