Title: Song of Horror
Developer: Protocol Games
Release Date: May 28, 2021
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Raiser Games
Genre: Survival Horror
Song of Horror is an episodic survival horror series that began on Halloween of 2019. We’re introduced to Daniel, who has arrived at the house of the famous Author Sebastian Husher after being sent on an errand.
Strangely Sabastion has disappeared, and as Daniel enters this place, he hears the small tune of a music box that won’t leave his head. This leads to him being stalked by a strange Presence, and players must seek out a way to shake this curse.
The entire narrative of Song of Horror finds Daniel as the narrator, but you surprisingly spend little time with him. The first episode finds him trapped inside a room that he can’t escape from, so other characters must help him out. The following episodes follow Daniel, who must survive for the story to continue, but that doesn’t mean others can’t die.
Song of Horror features a perma-death system with its characters. That’s right; when a character dies, they are out of the story forever. Each episode introduces a new set of characters, and those who survived in earlier episodes make a return.
Generally, when a character dies, they drop all of the items collected along the way and leave an icon on the map so you can find their items. However, if all the characters die, you must restart the episode.
If you’re playing as Daniel, you’ll be alerted that his death will mean an immediate restart. This led me to be more careful than I normally would, which add to the atmosphere and caused some jumpy moments. I was constantly ready to run or keep the Presence out of the room I was in.
On the other hand, it is extremely frustrating to spend hours on an episode to restart after a careless mistake. To add to this, there are Question Mark icons on the map that could be good or bad. Most of them are harmless, but some can kill off a character within moments.
I wouldn’t say I liked this feature, especially when it’s not exactly clear what to do during these situations when the natural instinct is to interact with everything. It’s a cheap trick to ensure that you lose a character, especially after being careful the entire episode. Thankfully these aren’t randomized so that you can avoid them during a separate playthrough.
Puzzles are exceptionally cryptic. Some documents will tell you what to do, but others expect you to use deductive reasoning to solve it through trial and error. The first puzzle like this is a fuse puzzle where you need all the necessary components to solve it. This design doesn’t hold your hand, and a prompt even tells you to think about it more to solve it, which was interesting.
The Presence that stalks you is the main enemy in the game. While it can always be felt, it will never outright attack you and instead gives you time to hide or try to distance yourself. If confronted, a mini-game is attempted where failure leads to death.
Surprisingly, I never felt like losing a character to one of these felt cheap. There’s enough time given, and a loss is at the expense of the player. That said, they’re pretty easy, so that could also be why I was okay with them.
The static camera angles and visual design is reminiscent of classic survival horror. This lets the atmosphere carry the experience in terms of its scares. While there are plenty of jump-scares, there are so many times that the house will creak and cause alarm. Causal exploration becomes tense even when there isn’t danger present, which really sets the mood.
Each character has an array of stats used to make them feel different, along with a passive item. The stats are Speed, Stealth, Strength, and Serenity.
Speed lets you run faster and can get to a hiding place faster. Stealth lets the character wander around longer without running into unscripted attacks from the Presence. Strength gives you an edge on slamming doors shut to keep you safe. Finally, Serenity allows a character to calm down faster and aid in the hiding mini-game.
These stats affect how you approach situations and will force you to alter how you approach situations. Daniel is the most well-rounded character, but I gravitated towards the characters with high Stealth. However, one run-in with The Presence could be the end for them.
Song of Horror tries its best to be a swan song of survival horror and acts as a return to form. However, frustrating puzzles and random deaths cause unexpected hang-ups on the experience. Yes, I remember when saving was limited to Ink Ribbons, but at least there was a choice in that feature. Still, there’s a lot to enjoy about this episodic nightmare.
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