11/06/2021

๐Ÿ˜ฑ ๐ŸŽผ Song of Horror | PS4 | Review | 6/10 | "Slightly Off-Key" ๐ŸŽผ๐Ÿ˜ฑ @RaiserGames #IndieGames #GameDev

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Song of Horror is my third review on the trot that is set in the horror genre. I recently reviewed Outbreak: Endless Nightmare and Resident Evil: Village, one is front-running for my game of the year, the other is in my ‘Top 3 Worst Games That I've Ever Played’ list, so Song of Horror has a lot or little to live up to.

Would it join the good or the bad… or would it be like the famous spaghetti western, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly?

Well…it's Kinda Ugly. I like a lot about this game, I will say. You can see that a smaller studio has put a lot of thought into it and I suspect that I might be on the lower end of review scores in the grand scheme but the things this game did that I didn’t like were the things I really dislike in both this genre and gaming in general.

The game is an episodic, third-person horror but whereas in Resident Evil and Silent Hill you have weapons and can go on the offence - in this game, it’s ‘hide in the nearest wardrobe or under the closest table’.

The game is more about puzzle solving and quick time events (QTE’s) when the spirits catch up to you, which brings me to my first set of problems. I don’t mind either of those things, but in later episodes, the puzzles get much harder and the QTE’s - though I'm not against them – well, doing them for several hours over multiple episodes ended up just feeling tedious.

The early episodes were better experiences for me as the grind of QTE’s hadn't set in and the easier puzzles I enjoyed. Look, when I'm playing games I don’t want to do advanced chemistry or place into chronological order the works of Shakespeare, I don’t want to have flashbacks to my school days, I play games to escape from those memories, I don’t want to be reminded that algebra exists.

On the technical side of things, the game's environments are stunning both graphically and in terms of capturing the creepy, ghostly atmosphere. Character models are inoffensive, the cutscenes are hand-drawn and are very effective, but the voice acting is very poor.

The prologue of the game was very glitchy in that the lighting was bouncing weirdly off surfaces, and in one particular cutscene my character walked through a door and the torch I was holding started doing the Hokey-Cokey, it was above me, below me, it even went inside of me briefly. Though the rest of the game didn’t suffer from these problems, it was really jarring and doesn't make a good first impression.

The most interesting thing about this game is you can choose between different characters to play each level, they all have different stats - some are faster, calmer, stealthier etc. But it’s the fact that in each level they can die, and once dead there is no loading from your last save.

No, they are permanently brown bread and you then have to move on to the next one, which does make you feel less safe and helps the tension (especially if like me, in the first episode you come down to just one survivor) but herein lies one of my biggest problems… a random attack happened and I couldn’t remember where in the room the table I needed to hide under was and the tanks controls aren’t the easiest to navigate when you have to find something quickly in twenty seconds.

I ended up dead and out of characters, which meant I had to replay the whole episode again, which I didn’t enjoy because a horror game isn't fun to repeat, it's not like the Souls series - where you die but gain new information to get through the level or beat the boss, you just have to re-do all the same puzzles all over again as well as the same QTE’s.

Now, I know some people are going to say, “well you had 4 characters, you shouldn’t have got them killed” but I'm going to use my first character as a prime example of how easy the games controls got them killed. 

In front of me was a door oozing black - if touched, insta-kill - and next to it was a light switch which you needed to turn on in order to remove the ooze… I'm guessing you can see where this is going. I walked over to the switch, let go of the thumbstick, pressed X… but my character continued walking for two extra steps. Dead. So, my first character dies, not because I was outwitted or made poor decisions but because of the game's controls. Now, admittedly the second died because I did make a poor decision and put my hands in a bathtub of black liquid (and I did fail a quick time event for the third) but fiddly controls killed my first and last of the four.

The horror aspects of the game are the game's greatest triumphs. The settings are creepy and varied, the atmosphere and suspense are fantastic, I felt tense the whole game and the scares ranged from the typical jump to more subtle fare, which is always nice to see when a game goes the more subtle route for horror, the big and loud is good but I always like it when it’s the ‘corner of your eye moments’, I find them just as effective. 

In summary, Song of Horror is a game with flaws that I know I will take umbrage with more than other gamers. having to go back and repeat levels, puzzles getting harder and frequent quick time events may not be the turn off for everyone else as much as they are for me. The game does a lot right and the horror aspect of the game, in particular, I thoroughly applaud. 

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