After making its debut on PC as a five-part episodic series, Song of Horror has now brought its eerie adventure over to consoles in a complete edition. Featuring a deadly force known as the Presence, an array of haunting locales to explore, and old-school fixed camera angles (something I’ll always be a fan of), it has all of the ingredients to offer a genuinely terrifying romp. It introduces a selection of cool ideas that help it stand out amongst the crowd too, though one of them may prove to be especially divisive amongst players…
Check out a gallery of the game’s screenshots down below:
Song of Horror tells the story of multiple characters, but most notably Daniel Noyer – an assistant at a publishing firm that has been sent to the mansion home of a writer who has seemingly vanished. After discovering a strange door that shouldn’t be there though, Daniel soon finds himself wrapped up in a battle against a malevolent entity known as the Presence that is tied to a mysterious piece of music. What follows is a deadly investigation that is spread across five chapters that introduce plenty of new locations to explore, characters to play as, and run-ins with the Presence.
If you come into Song of Horror expecting an action-orientated survival horror experience akin to the Resident Evil or Silent Hill series, you’re going to be left a little disappointed. You won’t be shooting at monsters or bashing them with pipes here, with combat completely absent from the game. Instead, you’ll spend your time hiding from the ghastly Presence and solving puzzles to help push the adventure forward, with the game feeling more like Outlast or Alien Isolation than anything else. Those were two of my favourite horror games of the last-gen though, so that’s fine by me.
“The Presence has an AI which responds to your actions too, so it’ll learn HOW you play and find ways to frighten you through them.”
The pursuits with the Presence are absolutely terrifying. It takes many forms during the adventure, whether that’s with ghostly hands that are trying to smash through a door, grotesque monsters that are trying to sniff you out, or simply a dark fog of smoke that’ll try to pull you into its harrowing abyss. There’s always a fear that it’s out there *looking* for you, and believe me, knowing it could be just around the corner will leave you on edge throughout. The Presence has an AI which responds to your actions too, so it’ll learn HOW you play and find ways to frighten you through them. It’s really clever and ramps up the tension tenfold.
Whilst Song of Horror doesn’t feature combat though, there are ways to stop the Presence from getting you. For one, players are able to listen in on doors before venturing into different rooms; whilst this does slow down the flow of the game a little, it will give you the chance to listen and see if the Presence is waiting on the other side to kill you. When it’s already in pursuit, you can do things like forcing a door shut or simply hiding in order to survive, with small QTE-style mini-games utilised to perform these. It’s all straightforward in design, but effective at adding to the overwhelming sense of terror that you feel when you know the Presence is on your tail.
“If a character dies, they’re dead for the rest of the game and you carry on without them.”
You’ll need to be careful though, because one wrong move will see your character die. “Who cares, I’ll just re-load a checkpoint!”, I hear you say. Well, Song of Horror isn’t quite so forgiving, with the game featuring permadeath. If a character dies, they’re dead for the rest of the game and you carry on without them… well… with the exception of Daniel, with his ‘main star’ status seeing players face an actual game over screen if he dies.
This permadeath mechanic was a bit hit-and-miss for me. Whilst new characters are introduced each chapter to ensure you don’t run out of protagonists to play as (and others might make a return if they survived the previous chapter), I felt it could be a little too easy to die at times. It meant a character you were particularly fond of might be completely wiped out of the story if you make one mistake, which is something that can happen often thanks to the unpredictable nature of the Presence. Having all of the available characters die in a chapter means having to restart it too, which was a real pain.
It is worth noting that there is a difficulty setting on offer which removes permadeath, which might be more appealing to players. I felt a bit of guilt considering it though, especially since Song of Horror actively encourages players to play on the standard difficulty. The developers clearly built the experience around that sense of danger that a character could be wiped out in an instant, but I just didn’t like it all that much.
“Each locale brought with it well-designed environments that are packed with little details that flesh out the world, whilst the puzzles throughout them are methodically designed to test your logic and observation skills.”
It was the only real flaw in what was otherwise an enjoyable horror experience. I had a lot of love for the world design in Song of Horror, with it sending players across a selection of creepy locales… you know… things like a spooky mansion, a derelict hospital, or even a deserted abbey. Each locale brought with it well-designed environments that are packed with little details that flesh out the world, whilst the puzzles throughout them are methodically designed to test your logic and observation skills. These reminded me of the puzzles from the older Resident Evil games with their reliance on manipulating objects or finding the right items, with each encouraging exploration and a keen eye.
There are plenty of cool set pieces which involve both the environment and the Presence too, with each providing some startling moments that live up to the game’s spooky nature. They add to the atmosphere and provide neat little moments that demand the player react a bit differently to norm. The fixed camera angles help with these moments too; whilst they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, I found they could really ramp up the tension.
Presentation-wise, Song of Horror can be a mixed bag. Whilst the environments look fantastic throughout, the character models and animations are a bit murky. You can see that Daniel looks a little weird from the very first moment you see him in the game, and it doesn’t get better from there with the other characters. At least the performance on the PlayStation 4 was fine throughout though, with no big issues cropping up when playing. I was a little concerned about this after the delays the console version of the game faced, but it was pretty much flawless throughout.
Song of Horror’s atmospheric and frightening adventure certainly kept me entertained as I solved puzzles and faced off against the vicious Presence. Its balance of exploration, puzzle-solving, and showdowns with the malevolent being made for plenty of intense moments, with the sense of helplessness strengthening the game’s horror vibes.
It does fall short of the mark with some aspects of its design, with the permadeath proving to be a bit of a hindrance and the character models looking a little weird throughout. But hey, at least permadeath can be turned off, even IF the developers don’t recommend it.
In all, it’s easy to recommend Song of Horror to fans of the genre. It’s unnerving, it’s intense, and it’s genuinely scary, but most importantly it’s fun to play.
Developer: Protocol Games
Publisher: Raiser Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC
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