Song of Horror is a decent horror game with enough scares to make me a jump a number of times, and should satisfy most horror game fans.
Song of Horror is a third-person horror adventure with fixed cameras, developed by Protocol Games and published by Raiser Games. The game released initially on Steam in October 2019 and has recently been released on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, so this review will focus on the PlayStation 5 experience. I’m not normally a fan of these horror games, but after playing The Medium last year and enjoying it, I thought I’d see how Song of Horror ran on my newly acquired PS5.
Famed writer Sebastian P. Husher has gone missing, along with his entire family. His editor Etienne, worried by the loss of contact, sends an assistant, Daniel, to Husher’s home to check on his well-being, only he never returns. These disappearances spark a series of terrifying events, revealing a dark entity known only as The Presence that seems to be at the centre of the horror that unfolds.
There are 13 playable characters throughout the whole story, but you’ll get a choice of 3-4 of them for each chapter. Each character has their own backstory, a balance of traits between speed, stealth, strength and serenity, a light source, and a special item. Sophie van Denend is the one I played the most as she is Daniel’s ex-wife, her light source is a candle, and she has scented candles which she can place to help light an aera. Other characters are Alina who has a torch and a walkie talkie (I imagine this crackling and turning on at the worst of times), Alexander who has a candle and a hip flash (taking a swig calms his nerves), amongst others.
Each Song of Horror chapter starts off slow and methodical as you slowly walk around each incredibly detailed area investigating the many interactive objects. This is where you either love or hate fixed camera games. I am personally ok with them, and there were only a handful of times where it annoyed me a little. But generally, the fixed camera gave you a wide enough perspective to overview the room or hall you’re in to see where you need to go, or what to interact with.
You can pick up some items and investigate them further which might reveal other details. There is a game map that slowly unveils as you find new rooms, but you’re also creating a mental map of the important items that may come into use later. A fireplace in the library, a battery that’s missing wires on the balcony, these kinds of things. There’s no hand holding in working out where to go next.
You have got to inspect and exhaust all interaction points that show as white dots, and there’s a fair amount of back tracking. Most interactive items are decorations that give a bit of backstory so are worth investigating, it just takes a lot of time when first exploring. Some items can be collected for use later or be combined in your inventory with something else. The tension is high with the game’s amazing music while you’re exploring each chapter’s location from Husher’s house to Farber’s antiques shop and more.
I was super tense during the prelude, but I got to the end of it without being scared at all. Looking back at my play through, it was because the lighting and mood hadn’t set in yet. However, from chapter one, I knew it was coming. The Presence isn’t fully revealed at first, but it does provide you with jump scares and introduces quick time events. These events are relatively well explained but can be a little fiddly to adhere to, especially as the sounds and visuals intensify as you which can cause you to make little panicked mistakes. Some of them are more than button mashing, requiring you to press L2 and R2 at certain times or both together, others have you holding those triggers in but then releasing with the pulse of the heartbeat trying to slow it and your breathing down.
The other thing that adds to the intensity to Song of Horror is the character you’re playing can be killed permanently, depending on the difficulty settings you play with. The default difficulty has permadeath on, as the developers originally intended, but you can adjust this as well as the terror level in the game’s options if it gets too much for you. I recommend always playing as the developers intend, if given the option to do so. If all available characters in a chapter die, you have to restart that entire chapter content from scratch.
Once you’re alerted to The Presence, you then have the option to listen at most doors. If you hear noises on the other side of the door, do not open that door, otherwise it’s a swift death for that character. There are times where a black fluid starts to creep through doors, the ceiling and the floor and you have a limited time to find some place to hide. It could be in a cupboard or under a desk, you just have to get their quickly. These hiding spots are noted on the in-game map thankfully but given how methodical I was in exploring each area, I had already made a mental map of these.
But hiding isn’t enough, you then must play another quick time event game which got harder through each of the chapters. It’s here where the intensity and anxiety will raise. If you have good headphones, the effects are well done adding a little panic to your actions as you remember which buttons to press and how to press them. You’re prompted each time, but the panic causes some mistakes. Thankfully I never succumbed to these.
This risk of death slowed down the game a bit for me, so I started to hold down the sprint button on the controller to run through the hallways. I could hear my in-game heart beating faster, and I assumed this was because of the running, but turns out it’s from fear and the faster and louder it beats, the more often The Presence can appear. If a character dies, they will drop everything they had collected thus far, so be sure to run back to that spot quickly on your new character to get those items back.
I enjoyed the story, even if I felt some parts were dragging, but this was mainly due to me being meticulous and fearful of losing a character to permadeath. The locations and scenes were incredibly detailed and I enjoyed exploring every nook and cranny. I had occasional issues with the fixed camera, mainly when traversing flights of stairs where the direction changes due to the camera position, but otherwise it was easy to play with the PS5 controller. I sometimes got the buttons mixed up, turning the candle off instead of opening inventory, and wondering why my character was frozen with fear, but again that’s my problem as I’m still adjusting from using an Xbox controller for so many years. Getting to the end of each chapter was a welcome relief from the often tense gameplay, especially as you grew more wary of the Presence and it’s capabilities.
Overall, Song of Horror is a decent horror game with enough scares to make me a jump a number of times, and should satisfy most horror game fans. There’s no combat in the game but be aware of permadeath. The option can be turned off, however this added some extra tension to the game making you care about your character(s).
Written by: @ChrisJInglis