Classic 90s horror genre are in luck with the arrival of this title from Protocol Games that brings us an experience with a classic yet new taste. Let’s analyze it little by little.
Playing Song of Horror is a gift for those who are nostalgic for the great 90s horror titles such as Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Clock Tower and many others. This is, in fact, something this game isn’t ashamed of as it is fully loaded with references to these. But first let’s talk about other things.
Broadly, this title’s game experience could be divided in two big things:
On the one hand, the taste for classics, a comeback of those classic titles thanks to a gameplay that’s aimed to exploration and puzzles that goes accompanied by fixated cameras and an environmental sound that keeps the player constantly tense . Playing Song of Horror is similar to walking in a pair of old shoes, feels comfortable and familiar.
On the other hand, the real novelty here, what makes this game unique, its modern gaming elements such as its episodical nature (it’s a total of five episodes, with an average length of two or three hours each) and its permadeath or permanent death mechanic. In every episode of this game the player can choose to play as one among a few different characters, each one with characteristics that affect gameplay and different backgrounds each one. This means that, if our character dies, they are completely gone off the game for good and another character has to be chosen to go on with the game.
The other novelty in this title is the very concept of the enemies. There aren’t enemies to kill here, instead there’s a macabre and dark Presence that creeps up constantly and adopts different shapes. Each shape involves a different minigame and they appear, almost always, unexpectedly.
Most of the game has a very low key, slow pace that keeps the player always tense. However, this tension is broken abruptly whenever this Presence manifests itself, moments in which the player usually has to go through some kind of QTE commands under a lot of pressure. The Presence is, without a doubt, the most interesting factor in this game. It brings every secondary mechanic and mini game in the gameplay, thus making the whole experience incredibly intense.
The plot of the game involves a very interesting storytelling since each character has a different background and vision of what’s happening, although there’s a clear main character, Daniel. The story is about a mysterious music box, made several years ago, linked to a strange dark entity. This music box’s sound gets into the head of anyone who listens to it, making them have hallucinations that often end up in mysterious deaths.
These hallucinations are another highlight of this game. In this title, our characters suffer hallucinations in different moments and in very diverse ways… but, on top of that, there are weird events happening behind their backs, in a way that only the player can be aware of them. These events mean an enrichment of the experience when it comes ot playing this, since the game is communicating directly with the player, breaking the fourth wall in a fascinating way.
The huge myriad of references to other horror titles, may them be videogames or from literature, are also really interesting. These are sometimes very subtle, but other times they’re right in your face.
When it comes to exploring in this game, our character has a source of light that never runs out. This soruce of light can be moved in every direction, without moving the body of our character, as to focus on whatever point of interest, whether they’d be above, below, left or right. This kind of movement, that may be a bit uncomfortable at first, actually adds more realism and immersion to the experience.
Our character can walk and run, but it’s better to walk around as to avoid standing out.
Death is a key element that is lurking all the time in this game, may it be through these trials the Presence makes the player go through (in a wide variety of ways), may it be just by exploring the environment. The player can find unavoidable death due to making the wrong decision when interacting with certain elements in the environment, which feels unfair at times.
Another important side of this game is its puzzle difficulty, brough by a wide number and variety of them in the world of Song of Horror. These puzzles, that can resemble those of classic 90s horror games, can be incredibly difficult and complex: sometimes a single puzzle can keep the player busy for over half an hour. Definitely not a game for impatient people.
On top of that, the fact that the number of characters available per episode goes narrower and narrower with each episode is another reason why this title is so hard.
The game has three difficulty levels, one of them allowing to go back to an earlier save point as to avoid permadeath, even though this isn’t how the game was thought to be played as a key part of the fun in this game is the risk of losing characters. If the player runs out of characters by the end of an episode, they have to start all over from scratch.
All in all, it’s a highly recommended game, especially for nostalgics of classic horror, those who look for something new, patient players and, overall, it’s a must have for the Spanish videogame industry.
Song of Horror is living proof that we have plenty of quality and talent in our country. This is a title that can look other high budget horror games in the eye without blushing.