Song of Horror by Protocol Games
Due for an October 31st release, appropriately enough, Song of Horror is the debut release from Spanish studio Protocol Games.
While comparisons to classic survival horror games are unavoidable – especially to Alone in the Dark, as you’ll spend a lot of your time in Song of Horror alone and in the dark – the detailed environments and an antagonist driven by AI rather than scripted sequences make this one a game fear addicts can look forward to.
A Haunting House, a Revolving Cast
The game’s central plot involves missing author Sebastian P. Husher and the extremely creepy, creaky empty mansion. (“The House of Husher,” get it? It’s an Edgar Allen Poe reference.)
An exposition-heavy introductory chapter sends Daniel, a low-level lackey for Husher’s publisher, in search of him when his manuscript doesn’t show up, and in an intriguing twist, Daniel too goes missing, setting up one of the game’s more interesting mechanics.
Instead of a single protagonist, each chapter gives the player access to several, such as Daniel’s ex-wife, his boss, and others who work directly or indirectly for Husher; his groundskeeper or a technician from his home security company. Each will react slightly differently to clues in Husher’s mansion. Daniel’s ex-wife, for example, is an art dealer who can opine on the paintings in the house with expertise.
Puzzles and Presence
Song of Horror is slightly bogged down by a reliance on classic adventure game puzzles. Inventory and clue-collection puzzles (i.e. the various numbers for a combination lock) are decent if expected, while physical arrangement puzzles like putting fuses into a fuse box in the correct order – something which seems to show up in every adventure game – are as annoying as ever.
I’d have also appreciated camera controls. Song of Horror is a third-person game, and the fixed cameras sometimes made convincing a character to both move and look in a specific direction to examine a clue or interact with an object a real chore.
These minor complaints hardly matter, though, when the game environment is so well-designed that I didn’t even mind dying because it gave me the chance to explore the same objects in the same spooky house from a different character’s eyes.
Atmosphere and Apprehension
And we haven’t even gotten to the real meat of things: the horrific antagonist, which the game’s press material refers to only as “the Presence” and which appears – at least at first – as a morass of grasping ghoulish hands and the shadowy tentacles that have become visual shorthand for Lovecraft-inspired cosmic horror.
Adding to the creepiness is that the Presence is driven by artificial intelligence and seems to move around the mansion independently of what your character is doing, requiring constant vigilance.
(Don’t even think of opening a door without listening to what’s on the other side first, even if you’ve already been in that room!)
Protocol Games do such an excellent job creating tension that it’s hard to pinpoint when it goes from creepy to outright scary; an ancient empty mansion stuffed floor-to-ceiling with dusty artifacts and old hunting trophies is creepy enough even before supernatural stuff starts to happen.
The game’s reliance on a realistic and detailed setting makes the ensuing dread all the more effective – there are comparatively few jump-scares, per se, but Song of Horror will definitely make you jump.
Song of Horror will be available via Steam.
Watch the official Song of Horror trailer below: