Return to the world of Song of Horror for its second chapter as it brings in some interesting new ideas, but doesn’t quite live up to the first episode’s nearly flawless experience.
Genre: Horror, Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: Protocol Games
Publisher: Raiser Games
Release date: 31 October, 2019
Song of Horror Episode 1 was easily one of the best horror gaming experiences that I’ve had in some time. The atmosphere was excellent, both in its visuals and its audio, the story was compelling, and it struck a solid balance struck between the uneasy, oppressive psychological horror and thematically fitting jump scares. Episode 2 continues the story and brings with it a new location and a couple of fresh faces to play as, but can also be quite frustrating at times on the technical side.
Goodbye Mansion, Hello City Block
Episode 2 begins with our protagonists continuing on with their investigation of the haunted music box by paying a visit to a creepy antique store, a location detailed by a number of documents that you might have found previously. The box had been in the store’s inventory prior to being given to Husher in the hopes that he might have been able to research it and discover its origin. The presence that seemingly haunts the music box clearly leaves nowhere untouched, however, as the antique store and the buildings nearby have been corrupted by it. This is one of the unique aspects of the atmosphere of Song of Horror that I’ve really enjoyed; this title is a survival horror title through-and-through, though both episodes take place only a few dozen yards from the busy, everyday streets outside.
The visuals are every bit as impressive this time around and manage to breathe life into the world, a true accomplishment when the world is a bleak and lifeless ghost town of sorts. It never felt like a hastily thrown together scene as every location was designed in a way that felt realistic and lived in. The audio did its part and was fantastic quality, for the most part, blemished only by a few technical flaws that kept it from reaching the same level of perfection as the previous episode.
Most notably, one of the cutscenes that dealt with a certain entity went from being relatively quiet to absurdly loud and not at all in the atmospheric horror sense. I actually had to jump for the volume as it was so loud that it wasn’t scary, just immersion breaking and unpleasant. Due to the extreme nature of this particular incident and the fact that it didn’t happen again, I’m going to chalk this up as a glitch of some sort instead of a bad design choice.
The Boys Return With Some New Faces
Daniel, the protagonist of the first episode’s prologue returns, this time as a fully playable character, and he is once again joined by his burly boss, Etienne. Sophie and Alina are cut from the roster; I can’t say that I’m overly heartbroken that the latter is longer around with her awkwardly forced Assassin Creed-like Spanglish, but Sophie is certainly an unfortunate loss as I liked her character quite a bit and I’m hoping that we’ll see more of her in the future. The two new arrivals are interesting enough additions, though, and include Erica, the daughter of the owner of the haunted antique store, and Rene, a shockingly unprofessional police officer who carries the torch for Alina with a new accent that seems more humorous than may have been intended at times. As with the first episode’s cast, both of these characters have their own strengths, weaknesses, unique items, and personalities that are conveyed through their many interactions with the environment around them. I really can’t stress enough how much I enjoy the environmental interactions, a part of survival horror games that is normally not that interesting really carries a lot of weight when every character has their own variation on almost every examination text in the game. There’s another new face that presents itself representing the malevolent presence’s influence, but I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own and avoid spoilers by simply saying that I enjoyed its theme and appearance overall.
A Complaint Or Two
I experienced a few bugs during my playthrough of Song of Horror Episode 2, which is infinitely more than than I did in Episode 1, which was a flawless technical experience from start to finish. At one point, my screen went black when the presence showed up and completely locked up the game itself, only allowing me to open the menu. I saved, exited, and reloaded, and that seemed to resolve the issue but to say that the experience didn’t take me out of the game a bit would be a lie. The horror genre is one that relies a great deal on immersion and I’m certainly hoping that issues like this one and the previously stated volume one are ironed out and that future episodes are as pristine in this regard as the first episode. On another occasion, the presence arrived and glitched out as it neared me, which got the game stuck in a loop during the breathing quick-time event mini-game that I was unaware of until I’d been attempting to complete it for far longer than was normally necessary. I had to shut forcibly shut down the game as I couldn’t even access the menu for that one, which resulted in the off-screen death of one of my characters. Speaking of the breathing QTE, the description could have certainly been clearer in getting the idea across to the player; I spent a portion of the game thinking that it was incredibly hard until I restarted specifically to reread the tutorial for it. I would have liked to have seen a video or active example of it instead of just text.
Song of Horror continues to be a worthy horror experience, though the second episode is in a bit rougher shape than the first. The story continues to be excellent, the atmosphere remains strong, and the puzzles are challenging without being overly punishing, though the near-perfect level of polish that we had seen previously isn’t quite carried over currently. If you enjoyed Episode 1, I would highly recommend picking this one up and continuing the story, but slightly temper your expectations as I felt that this one was slightly less impressive due to the bugs that were still present; it seems as if it may have been a bit more rushed prior to its released.