I was expecting a rhythm-action game with Song of Horror, and whilst it isn’t that, music does play a significant part and ups the tension dramatically with this story-driven experience.
You play a cast of characters sent to investigate the disappearance of Daniel. The prologue has you play as Daniel, asked to investigate the Husher mansion for his employer. You deduce he is some sort of investigative journalist, who lives in a bit of a dump. His flat serves as the control tutorial.
Song of Horror plays a bit like an old Resident Evil game (or more recently, Until Dawn). Characters turn and move deliberately, and your right stick aims your light source (torch, lighter etc.). As Daniel, you hear a strange sound and go to investigate through the mansion. A scary-looking door opens, you go in, bye-bye Daniel.
And so it begins. The house is now without power, and you choose between Daniel’s boss, a colleague, one of the Husher mansion’s servants and a random electrician (?!) to investigate. It was a bit confusing to me while all of these are looking for him, but I just sort of assumed they’re aware of a master and wanted to figure it out.
In the mansion, with the lights out, it’s super creepy. The pointing of your light source becomes crucial to help you look for clues and investigate different objects. Split into episodes, Song of Horror relies heavily on sound to help guide you. Directionally pointing you towards things to help solve puzzles is important (as such, headphones are essential I’d argue) but there’s another important reason you’ll want to listen out – something will kill you.
There’s a monster/demon horror entity floating about that will kill you. There is no combat here, so you’re just going to have to run and hide when you hear it, and listen through doors to avoid it. This adds loads of tension, a sense of terror and powerlessness. Split into the episodes, if one character dies you get to send in another. If they all die, it’s ‘Game Over’ essentially and you have to start the episode over. Each episode is about 3 ish hours, so the penalty for this is brutal – and this permadeath element ups the tension significantly although for me personally, straddled the line uncomfortably close to frustrating.
I’m a real wimp at horror games but I found Song of Horror reasonably ok, so I imagine more hardcore folks than me will be fine with it. It helps (backhanded complaint) that it’s a bit of a cruddy looking game. It’s not terrible, but serviceable and with the low light, it all feels a bit muddy. the characters look decent though and their expressions change to panic as things start to get a bit too real, which is fun and increases your urgency.
This urgency though gets hammered by the aforementioned controls. Not quite tank controls, but clumsy and bumbling; you’d imagine if all of the objects could move you’d be smashing and crashing your way around the house. Still, there’s nothing like getting hit with a jump scare and watching your character walk into a wall and keep walking and half turning until they’re free. It’s a shame, especially as exploring the various elements with each character reveals through their personality their own take on the surroundings.
Ultimately, Song of Horror is a reasonable (if not horrific) atmospheric story experience. I’m not sure it’ll fully satiate fans of the genre, but still may be worth checking out.
Reviewed on PS4