This review contains spoilers, click expand to view.
Inspired by Resident Evil and Silent Hill and it shows. The addition of permadeth is difficult but handled well. I went into the game blind without knowing and had my favorite character die. I instantly force-quit the game hoping that my decisions aren’t saved before a cutscene ends but it was too late. Then my second and third characters died and i was forced to play as the last character left or restart the game. I considered restarting but chose to continue with the last character because I felt I was close to the end of the chapter. Playing as this last character was tense, worrying that hours of gameplay would be wasted heightened my sense of dread like no other horror game in recent years. I was able to finish the chapter, but walking through the house was more nerve-wracking than ever before. When I finished the chapter, it felt like an accomplishment. Making sure that I only made the most important decisions without leaving anything to chance, I was more cautious than ever before.
This bled in to chapter 2 perfectly. I chose the same character this time around because he was expendable to me. But the more I played through the second chapter with him and the more he referenced his version of events from chapter 1, the more attached I grew. I now found myself, again, attached to a character going into a new chapter. The more progress I made, the more I worried that my time with him was almost up. When the game started throwing in random new mechanics I started to panic, worrying some mistake on my part would kill him off.
There was even one stairwell that activated 3 unique, one-time-only effects at different times that made me feel like there were in-game flags placed at that location to scare me. These effects were new and had no accompanying tutorial text to solve them, but still required unique ways of escape while blocking usage of the map. I started going into the stairwell as prepared as possible, ready for anything. But whenever I was most prepared, nothing would happen. Each time I passed by, thinking that the game was done trying to scare me in the stairwell a new effect would come out or a previous effect would return. That’s about when I realized that the events were being triggered by an AI and that I couldn’t try to out-predict what would happen and where.
By now I was playing as cautiously as possible. All of the haiku clues that I picked up in the first chapter came in handy and I avoided coming into contact with anything they mentioned. In a game where every character’s life matters, you need all the help you can get. Previous chapter’s collectibles can transition over to the next chapter to provide vital hints on what not to interact with, as some interactions can be fatal. These hints can absolutely save a character’s life if you can interpret them. Will you explore the area, putting yourself in danger to prevent a future death or take no chances? I ended up beating the second chapter with no deaths, still playing as my expendable character. When the chapter ended and I realized he had made it, he no longer felt expendable to me.
As a huge fan of the original numbered Silent Hill series, Song of Horror made me feel like I was playing a classic survival horror game in every sense. Each chapter was just long enough to feel substantial, with the payoff being a sense of accomplishment and the desire to test my luck in the next chapter by playing the same character.
I do have to get out of the way that the voice acting was fairly weak overall, with Daniel’s VA sounding the most grating to me. Most of the other characters were passable enough. Honestly, I think too many professional VAs might have lessened the impact of playing as an everyman. The story is serviceable enough to move you forward, with a fair amount of backstory coming from the items you inspect and the characters you play as. For an indie horror I was really impressed by the attention to detail. There were a few times that I saw creatures or ghosts in windows or across hallways that made backtracking feel more personal and less of a chore.
I saw the rating on Steam and Metacritic and felt that Song of Horror deserved a higher rating so I thought I’d pitch in. Personally, it may be one of my new favorite horror games. It’s unique and fresh while providing a moderate burn without fatiguing you. The random elements of the game’s AI ended up giving me some pretty memorable moments that I don’t think I’ll experience again.
I’m very excited to play the next chapters and I hope that this game gets more attention. By the time March comes around and the game ends, I know I’ll be craving a sequel.
[Played on PC in 4K with SuperXFI amp, Sennheiser HD6XX’s and Philips Hue sync lights]
If you want the best experience, recommend playing in 4K with surround-sound headphones. Game-synced lights are, of course, totally optional.
Hope you enjoy the game as much as I have!… Expand