In 2019, Song of Horror was released for PC, a survival horror that is different from the rest. Its premiere was very surprising, largely because of its structure based on a series of episodes, as well as its “permadeath,” a mechanic that causes any character to die permanently if put in danger. We share our opinion on episodes 1-4 when they were released; Now that the full version has hit consoles, we think it’s time to draw some conclusions about the package as a whole.
The creepy story of Song of Horror spans a total of five episodes. In them we go into the skin of Daniel Walnut, a newly divorced alcoholic who needs to find the whereabouts of a missing author. When he arrives at the mansion of the wanted man, Daniel discovers something strange and at some point disappears again. While the synchronization of this title isn’t very pronounced, especially with less important characters, we have to admit that we loved the style of its cinematographic sequences, which is so close to the style of the comics.
One factor that marks the distance between Song of Horror and other contemporary horror titles is the “permdeath” mechanic, ie the fact that you only have one life. At the beginning of each chapter we can choose which character we want to play it with, which different skills, special objects and light sources. In our experience, we didn’t notice much of a difference between the two, but we loved to see the different ways each interacts with objects. Once we die with a character we can no longer play with him and when we all die we have to start the chapter again. Fortunately, anyone who wants to play more relaxed has the option, as the title has a less frustrating mode where death is not final.
This feature indeed creates a level of stress and tension that we will not remember once we have lived with other games in the genre. Death seems almost imminent for almost every mistake, and to top it off, the accompanying animation scenes are so hideous that you don’t want to clap them anymore. Monsters lurk around every corner, so it’s important to listen carefully behind doors before entering rooms and think twice before getting into a difficult situation. Sometimes the game asks us if we want to risk picking up an object by doing actions like reaching into a bathtub or removing the dusty cloth from an old mirror, not knowing whether it is something necessary or a trap acts that leads to death for sure.
Song of Horror doesn’t have a combat system; However, there are various interactive scenarios in which we need to avoid danger. Sometimes it is necessary to press certain buttons at the right time according to a graphic displayed on the screen in order to reduce the character’s heart rate or avoid noise when an enemy is nearby. It’s something that happens by chance, so the experience will be different every time we play it. The fact that these situations can end fatally adds to the tension, but having to press the same buttons over and over again becomes boring.
Song of Horror will not only scare us but also think a lot. To our surprise, it’s very similar to point-and-click games in that we have to analyze the environment and collect objects that will help us solve puzzles. In the event of problems, such as removing a key that is in a very high place, we have to look at the inventory to find the most suitable tool and sometimes even to combine it. Certain collectibles, such as letters and notes, also play a relevant role as they do not appear like optional items but contain useful combinations and clues.
While we’re not a huge fan of episode games, we believe that this structure has a number of advantages. One of them has to do with the setting: each episode takes place in a different location, all equally terrifying. For example, the first episode focuses on an old abandoned mansion, while the second is set in an antique shop. The scenarios are very diverse, so we do not fully familiarize ourselves with them due to the constant transition from one to the other. Another aspect that we liked is the fact that we have to play with new characters as these vary between episodes depending on the successes or mistakes we made in the previous ones.
We have a lot of good things to say about Song of Horror. However, it is not immune to criticism either; especially when it comes to the frustrating game mechanics. For starters, this title has tank-like controls like we know from the early Resident Evil games, and the characters are very slow even in the most dangerous situations. Even the fixed camera angle, which is very annoying, does not help, as it often did not allow us to see doors or other elements that we should see out of the corner of our eyes without having to open the card. Another of our complaints has to do with permanent death: when you die, drop everything you have in your inventory that can be easily picked up by moving on to the episode with the next character. Items are usually placed where we died; Occasionally, however, we find them in places that are very difficult to access.
Today, in a market where most horror games look like running simulators or rely heavily on cheap horrors, Song of Horror is a breath of fresh air. This title manages to create real stress and tension, especially thanks to the ‘permadeath’, a quality that keeps us in constant danger. In addition, the chapters are very different with regard to the scenarios and the typical dynamics of point-and-click games force us to think and analyze the environment very carefully. However, tank-like controls are cumbersome, and having to repeatedly press buttons can be tiresome.