I decided to play Song of Horror in the middle of the day with my cats cuddled next to me because I was not ready to handle anything creepy at night. Even with the sun shining through my windows, this third-person survival horror adventure successfully delivered a suspense-filled atmosphere that is not for the faint-hearted.
The game begins with a disclaimer to players, that characters can succumb to permadeath, meaning that you don’t get multiple lives. Yes, that means once you die you are dead for good. While the game was designed to be played with the permadeath feature, players have the option to disable it. I chose to play the game as intended.
Daniel Noyer is the first character I had the pleasure of meeting, a publisher, divorcee, and former alcoholic, a pretty stale character. Things started off slowly as I explored Daniel’s apartment, but soon Daniel is sent on a mission to explore the lifeless Husher Mansion, a foreboding, rundown home that is in need of repair.
Song of Horror does a great job with its cut scenes. None of them are too long (you can obviously skip them if you’re impatient) and the narration drives the story forward while also helping you understand the different characters. Each character plays an important role in the game so it’s worth paying attention to the scenes and enjoying the slow buildup.
As with any horror game, it’s best not to get attached to characters. I knew as soon as Daniel stepped foot on the premises of Husher Mansion that things were about to go downhill. The atmosphere of the mansion isn’t particularly eerie during the day, but my palms started sweating almost immediately, knowing that something dangerous was lurking inside. Sure enough, Daniel finds a door that screams DO NOT ENTER but what other choice is there except to enter.
Daniel ends up getting trapped behind the mysterious door, which also ends up disappearing. It’s at this point I got to meet Daniel’s ex-wife, Sophie van Denend. This is where you learn about some of the strengths and weaknesses of the playable characters, with three others to choose from.
I ended up selecting Sophie because it seemed like the most plausible choice. I’m not sure why Sophie has a candle as her light source when this game takes place in the 90s, but at least the candles seem to help her sanity. However, I can’t imagine she’s that sane if she’s desperate to go inside a haunted house to search for her missing ex.
While playing as Sophie, I noticed how choppy some of the movements are. She walks rather stiffly and there were times where I attempted to pick up or view an object but I had to position myself just so in order to interact. The camera switches as you walk through different rooms, allowing you to view the room from different angles, but the camera is fixed. I found some of the control dynamics a bit outdated and the graphics of the characters are underwhelming. Despite these flaws, I was still impressed with some of the other details.
Like I said, the camera feels a little bit off at times, but there are also some great angles, almost a cinematic style. There are also different items that are necessary for the game to progress and you are forced to explore every inch of every room. This might seem tedious at first, but it wasn’t long before I heard a noise on the other side of a door. Characters have the ability to listen to sounds before opening a door, which adds to the authenticity of the atmosphere. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to check that the coast is clear?
I knew things were about to take a turn for the worse when I found the study, the same room where Daniel vanished. On the wall is a note that looked completely harmless, but after adding it to my inventory I heard a light gust of wind in the room followed by the soft laughter of a child. When you’re in a mansion alone, in the dark, that’s the last thing you want to hear.
It’s at this point I went into panic mode, ready to barge out of the mansion. But instead I had my first encounter with The Presence, a dark unearthly humanoid that tries to force itself through doors. Thankfully, Sophie is stronger than she looks and managed to slam the door on The Presence.
That’s not the end of Episode 1 of Song of Horror, but it was enough for me at the moment. I will certainly be returning to this game. While it lacks in some areas, the unique abilities of each character and the minor details hidden among the items you find are all part of solving the mystery and make this a unique and unforgettable horror game. Song of Horror doesn’t rely on jump scares or gore and instead toys with your mind so you never know what will happen next.
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Song of Horror
Gameplay - 8.5/10
Plot / Writing - 9/10
Design / Visuals - 7.5/10
+ Suspenseful, atmospheric music, sounds, and setting that slowly builds tension + Variety of intuitive puzzles that aren’t too challenging + 16 playable characters with unique abilities and strengths
– Graphics aren’t the best – Fixed camera makes for some occasionally awkward controls
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