Song of Horror Review

Three things I like about this game, and two I don't

Song of Horror

By Paul Hunter

Resident Evil and Silent Hill fans, this game is made for you. Song of Horror is a throwback survival horror reminiscent of the classics of the genre. I'm talking about the true OGs on PlayStation 1 with fixed cameras, creepy vibes, and lots of item-gathering and puzzle-solving to do. The game is also inspired by H. P. Lovecraft's horror fiction, so if you've played recent titles like The Sinking City or Call of Cthulhu then you'll have an idea of what's ahead.

Gather around the Hunter campfire as we discuss Song of Horror—here are three things I liked about the game...and two I didn't.

Liked: The Freakin' Scary Story

Now look, this story is a slow burn and I totally get not being fully absorbed into it even after playing the first two or three chapters of this five-chapter adventure. But by the end, the tale gets super freaky as the fragmented pieces of this puzzle start coming together and paints a horrific picture. Without giving away the farm here, the story revolves around a music box that torments anyone who has the misfortune of hearing its sinister tune. And by torment I mean so many god-awful things happen to the poor souls they often end their lives just to make the nightmares end.

You play as Daniel Noyer, a lamentable sap who's lost his business, his home and even his wife. Now alone and a recovering alcoholic, Daniel sets out to find the author Sebastian P. Husher who's gone missing. While searching Husher's mansion, Daniel gets trapped for days and starts feeling the maddening effects of the music box. The remainder of the game focuses on Daniel's desperate search to break free of the box's curse before insanity brings him to his bitter end. And let me just say that the final couple of chapters have some startling revelations that makes this slow-burner worth the wait. The ending is especially great with its intelligent wrap-up that'll make you rethink the entire story and send bone-chilling shivers down your spine.

Liked: The Moment-to-Moment Tension

Song of Horror doesn't have any gunplay but I'm glad for that. The vulnerable feeling you get navigating the game's creepy church or misty graveyard is intense specifically because dangers lurk around every few corners and you've got no way to fight back. Your only recourse is to frantically complete minigames, whether that's finding a closet and squeezing the trigger buttons to regulate your heart beats or jamming the X button to shoulder slam a tentacle creature back through a door.

What's cool is the evil entity that stalks you throughout the adventure, called The Presence, is an advanced AI that adapts to your movements and actions. It's similar to 'The Director' from Valve's Left 4 Dead and mixes up the frights depending on how much noise you're making or what decisions you just made. I even discovered sitting still attracts The Presence, so mind those coffee breaks—they can be a killer, literally. What I like best about the dynamic scares is you never feel safe, unlike most other horror games that have safe rooms and mostly ratchet up the horrors after scripted sequences.

The final couple of chapters have some startling revelations that makes this slow-burner worth the wait.

Liked: Item Gathering and Puzzle Solving

The final major highlight in Song of Horror was the item gathering, combining and puzzle solving. These elements are straight from classics like Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil and require you to find and inspect items, figure out clever ways to combine them and then solve brain-teaser puzzles. Mixing chemicals, creating makeshift contraptions or doing DIY repairs are just some of the ways you'll modify items into other, more useful tools. Anyone who loves this kind of retro item collection will have a blast here, especially RE fans that get a jolt of excitement whenever they find yet another key.

I also have to give a shoutout to the puzzles that are mostly fun and interesting, minus that weird ripped-photo puzzle that literally everyone who plays the game complains about. Lone crappy puzzle aside, the rest are pretty cool, especially one where I had to assemble metal parts and create a rib-cage surgical extractor. The final four puzzles before the game concludes are also exceptionally fun—and challenging—testing everything you've learned up to that point.

Didn't Like: The Presence Repetition

Don't get me wrong, Song of Horror is a very scary game with some intelligent frights that shook me to the core. But what diminishes the scares somewhat is the lack of variety that causes a wee bit of repetition. The Presence has five main ways to attack you that gradually get introduced as you play through the game's five chapters. That means you'll only face a handful of different threats and will have to repeat hiding under tables or holding your breath to stay silent over and over again. I would have appreciated a few more attack methods to mix up the gameplay more and keep the scares feeling fresher.

Didn't Like: The Playable Characters

I mentioned earlier that Daniel Noyer is the protagonist and he's easy to relate to and get into his story. However, each episode actually has multiple playable characters and the rest end up coming off as disposable lambs sent off to the slaughter. The other characters can die but the story continues—it's only Daniel you need to keep alive. The only "real" punishment to death is missing out on the handful of trophies/achievements that depend on beating a chapter with everybody alive. On the bright side, having disposable characters means you can be a bit reckless with them, testing out obviously dangerous tools or venturing into deadly areas as your guinea pig and without sacrificing our hero Daniel. Still, the supporting cast are forgettable and that's a shame in contrast to the fully fleshed out main character.

The Verdict

Song of Horror isn't the most graphically-impressive horror game I've played in recent years, but it does deliver where it matters most: intense, unrelenting terror. I'm a big fan of classic third-person horror titles so this game definitely spoke to me and made me pine for more retro titles in the same vein. If you like Resident Evil or Silent Hill don't hesitate to check out this Lovecraftian nightmare.

Final Score: 7/10 - Good

Song of Horror details

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer: Protocol Games
Publisher: Raiser Games
Genre: Third-person Horror
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.