Review – Song of Horror (Xbox One)

When I first saw the Song of Horror trailer I’ll admit, I wasn’t optimistic about the game at all. It looked rough in every sense of the word, especially regarding the cheesy voiceover that sounded more like a parody trailer from the 90’s, but I had heard good things about it, so I decided to give it a shot regardless. I can safely say I’m glad that I did; Song of Horror may not be the best horror game out there, but it’s definitely got some interesting ideas that are worth checking out. 

Song of Horror Graphics

Character models look rough.

The story is rather simple. Acclaimed author Sebastian Husher and his family have mysteriously disappeared. You start the game as his editor’s assistant, Daniel, who explores his house until noticing a music box playing. Getting deeper into the house, he notices some weird(er) stuff and soon also disappears as he gets closer to the music box. Eventually more and more people looking for Sebastian are drawn to his house to uncover the mystery. 

Let me deviate a little bit for a second. One of my favourite things about Bloober Team’s The Medium was the usage of a “dynamic” camera system that felt like a huge call back to the genre’s past. Song of Horror also does a similar thing here, but instead of a shifting camera it’s very fixed. Again, I really enjoyed it here, giving incredibly strong early Resident Evil vibes as I explored the house and the other locations throughout its runtime. It does occasionally lead to some annoyances when the camera shifts or you’re caught on objects in the environment, especially in tighter rooms, but it doesn’t happen often enough to become a recurring nuisance. 

Much of the game is spent simply exploring these environments, looking for clues and ways to progress. It’s not overly complex and the puzzles won’t have you scratching your head for long, but they are good enough to force you to comb through the environment. Eventually though, there will be threats, and you cannot fight back. Certain doors can be leaned against so you can hear what’s on the other side: if you hear something, it’s definitely not safe to go through. However, it does often boil down to a simple QTE to stop your character from dying. 

Song of Horror Audio

What’s behind the door?

Perhaps the most unique aspect of Song of Horror is the fact that there is a permadeath system in place (this can be turned off on lower difficulties). When starting a chapter, you will have the choice of a handful of characters, each with some unique stats and items to help them out on your investigations. If a character dies, they stay dead and you will have to re-run the chapter, picking off from where the last character left off. The threat of permadeath makes every encounter much more nail-biting, knowing that this character will never come back, and if you run out of characters, it’s game over. Don’t worry though, new chapters will give you new characters. It’s an inventive addition to the horror genre formula that adds another dimension and plenty of surprises to the game. Though it can be hard to care about some of these characters as they aren’t fully realised and don’t offer anything different. 

As you creep around the house and other locations there is a sense of dread. Most of these locations are incredibly well realised, with some great lighting and post-processing effects. It’s not the best looking horror game out there, but it is effective in what it does, as long as you turn off the film grain for a cleaner look. However, the game is still held back by incredibly stiff animations and poor character models that often look out of place. 

Where Song of Horror really starts to stumble is in its sound design. Whilst the audio design can generally do a good job of ramping up the tension in a horror game, hearing the presence in the next room and slowly creeping your way through the environment everything else just falls flat. The voice acting is atrocious, and not in the charming Resident Evil way, and there can be an over reliance on loud noises to force yet another jump scare. It gets tiresome after the first few dozen times. 

Song of Horror House

The main house gave serious Resident Evil vibes

Song of Horror was a lot better than I could have ever expected. This is an inventive horror game that brings in scares through permadeath mechanics and unique story-driven moments. It’s a love letter to horror across multiple mediums that is incredibly inventive. Even though it doesn’t quite hit its full potential due to its visual and audio issues, this is a game that every horror fan should try out. 


Graphics: 6.5

Nicely detailed environments let down by poor character models that barely look human at all. 

Gameplay: 7.5

Song of Horror‘s permadeath system adds a little bit more tension to the almost purely puzzle driven gameplay.

Sound: 5.0

Sound is a huge part of a true horror experience but, unfortunately, Song of Horror‘s audio design complately misses the mark

Fun Factor: 7.0

Song of Horror is flawed, but it features unique gameplay and storytelling elements that make it stand out from the rest of its peers. It’s still an easy recommendation for fans of the genre.

Final Verdict: 7.0

Song of Horror is available now on Xbox, Playstation and PC.

Reviewed on Xbox One X.

A copy of Song of Horror was provided by the publisher.