"Chain Reaction" (2015 GSN Revival) Review

Set Design- 8
Gameplay- 7
Show Flow- 9
Potential Viewer Ratings- 7
Play-Along Factor- 10
Host- 7
Overall Rating- 8.0

Premise: Two teams, comprised of two contestants each, compete in a series of four rounds. In each round, the contestants attempt to complete a seven-word chain by guessing the mystery words above/below the keywords. For the first three rounds, correct answers are worth $100, $200 and $300 each. In the fourth round, teams will be able to wager between $100 to $500 on each word. Correct answers add the wager to the team’s total and incorrect answers deducts the wager from the team’s total. The team with the highest total at the end of the game wins their bank and plays the end game. In the Superchain bonus round, the winning team is given a top keyword and has 45 seconds to guess the seven words that link back to the keyword (see bottom screenshot). Up to three letters are shown for each word and the team can pass on any word, but will have to come back to guess the word if time permits. Guessing all seven words correctly adds $5,000 to the team’s total.

And now, for the review…

Since Bob Stewart first developed Chain Reaction in 1980, numerous incarnations of the word association game show have been created. We have seen several examples of how to produce the series from the good, with the original NBC version, to the mediocre, with the first GSN revival, to the bad, with the USA Network version in the mid-1980s. If I were to rank the 2015 version of Chain Reaction among the rest, it would be ranked on the same average level alongside the network’s first edition of the series hosted by Dylan Lane.

Starting with the gameplay, the main game is pretty much left alone and stays true to the original GSN version. If anything, it’s a more streamlined version of the Lane version, albeit a bit redundant. Even though I miss the Speed Chains between rounds, this version flows smoother and somewhat faster than the first. Moving on to the new bonus game, it’s a decent replacement to the tried-and-true, three-player Instant Reaction format. The unique “Superchain” end game is fast-paced, tense and could pose as a challenge depending on how well you can quickly recall two-word terms with a common first word. As with every other version, the game is very engaging and fun to play along with the show at home.

The set design is similar to the Lane design with the solid-colored motif as opposed to the juxtaposing, two-toned design you may have seen with the NBC and USA versions. However, of the two GSN Chain Reaction sets, I like the 2015 version more because the thematic design better fits the show’s title with of the linking squares bordering the set and the monitors, which resemble iPad and iPhone screens, subtly interlocking with each other if you view the set from a certain angle. The main issue I have with the set is how the monitors are not utilized to their full potential. Rather than displaying the scores with a graphic, the scores could be posted on the monitors located behind both teams. As host, Mike Catherwood is doing a good job at the helm with his easy-going and amiable personality and by moving the show along at a smooth pace. He does a great job of not only getting to know the contestants well, but also entertaining them as well by humorously questioning and lightly poking fun at some of the contestants’ bizarre guesses.

Overall, I’m glad Sony did not drastically change Chain Reaction‘s format and ruin the show in the process, like ZOO Productions essentially did to Lingo in 2011. While the choice in host improved, the gameplay quality remained stagnant for the most part and is a tad monotonous, but not unbearable, with the elimination of the Speed Chains and Instant Reaction round. Like its predecessor, I can envision the 2015 Chain Reaction revival lasting for at least two seasons.

Watch new episodes of Chain Reaction every Thursday night at 9:00pm and 9:30pm ET on GSN!
**All screenshots have been taken from the actual episodes of Chain Reaction. No ownership is implied.**
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