The third episode of Song of Horror doesn’t provide the same thrill as we’ve come to expect from the first two, but at least technical issues didn’t rear their ugly head this time.
Genre: Horror, Adventure, Puzzle
Developer: Protocol Games
Publisher: Raiser Games
Release date: 13 December, 2019
Ep. 1 Review
Ep. 2 Review
The first episode of Song of Horror hooked me with its grade A experience that almost flawlessly combined psychological horror and skillful storytelling. The episode that followed carried the torch but was a bit rougher of an experience due to a pair of game-breaking bugs that hindered my enjoyment somewhat, though I still felt that it was worth my time all the same. The third and most recent episode seems to reverse this by being mostly free of bugs, but lacking the excitement of those that came before it.
The University Is A Puzzle Itself
Although I’d thought that a haunted university had the potential to rival, if not outdo, the past locations, I was a bit disappointed in its implementation. This isn’t to say that it was bad, but it certainly didn’t live up to the excellence of the episodes prior. While I was liked that things were shaken up by having three smaller locations to explore instead of one big one, each of these seems to lack the depth and soul that went into those in of the past. Little about the university sticks out in my mind as exceptional, though both Husher’s Manor and the antique shop and its neighbouring buildings are locations that I won’t soon forget.
The game still looks and sounds great, with my only complaint about its overall presentation being the same that I had with episode two: the massive volume spike that has me jumping for my volume instead of being immersed in the moment when a character is being murdered by the Presence. Whether it’s one of the mini-games or an instant death event, it leaps from creepy and quiet to irritatingly loud.
The general gameplay pattern established by previous episodes continues as expected for the most part. You’ll be visiting more than one location this time, and as you transition between them, you can choose another character to play without needing to die, which was the previous requirement. Otherwise, it’s more of what we’ve gotten used to, and I don’t find any fault in that, since it worked in the past. There’s one in-depth puzzle that takes some time with plenty of smaller more adventure game-style mini-puzzles to solve along the way. The Presence mini-game returns and brings along a new one to join the others, and that’s the one solid improvement that this episode has made over those previously. The new mini-game captures the feeling that it’s supposed to without being annoying or repetitive.
Another flaw in the episode was that it doesn’t seem to respect its players’ time. Although I can understand not wanting players to solve puzzles by activating every single object that can be activated, the animation for searching the bookshelves went on far too long. I only searched them three times (twice on my first pass of the room and once after I’d found the clues for what to do there) and it was already getting old by then as it locks you into a several second animation that can’t be skipped or backed out of. If this was the only time-wasting portion of the episode, I could let it slide by without bringing it up, but it happens again with a projector puzzle that follows that requires you to watch as it slowly cycles through five slides, forward and then backwards , before you can piece together what needs to be changed. Unfortunately, some areas feel like a drag this time around when previously the experience felt like an ably directed movie.
Highly Educated Companions
Our main protagonist returns, and joining Daniel are Grace Richards, a student at the university being investigated, and Omar Nassiri, a professor there. They were both closely associated with Husher so there’s an interesting setup for them from the start. I enjoyed Omar well enough, but Grace didn’t strike me as the most interesting of characters and I swapped away from using her after the first segment of the university was completed. Neither of these characters could really compete with Daniel, Sophie, or Erica, though (hell, throw in Etienne for an honorable mention).
Unfortunately, you’re still punished for playing Daniel. I understand that, from a narrative perspective, the story ends if the protagonist that it’s based around dies, but this doesn’t translate well into a video game. As the main character, he’s the most interesting one to learn more about, though I was anxious to play him as one slip up in the wrong place could mean restarting the entire episode even when other characters are still available.
As much as I’ve enjoyed Song of Horror, this was its weakest episode so far. I wasn’t drawn in by the location or the characters as much as I had been previously, and it felt less like good horror due to the excessive filler. Due to the first two episodes, I would still recommend the title to fans of the genre, though I can also say that if the entire game were designed in the way that episode three was, I would pass on it and find a better horror game to spend my time on. I certainly hope that this is the low point of the story and that we’ll return to the excitement and innovation that we’ve seen up to this point. I’m looking forward to a second playthrough of Song of Horror once all of the episodes have been released and I’m hopeful that this will be the only episode that I’m not excited to going through again.