Song of Horror – Review
Follow Genre: survival horror adventure
Developer: Protocol Games
Publisher: Raiser Games
Platforms: PC
Tested on: PC

Song of Horror – Review

Site Score
9.0
Good: -Terrifyingly good horror adventure supported by amazing graphics and sound
Bad: -Many sleepless nights after playing
User Score
7.0
(3 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)

“A jump scare is a technique often used in horror films, haunted houses, video games, and Internet screamers, intended to scare the audience by surprising them with an abrupt change in image or event, usually co-occurring with a frightening sound”. By definition that usually makes them less scary the second time around as you already know what is coming. But what if we could use machine learning and AI to create a truly unique experience every time, based on player behavior. Protocol Games is taking a good stab at it with their latest game Song of Horror.

Story

An antique music box starts playing on its own, an ominous dark cloud appears from the box. The door to the room swings open, a man runs in and attempts to close the box. We can only assume he was too late as everything turns to black. The man was Sebastion P. Husher, a famed writer. He and his entire family vanished that day without a trace, leaving the house in exactly the state it was in.

Several days later, his publisher Etienne becomes worried as his bestselling writer has not yet delivered his new piece of work. As it is Friday night he does not want to go out there himself and he calls his assistant Daniel. Reluctantly Daniel accepts the task. He owes Etienne for believing in him and giving him the assistant job in the first place. Daniel went through a rough time due to his drinking problem and his wife leaving him because of it. This lead to him losing his previous job and debt kept stacking up. While neither would like to admit it, Daniel and Etienne became friends and Daniel has slowly but surely started to pick up his life.

This brings Daniel to the deserted house of Sebastion P. Husher, late at night on a Friday evening. The door is unlocked but the electricity and the alarm don’t seem to work. Luckily Daniel brought a flashlight so he can start investigating the house. Little does he know the Presence, an unpredictable eldritch entity has taken over the house.

The story is told through black and white animations with a brown overlay giving them an old and dreadful atmosphere. The animation fluidly runs over into the game. Whenever a character perishes, someone else will take their place. When Daniel meets his unfortunate end you get to choose from several characters to continue the investigation, his worried ex-wife, his worried boss, a technician from the alarm system company and the housekeeper. All the characters have a well-written backstory and they all get tied into the story perfectly.

The game is divided into episodes and the first episode revolves around the house while the second one will shift the location to an antique store and the adjacent residential building. You’ll also be able to team up with new characters in the second episode. Currently, we could only review episodes one and two.

Graphics

The game features some very dark, beautiful and detailed locations. The dark atmosphere is represented in every detail of the location. When you walk around with your flashlight or any other device that might provide light in the darkness, the shadows are impressive. There is very little action in the game but you are continuously on your toes as something might pop up, whether that is a ghostly figure or some dark smoke. The different characters all have a very distinct look and feel to them which helps greatly in creating a connection with them.

Song of Horror features a fixed camera. You might be familiar with this if you played some of the old horror adventures such as Resident Evil. If you are not, it simply means that the location of the camera is fixed and when you walk around and you reach a certain point, the camera will jump to a new fixed location. This kind of camera works well in these types of games as it allows the developers to focus your attention where they want it and they can also hide things. For instance, when you walk up the stairs in the Husher’s house, the camera is located on the top of the stairs so you can see your character walk up the stairs. From this angle, you can also see the kitchen door at the base of the stairs opening on its own. On the other hand, you also have no clue what you are walking into since you can’t see what is at the top of the stairs. You can, however, see your character’s reaction to things that happen in his view.

A minor point to the fixed camera is that sometimes when the camera jumps to another location, the controls become a bit counter-intuitive. If you are pressing left to make your character go forward and the camera jumps, pressing left will still be forward. This is not a major issue but if you are in an intense moment you don’t want to struggle with the controls.

Sound

The sound is equal in quality as the graphics, it complements the game and the atmosphere in all aspects. The subtle sound of a playing music box adds discomfort but is not intruding. The main focus is put on sound effects such as footsteps on an old squicky staircase. As in all horror experiences, sound or the absence of sound is key. Song of Horror plays this game very well.

Gameplay

Song of Horror is a survival horror adventure with a fixed camera. The focus is very much on exploring and unraveling the mysterious music box and the disappearance of the Husher family. Therefore the game has a relatively slow pace and characters always walk at their own pace.

The game takes pride in using advanced Artificial Intelligence to make the evil Presence truly scary. It will adapt to your playstyle to make every playthrough unique. This adds a lot of replay value. We would surely like to see this technology refined and reused as it creates a more personal experience and steps away from generic jump scares.

The game lets you play with various characters throughout the game. The different characters have their personalities put into stats, while they don’t differ much some characters still move a little faster than others and some characters get spooked more easily than others. If a character dies, he or she drops his inventory and you must choose another character to continue and if you don’t have anyone left, you lose the game. There is no way to do intermediate saves and characters have permadeath so they can never return and are lost until you start a new game. This does add a sense of dread once you lose of few characters.

The most important controls, besides moving, are interacting with objects. You will often need to find and combine items to progress, for example, to repair the electricity you must find fuses. Those fuses might be in a locked box. To open the box you can jam a screwdriver in the lock and fiddle it around. Once you have the fuses you need to complete a puzzle to put each fuse in its correct spot. This task will take you all over the house which gives the dark entity plenty of chances to scare you or even kill you if you’re not careful. There is no defense against this enemy, all you can do is avoid it and if needed hide from it. Sometimes you do get treated to a quicktime event which requires you to bash several buttons to close a door that is being pushed open by several mutated arms and a gust of black smoke.

Conclusion

Song of Horror is a terrifyingly good horror game. We can currently only judge episodes one and two but are very optimistic and looking forward to the release of episodes three, four and five. This game is not for the faint of heart or the shoot ’em up fans. If you enjoy a good slow scare, give this one a spin at night with a headset on. It will not disappoint.

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Rating: 7.0/10 (3 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: +1 (from 1 vote)
Song of Horror - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 3 ratings
Rex
Rex


I am an Illustrator/Artist who studies Concept Art and Game Design in my free time. Designing things is in my blood and I am always very curious in making games. Motivated and dedicated to become better in every way I can. You only live once and I intend to fully enjoy it! As for gaming itself I do prefer to play the following games: FPS, RPG, Action Adventure Games, Fighting Games, Hack and Slash.

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