I have a deep appreciation for the idea of playing video games set within the horror genre. It’s a great idea in theory, but there’s a pretty big reason as to why I either don’t play them or don’t make it all the way through to the end: I’m a big ol’ chicken. From the moment I saw the hallway zombie turn around and start shambling towards me in the original Resident Evil, I knew that horror games just weren’t going to be my forte.
Yet here I am writing up a review – GamingPizza’s FIRST review – of Song of Horror, from developer Protocol Games. Song of Horror has actually been on my radar for a long time. The game was originally released on Halloween 2019, with a physical edition having gone up for pre-order earlier this year, and it appealed to me because of its seemingly classic take on the survival horror genre. Finally, I can say that it did not disappoint. Song of Horror: Complete Edition is a classic survival horror adventure through and through, never letting up on its grip full of dread, anxiety, and utter, utter fear.
In Song of Horror, you’re tasked with solving the mystery behind the disappearance of the acclaimed author, Sebastian P. Husher, as well as his family. You’ll do so, however, through the eyes and actions of a cast of different characters, each one bringing their own unique perspectives and abilities towards solving puzzles and avoiding the ever-ensuing danger of an apparition known as The Presence.
The premise of Song of Horror may be simple, but you would be foolish to be lulled into a false sense of security while playing. Every bit of the game is terrifying as you explore various locations such as the Husher house, a dark antique shop, or (of course) an abandoned mental hospital – because no horror game is complete without an abandoned mental hospital.
No matter which character you’re playing as, there’s never really a moment of peace while playing. The Presence plays the primary part in that, essentially constantly hunting you throughout each of the game’s locations, much in the same way that Mr. X was always after you in Resident Evil 2. What makes The Presence even more menacing, though, is that the game’s A.I. system bases the apparition’s actions on your actions and decisions as you explore and solve puzzles. Don’t expect a guide to easily walk you through a specific scenario, since your experience may be far different from that of another player. This makes it so that no playthrough is ever really the same while constantly keeping you on your toes (and the hair on the back of your neck standing straight up).
Adding to this is Song of Horror’s permadeath. Once a character dies, that’s it. They’re gone forever. You’ll pick up where they left off with another character, hopefully using the new skills to prevent a similar demise. Between this and the never-ending, random threat of The Presence, Song of Horror has plenty to offer in the way of replayability and offering entirely new playthrough experiences.
Song of Horror plays like a modern horror game, but does so in a way that feels familiar and nostalgic of horror gaming’s yesteryear. While controls can be a bit awkward at times, the third-person perspective works perfectly for the game’s sense of immersion. This is elevated even further if you’re playing while wearing headphones. From the faint, mysterious whispers to the creaks and groans of old walls and floorboards, the audio design in Song of Horror is top-notch. Jump scares are effective thanks to the fact that the game is so quiet, other than the ambient noises taking place around you.
The nod to classic horror titles is also found in the game’s puzzles and overall story progression. Don’t expect to speed through Song of Horror. You’ll want to be sure to leave no stone unturned as you search for clues in dimly lit settings in an attempt to solve puzzles and move the story forward. In some instances, you’ll be blocked from progressing until you solve everything on a particular floor or in a specific area, which will test both your patience as well as your skills in survival. Despite them being a bit of a staple in the genre, I’m not a huge fan of puzzles in horror games. However, the challenges of Song of Horror’s puzzles made solving them that much more satisfying, resulting in me being excited to take on the next one.
Song of Horror is one of the most entertaining horror games that I’ve played in a while, and one that I actually want to keep playing. As I’ve alluded to, that alone is a feat in and of itself. The blend of modern and classic horror mechanics creates a wonderful (and wonderfully terrifying) experience that any fan can enjoy and appreciate. Just make sure you’re playing with headphones. Bonus points if you’re also playing in the dark.
GamingPizza Rating: 8 out of 10