Song of Horror Preview: A Return to Classic Fear

I’m not just on board the hype train for Protocol Games’ Song of Horror, I’m eating snacks from a first-class car. In this third-person horror, described as a return to the classic horror of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, with 16 playable characters and permadeath, it is hard not to be. Even more so when it delivers on everything it promises in its Kickstarter campaign.

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In Chapter One, Daniel Noyer, the game’s main character, has traveled to Husher Mansion, where renowned writer Sebastian P. Husher lives. Daniel works at Wake Publishing, the company that publishes Husher’s writing. Husher hasn’t answered the phone in weeks, and Daniel was sent to find out why.

Standing in the hallway, I couldn’t help but notice that the game was visually impressive; the shadows and other lighting added to this significantly. Ambient music emphasized what was to come, and drove home the action. Other sounds were spot-on in keeping things tense; overall, I found the atmosphere to be excellent.

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The camera angles and lighting come straight from classic horror, and have you wondering what might be out of shot. These angles are especially effective when listening through a door. Not only is the feature quite powerful in its own right (what might you hear?), but the camera closes in on the player. As they listen, the screen behind them is empty, and they’re left wondering what might fill it. This is how horror works, and it’s refreshing to see it done well in a modern game.

Adding to this sense of unease are notes and drawings, including disturbing children’s drawings, creepy haiku, and letters, giving the player an idea of events leading to the present. In addition, references show the studio’s love for horror. For example, a piano is branded with “Himuro,” a reference to Himuro Mansion, a real-life location said to be haunted, and then made famous as the setting of Fatal Frame. That isn’t to say that Song of Horror borrows everything from classics; far from it, in fact.

The game will have 16 playable characters, and with permadeath in place, any of them could die, leading to different endings. I didn’t experience this in the early build, but I still discovered something new. In some horror games, once you’ve been scared by something, that event is not likely to occur, again. Not so in Song of Horror. One small room held two different jumpscares for me at different times in my playthrough. It was plain cruel. I loved it.

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In a more specific example of the game’s take on horror, I was sent into a panic when the walls began to ooze, and I was told to “run or hide.” I ran through the house, found a table, and crouched beneath it until the house returned to normal. Not a minute later I walked through a kitchen and listened at a door. I heard scratching. Curious, I opened the door and was confronted by “The Presence,” a dark entity that enveloped Daniel and left me with a message: “Daniel did not make it…” As Daniel is the main character, and the only character in the early build, this death meant complete failure.

Though I may have failed, I can’t think of an area where Song of Horror did. My older laptop struggled with it (the sounds skipped, in addition to the graphics being a bit much for the poor machine), and there were a lot of keys to remember. Then again, I’m not necessarily a natural PC gamer. Controller support will be available, though, for those in my camp.

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It may be early in development, but I’m really excited by Song of Horror. Protocol Games is really onto something. If you haven’t already, I recommend – nay, beg – that you check out the game’s Kickstarter campaign. If you’ve been wanting to return to the days of suspenseful camera angles, an interesting narrative and clever scares, Song of Horror is how you may get there. Keep up-to-date with everything by heading to the website, Facebook or Twitter. It is worth your time. Promise.