I’m not usually a fan of horror games, the tense atmosphere and frustrating gameplay when trying to run away from the evil that stalks you usually peaks my anxiety and gets me flustered. However, I’ve pushed myself to play, and complete, a few games in the genre since starting this website, games which either look interesting, have unique mechanics for the genre, or instantly grab my attention with their setting and narrative. Song of Horror: Complete Edition ticked all three boxes…
Song of Horror: Complete Edition was the first game developed by Protocol Games, a Spanish team, and published by Raiser Games on all platforms. Originally released on the PC back in 2019, it launched with two episodes initially and then added the remaining three episodes just over a year later, episodically. The developers had tried to get the game funded via Kickstarter back in 2015 (Twice), yet both attempts failed, so I’m happy they managed to find a publisher to help them release the game as I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, as you’ll find out…
The game was released on the PS4 and Xbox One on the 28th of May, the reason I’m only just reviewing it now is due to a critical bug in the PS4 version that was corrupting save data, crashing to the dashboard, and even turning off the PS5! So, rather than reviewing and promoting the game whilst there was an issue, I waited for the patch, tested to make sure the game is now working, then completed the game first – and here we are. I’m happy to say that the game no longer has any serious issues on the PS4/5; So, let’s review it…
Song of Horror: Complete Edition is an episodic horror adventure game, set over the course of five main chapters with a prologue and epilogue. On consoles, and if you were to pick this up on PC today, the game is complete (as the title of the game suggests), so you can progress through the entire narrative without having to wait for the next content patch to drop. It begins with an introduction to the game mechanics as you, Daniel Noyer, are sent to the abandoned house of Sebastian P. Husher at the request of your editor to check up on him, as nobody has heard from the famed writer in a while.
When Daniel fails to return from his simple task, his ex-wife, Sophie, becomes concerned and contacts Daniel’s editor. This is where the game really gets interesting as you can now start chapter one as either Sophie, Etienne (the editor), Alexander (the housekeeper who has been on a trip), or Alina (an electrician). Each character has their own agenda for exploring the mansion, yet they all have a common goal – find Daniel and get him out of there. Although all the characters play very similarly, some differences make each playthrough unique.
After discovering what the evil is, and where it’s originating from, you travel to various locations in search of more information and the hopes of finding a way to stop it. Each chapter provides you with a selection of characters to pick from, a selection that will change based on who doesn’t die during your playthrough. This is the unique aspect of Song of Horror: Complete Edition, the game has a permadeath mechanic – this instantly increases the fear of whatever lurks in the darkness, one wrong move could lead to your early demise.
Song of Horror: Complete Edition reminded me of Until Dawn, it’s a third-person exploration and puzzle-based horror game, played from a semi-fixed angle, with some jump scares and QTE encounters. The majority of the game involves you wandering around the various creepy locations, looking for objects which can be used to progress in other parts of the area, such as oiling a gear to open a trap door or lube to grease a lock. However, as this is a horror game, you’ll also encounter various enemies that require you to perform certain QTE-like actions to survive their attacks, which I’ll talk about later.
Based on the difficulty you select, certain things may or may not happen. You can turn the permadeath system off, so when you die you’ll simply reload a previous autosave, but doing so will lock you out of a lot of the trophies as well as not properly delivering the experience the developers intended. As you bump the difficulty up (which tops out at H.P. Lovecraft), you’ll begin to experience spooks and action more frequently, including seeing the ghostly manifestations of previously killed characters.
As I’ve said with previous games, such as Scarlet Nexus, I love that you have the option to play as multiple characters, each one has their own perspective on the events which are happening and even their own tools and knowledge to guide you in certain situations. The differences may be subtle, as you have the same goal in each chapter regardless of who you’re playing as, but it gives you a reason to replay each stage multiple times, which is also a requirement for the platinum trophy.
Multiple Characters and Permadeath
In total, there are 13 playable characters in Song of Horror: Complete Edition, with each chapter introducing at least one new person to take control over which has more relevancy to the location than the others. For example, the second stage sees you explore an abandoned antique shop in search of information on the device that is causing the madness and people to go insane. Here, the new characters include a policeman, called by a worried neighbour, and the daughter of the store owner who has just returned from a trip and is unaware of the recent events.
If you die whilst playing as anyone other than Daniel (and permadeath is turned on), that character is now removed from the game. In a way, they’re almost like the ‘lives’ you get for each stage. However, if you decide to play as Daniel and he dies, you must restart the chapter from the beginning as he’s the main character which the entire story revolves around. Thankfully, just like Soul-like games, when the non-Daniel character dies they drop all their inventory at their place of death, allowing you to simply return to that point as someone else, pick it up, and carry on with the investigation.
When your character dies another thing happens, they may reappear within the stage as their ghostly counterpart, simply stood there in the darkness, staring at you or crying. Approaching these otherworldly apparitions is instant death, they’ll grab onto you and take you to the other side with them, so it’s best to avoid anything that doesn’t seem ‘human’. Thankfully, I’ve played through the game once and didn’t have anyone die but I have watched videos of people playing it who weren’t as cautious – there’s one person who’ll make you jump if you let them die!
Aside from the fear and anxiety the atmosphere creates, there are enemies you must protect yourself from – these are dealt with via QTEs… The first encounter you’ll have is with black smoke behind a door. As it tries to push the door open you must mash Cross and then push R2 to slam the door as hard as you can. If you’re successful it’ll go away, otherwise, you’ll become its dinner. Also, you’ll frequently hear the sound of something coming, meaning you have to find a cabinet to hide in or a table to jump under – this also has a QTE that involves pulling down on R2 and L2 in time with a pulsating heartbeat monitor.
Each stage introduces a new threat with new QTE mechanics, none were particularly difficult but they can get quite stressful if you’re trying to complete the game without anyone dying. I was playing the game on the easy difficulty (but still with permadeath), so later stages only had one or two instances with the new enemies, but I imagine on a harder difficulty you’ll bump into them more often. However, the door smoke, having to hide, and a blind creature where you have to remain silent popped up on pretty much every stage multiple times.
Another key survival mechanic is listening through the doors. Once you ‘learn’ this technique, you MUST listen to every door before you enter it for the first time, if you hear something on the other side then it’s another instant death if you ignore it and try to enter. It’ll become second nature to you after a while as there are a lot of doors in each stage, it’s all about being cautious without rushing.
I really enjoyed the exploration aspect of Song of Horror: Complete Edition. As I said previously, it reminded me of games like Until Dawn and the new Dark Pictures Anthology titles. Each character has their own perspectives on the items you can interact with around the environment, sometimes offering clues or more insight into what it is you’re looking at. For example, the first chapter has a broken fuse puzzle to solve, if you’re playing as the electrician, you get a clue and can turn off the alarm you may trigger once you turn the electricity back on.
As this is an adventure and a puzzle game, there are choice-based actions and puzzles to solve. The puzzles usually revolve around finding items and using them on other objects to progress, but there are a few standard ‘puzzles’ and a few that require you to find clues and instructions before attempting to solve them. I thought they were done really well and nothing was too cryptic as the only time I got stuck was due to not having all the information I needed at the time.
The choices crop up when you interact with an object and the game asks if you’re sure you wish to do that… This is a little frustrating as you don’t know if the interaction is going to be an unavoidable death or if the game is just teasing you. To help you out, there are items you can find in each stage, collectables that can be equipped to possibly avoid an early death. These objects have various abilities but one can predict the future and warn you if a certain choice will kill you.
Journey to the Platinum Trophy
I probably won’t obtain the platinum within Song of Horror: Complete Edition, but I’m okay with that. The game has four difficulty modes, three with permadeath and one without. In order to obtain all the trophies, you need to complete each stage on any of the permadeath difficulties with each new character within the chapter, not lose any characters whilst playing the entire game within the top two difficulties, and then play the whole game and pick Daniel whenever you can (also in the top two difficulties).
The platinum trophy is also labelled as “Complete the game on H.P. Lovecraft difficulty.” – Platinum trophies shouldn’t have any criteria other than collecting all of the other trophies, yet this one states you have to complete the game on the hardest difficulty. As very few people have actually obtained it, it’s hard to know if you do have to do that or not, but some people on PSNProfiles have said you do. If so, this will be the first time I’ve seen the elusive trophy require you to specifically do something.
Looking at the Xbox achievements, this trophy is literally one of their achievements, so they’ve just copied it over instead of having it as a new trophy – I’ve reached out to the publisher in regards to this but we’ve not heard anything back. Trophies can’t be added but criteria can be changed via a patch, something I think they should do, maybe adding this particular trophy as a ‘DLC trophy’?
Also, some people are saying that the “Shielded by Madness” trophy isn’t unlocking for them, but others have managed to grab it. So, I’m not 100% sure if it is an issue or not as I didn’t find all of the items required to unlock it during my playthrough.
Song of Horror: Complete Edition is an indie game, created by a small studio, so I wasn’t expecting the same visuals as you would with a AAA title. However, I really liked the design of the game, it’s spooky, creepy, unsettling, and there is some horrific and disturbing imagery hidden in the darkness. Some of the animations are assets are a little ‘janky’, but overall it was very immersive and certainly exceeded my expectations. The only thing I would have liked would have been a higher resolution when playing on the PS4 Pro/PS5, it appears to top-out at 1080p but I could be wrong (going by eye).
An update to detect if it’s the PS5, enabling a higher resolution and possibly 60fps would be fantastic, but I don’t know if it’ll be a reality.
The sound design is great, playing the game with headphones on is clearly the best setup as you’ll hear the random noises in the distance, the ghostly remains of your fallen characters call out to you, and the environments creak and groan all around you. I was personally freaked out and left unsettled after playing through the game twice, but I’m not the best with horror games so you may find it less impactful if you play a lot of games in the genre. I highly recommend headphones and the lights turned off though!
If you have trouble with your hearing, there is an option in the settings to enable a visual cue when the game is usually making a noise – such as when the darkness is coming or when you’re listening to the door. This should allow everyone to enjoy the game regardless of any sensory disability you may have.
Despite the rocky launch due to a critical bug, Song of Horror: Complete Edition is a brilliant horror game with a unique concept that works really well, permadeath. The fear of death is emphasised by the fact that if you lose a character, they’re gone for the entire game, so you’re forced to proceed with caution and think about every action you take if you wish to survive. Each location is very different, based on horror tropes, giving you creepy and unsettling buildings to explore as you fight or hide from the evil within.
If you like horror adventure games, which focus more on exploration than combat, then you’ll love Song of Horror: Complete Edition.
If you prefer buying your games physically, Meridiem Games are releasing a physical PS4 edition in the EU on the 20th of July. This is a ‘Deluxe’ version which contains the game, a special sleeve, a map which you can note clues down on, and a character guide that tells you about each playable character and their relation to the story. If you do pick it up physically, you should download the update before you play it, as I believe it’ll be pressed with version 1.0 (the version which had issues with Chapter 4).
Song of Horror£34.99
- - The permadeath works really well, increasing the fear of death and failure
- - The atmosphere is very creepy and unsettling
- - Lots of replayability
- - Will make you jump
- - Each character reacts differently to pretty much every object in the game
- - I wish the resolution and framerate were higher
- - It's very easy to die through random interactions if you've not played the level before
- - The platinum trophy 'may' be stuck behind completing the game on the hardest difficulty (there should be no criteria for a platinum other than grabbing all the other trophies)