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Kyle Blooicide

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Review Date:

02/06/21, 10:57

Song of Horror Review

Song of Horror is now available on key gaming platforms and with the complete version being available to a larger audience we felt this was time to do a review on this Indie Horror title. Spanish developers, Protocol Games, have been working hard over the last 5 years to bring players a Horror experience that takes things back to the classic’s with fixed camera angles, puzzles and improved tank-style controls. Mixing its inspirations from a whole variety of different horrors such as Silent Hill, Edgar Allan Poe, H.P Lovecraft and many others. What’s interesting is that this game actually hit Kickstarter to start its life in 2015, but unfortunately the game failed to be funded. Though developers Protocol Games didn’t give up there, and instead decided to push forward’s regardless of funding constraints. So, with the mixture of permadeath, masterclass horrors, a shaken history and old school game mechanics, will this title hold up against the many amazing horror games we have today, check out our review below to find out. 

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Gameplay: Slow, Methodical and Ferociously Intimidating

"When I found out that this game uses the old school mechanics, I set my expectations very low for how much this title would raise my heart rate. I was wrong!"

Song of Horror is easily one of the biggest horror surprises for me this year, in fact when I found out that this game uses the old school mechanics, I set my expectations very low for how much this title would raise my heart rate. I was wrong! Song of Horror manages to take what is old and turns it new! When tank controls were ditched in the infamous Resident Evil games, I jumped for joy, they annoyed me so much! But Song of Horror has refined these so much so, that I welcome them. So, now instead of having to slowly turn your character, you simply push the analogue in the direction you want your character to go. BUT the twist here, is that your character will turn some-what slowly as-if there you are using tank controls and this is the re-occurring theme you will see across this section, Song of Horror is SLOW (in a good way). Players are forced to go slowly, to compel the player to stew on the fear of what’s around the next corner. This game revels on having the player think, as they slowly walk towards the next exit, “will there be danger awaiting you around the next corner”? I mean, you can run… if you want to. But the game will punish you for that. But we will get to that in a moment. 


Permadeath is also another cool component to this game, in that there are 12 playable characters, which if any one of those dies, then they are gone permanently. If you lose all players in a chapter, then you will need to restart that entire chapter… Which with the overall 25 hours of gameplay and each chapter clocking in at 5-6 hours long, you won’t want that to happen. Now if players, play to the rules of the game and are smart then the chances are they will be able to get through all five episodes without too many casualties. Overall, It’s this very mechanic that makes you adhere to the slow pace of the game, giving gamers a reason to fear dying. I loved the fact that I would get upset when I got someone killed because I knew that was one step closer to having to re-do all the progress that I had done. I ended up adopting a care for these characters, as I wanted them to survive so I could unravel more of the game's story. What’s an added bonus is that each of the 12 characters has their own statistics, and each stat drives a difference in the gameplay experience you will have. A character with lower serenity, for example, will have a higher fear factor, meaning that when they are “attacked” by the monster, they will be harder to keep calm which can ultimately lead to their death. Equally, when ‘Scares’ occur the characters heart rate will go up, which means they will make noise, which in turn will attract the “monsters” of this game. 

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This leads me on to talk about the “Monsters” of this game. Developers Protocol Games have really thought out each of these carefully. Now, I do not want to spoil too much as this is a game worth going in blind for, but there are a handful of different horrors that will haunt and attack you as you travel through each chapter. However, each horror uses a different tactic to get the player. With some forcing the player to have to run and hide, and others requiring the player to be absolutely silent. But what I found even more impressive is that each chapter brings in a new enemy, but all the “monsters” you’ve met along the way, will come to get you in these chapters also, slowly increasing the difficulty of the game all the way till its final moments. But ALL monsters can hear your characters. So, if you decide you would like to sprint around the map, be my guest, I just hope you don’t plan on keeping that character alive too long. Maybe after you have learned the attack patterns of the enemies, and the layout of each map, then you might have a chance to “run” an entire level. But until then, you are best to take things slowly. Did I mention that the key enemy is also an A.I. that controls dynamic events as your progress through each episode? This A.I. ensures that you never experience the same thing throughout each playthrough, changing it up depending on how well or poorly you are doing… so running through it at speeds, expect MORE encounters with this wicked enemy. 


One of my only bits of feedback for this game is that there are no enemies that require players to ‘navigate’ away from them. What I mean is, in Silent Hill for example the enemies will be tangible things that I can see with my own eyes and will slowly hit the player down to their eventual death. Whereas in Song of Horror none of the enemies are really like this. They are primarily ‘events’ that occur at a random time, which requires the player to do a specific thing to beat them. There are a few monsters that you come across, where you will see what I mean. They would be absolutely terrifying and brutal enemies to come across if they chased you in the typical horror fashion. I hope that if we get a second game in this series, we see something like this introduced in the next title. However, this is a tiny point – and don’t let it fool you into thinking the enemies that exist in this game already are not terrifying. 

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Graphics: Inconsistently Beautiful

"Song of Horror has opted to use realistic visuals and boy does the environment look good. Seriously the lighting design in this game is incredible."

Considering this is the only game under developer Protocol Games belt AND is an indie title – This game looks decent, and at times incredible. Song of Horror has opted to use realistic visuals and boy does the environment look good. Seriously the lighting design in this game is incredible. The light in each map is usually limited to small light sources like candles, meaning that a lot of the time you’re character will only be illuminated by whatever light they are holding. However, the light that is being emitted across each area, is realistic and is what you’d expect a room to look like in that state. Objects glimmers, Metals reflect and overall, the quality of each placed item is really good. Although, one minor point is that the developers haven’t nailed down “good reflection” in the space of reflective windows and mirrors. I know this is an extremely hard thing to develop into a game, but with one of the core aspects being mirrors I wish the developers just spend a little more time in this space making these look a little better. 


It’s in the games character models is where we see the most inconsistency, and I think this is a “time” thing, due to the episodes being developed and released one after the other. The character models in Episode 1, look by far the worst with flat texture and patchy hair design. Whereas in Episode 2 onwards the character models look significantly better, with them increasing more and more as you go through each chapter. This isn’t a problem for the game though as, to be honest, there are only a handful of moments, when the character gets really close to the camera and you notice the flaws in their designs. Whereas when they are in the level, being poorly illuminated and are at a distance from the camera, they look incredible. Something that actually supports my thoughts around this is that the storytelling of the game is done with visual storybook style images. I feel that the developers were aware of their limitations and opted to use visual storytelling between chapters to avoid having janky cutscenes, which is something I massively respect. I mean yeah, I would have preferred cutscenes you’d find in a AAA title, but considering the options available to the developer, I feel they made the right choice for Song of Horror. 


Overall, this game looks really good and outperforms some of the AAA games that are available today. However, this will fall apart in the moments where the camera gets up close and personal with these. A lot of work is needed in terms of facial animations, but aside from this, the game looks incredible. In my 27 hours with the game, I encountered only 1 glitch, in which my character just walked through a door, like a ghost. Although this happened on Episode 1, so again I think this aligns to that thing around “time”, where the developers became more experienced as they created each chapter. 

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Story: Who Ya Gunna Call?

"Acclaimed writer Sebastian Husher and his family have gone missing and after being asked by his boss, assistant Daniel Noyer is sent to go and check up on the Husher residence."

Song of Horror’s story has players wondering where it is heading within its first moment’s, leaving you with speculation and hypotheses as you progress through its introduction. Acclaimed writer Sebastian Husher and his family have gone missing and after being asked by his boss, assistant Daniel Noyer is sent to go and check up on the Husher residence. As I said before this game is so much better to experience going in blind, so I don’t want to give too much away, but the events of Daniel’s investigation lead to a group of 10 people working together to uncover the truth of what has happened to the Husher family and the paranormal that surrounds their story. Through each chapter of the story, the question build, unravelling deeper context to the narrative. It's then down to you and your permeable ragtag team of investigators to answer all of these questions and uncover the truth.


One thing I would call out is that to answer the majority of questions this game makes you ask, you will need to fulfil very specific criteria and be open to reading documents you pick up as you navigate the world. A lot of extra contexts is hidden within these documents and without them, you’ll be left questioning a lot. I did find that the game hasn’t really considered its accessibility options, making it harder for those in a neurodiverse category who find it harder to read huge documents like these. However, to be clear even without reading, the KEY questions are answered. It’s just you’ll miss things like the rationale for being in a place, or why an item ended up being where it is. An example of this is that during the events of this game there is a music box that seems to jump from one place to another. The core story never explains how this happens, instead, the documents in the chapter explain this. So, it's an easy thing to miss for those who don’t have the interest or capability to read into these documents. 

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Audio: Why Is There Always A Music Box?!

"Song of Horror has got a fantastic ambience and it is clear that whoever did the audio design on this title really thought out what makes people feel uncomfortable"

Song of Horror has got a fantastic ambience and it is clear that whoever did the audio design on this title really thought out what makes people feel uncomfortable because, to be honest, I felt uncomfortable from beginning to end. To be clear I played this title with a Surround Sound headset which I would heavily recommend to anyone who has one to use. The game is eerily quiet, with a very light ‘hum’ that fills each building. But there is ALWAYS something happening in the background. Whether it be something as extreme as a door closing in another part of the building… when you are the only one in the building! Or the sound of static coming from an electric source amplifying as you walk closer. It’s all there to make you feel uncomfortable and then when the big horror moments kick up, so does the ambience, filling you with dread and panic. Do you run? Do you walk? Do you check behind a door before walking through? AM I GOING TO DIE? – this is just some of the thoughts that would be racing through my mind as things started to get tough. 


One of the key themes around this title is Music Boxes, and this is only supported by very quiet musicbox like scores being played subtly in the background of specific areas. As the player knows that the music box is not a good thing, as seen in the introduction of this game, this helps inform the player that they are not in a safe place. This music box is a constant reminder to the player that they are secluded and surrounded by horror. Music-wise (other than the music box), there really isn’t much that is present in Song of Horror. The only bit of music I can recall off the top of my head is the mysterious, old school detective-style track that was played behind those storybook moments of the game. Although, this choice feels to be by design. The developers have opted to use eery silence as opposed to beaming soundtracks that build up the suspense. This is why I compare this game to Silent Hill as opposed to Resident Evil, as Resident Evil drove its narrative with booming tracks that raised suspense – whereas Silent Hill would fill the void of sound with uncomfortable warnings such as sirens or groans. That’s exactly the style of choice that Song of Horror opts for and delivers to an extremely high standard. 

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Review Summary:

TERRIFIC

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Gameplay: Slow, Methodical and Ferociously Intimidating

Graphics: Inconsistently Beautiful

Story: Who Ya Gunna Call?

Audio: Why Is There Always A Music Box?!

Song of Horror is a genuine fright-fest, which will chill the bones of most of its players. Encounters feel genuinely scary and the overall ambience of the game being incredibly well designed. Hallways are poorly lit, with flickering lights and the atmosphere constantly informs you that danger is only a few steps ahead. All of this tied up with an A.I. Enemy which is always stalking you and is completely unpredictable has quickly become one of my favourite horror experiences of this year. Although the graphics at times can be a bit choppy, the gameplay, story and audio completely makes up for this weakness. In summary, Song of Horror is a fantastic game for fans of this genre and anyone who was a fan of the old Silent Hill games, this is an absolute MUST PLAY.

Pros:

  • A genuinely scary experiance


  • Well designed terrifying ambience


  • A unique and fun experiance


  • A pretty decent horror story


  • A good 25+ hour playtime


Cons:

  • Inconsistent graphics quality


  • Brutal outcomes to unobvious decisions


  • Controls can be a bit clunky


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