“Oh, wow!” I hear you say, seeing a post from me pop up on a Tuesday rather than a Monday. “What’s going on here?”
My only reply is a post-Christmas holiday screeching.
Originally, Protocol Games attempted to raise funding through Kickstarter in 2015 but failed. Luckily for us, they pushed on, working for four years until releasing the first two episodes through Steam on October 31st, 2019. There are five episodes in all, the last having been released in May of 2020.
The third-person game is very cinematic, building up a powerful narrative, while also being peppered with puzzles. It has a semi permanent death mechanic where, if one character dies, you can still continue with someone else. There are sixteen
victims characters in total. There is also a smart A.I. antagonist known as The Presence, that changes the encounter rate and difficulty depending on well the player is doing.
The game itself has a very classic feel as the mechanics reminded me of the old Silent Hills and Resident Evils, especially with the fixed camera angles and tanky movement.
The famed writer Sebastian P. Husher has gone missing, along with his entire family. Worried, his editor sent an assistant to his house in order to look for him – but he never came back… These disappearances spark a set of events that will soon reveal something dreadful: a nameless, dark entity known only as The Presence seems to be responsible.– Raiser Games website
The core story of the Song of Horror is about a cursed song that brings death and madness to anyone who listens to it. When a writer and his family goes missing, the editor sends Daniel Noyer, his assistant, to investigate. From there the story twists and turns into a complex narrative (which I honestly don’t know how to talk about without spoiling anything, so you will have to take my word on it that it’s pretty spooky). The episodes bring the player to an antique shop, abandoned abbey, insane asylum, and more chilling settings — all the while you are being chased by the ever-evolving Presence.
The game has an excellent and riveting story which, my regular readers will know, is a huge win for me. It also had a lot of easter eggs related to Lovecraft and Poe, which I thoroughly enjoyed when I wasn’t having the pants scared off me. Which happened a lot. Because The Presence mechanic triggers on a series of factors meaning it’s completely random, keeping you tense and waiting for the next attack or jump scare.
Also, in true Lovecraftian fashion, your characters cannot fight this evil. All they can do is stave it off or hide, which definitely adds to the terror.
The permadeath mechanic was also heartbreaking at times, because I would get attached to a character only to make a bad decision or mess up a Presence encounter and lose them.
Other highlights I enjoyed: the listening mechanic where you can have your character listen at a closed door to see if the room is save to enter and how each episode introduced something new to be afraid of in regards to The Presence. I also liked that each playable character interacted with objects differently than the next. So one character might see a painting and comment on its history, because she has some art knowledge, while another just says it looks creepy.
One issue I had was that some of the puzzles just being so bizarre that I had no idea on how to approach them and was forced to look up tutorials. Looking online, it doesn’t seem like I was the only one having some problems with the more obtuse puzzles. Another was the “control your breathing” minigame (to avoid being found by a blind monster, just because the instructions were a little unclear.
Overall, this game kept me absolutely captivated. It also stressed me the heck out (in the best way possible) and I am glad to know that if I ever get over the lingering fear and manage to play it again, my next experience will be completely different than the first.
x P.L. McMillan
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