When it comes to horror stories the supernatural has always piqued my interest. There’s just something dark and mysterious about eldritch beings and things that go “bump in the night”. Which is why I was excited to finally get my hands on the little demo that Protocol Games has just provided to backers, both potential and current, for Song of Horror. And, while I still love the premise the execution leaves quite a bit to be desired. For the record, I could not make it to the end so I can’t comment on the full slice released. But, I did get a good feel for the gameplay at least.
Song of Horror has you playing as Daniel and several other house “guests” to explore the eerie mansion that has apparently quite the sordid past. However, the demo only has you playing as the main dude in the story and that obviously means you get only one life to outrun and outsmart the malevolent Presence. Suffice it to say that I kept getting sucked into its nasty shadowy tentacles. They did promise this to be hard even for a demo and they certainly delivered on the frustrating promise.
I can forgive the many deaths at the hands of the Presence. After all, being stalked and hunted was quite expected and I jumped at more than one “subtle hint” to get the hell out of the house before I bite the big one. Being stubbornly obstinate I didn’t listen and continued to trudge on. And on. And on. Where was I? Oh, yeah. My biggest frustration wasn’t with the deaths but with the clunky controls. It’s pretty clear that Song of Horror isn’t made for ease of keyboard use. Movement, for lack of a better term, sucked. I could barely move around and the camera kept changing when I didn’t want it to. That was one thing that I really hated about games like Resident Evil, too. It’s hard to find your bearings when the camera keeps changing angles.
While the movement itself was pretty jarring it was trying to get Daniel in the right spot to be able to open a door or pick up a letter that really made me want to give up. In order for a hotspot to pop up you need to position the character at the exact spot that you need him to be, but it’s a lot trickier than you’d expect. Because if you hit a movement key the wrong way he can quickly move past where you want him. This might be a lot easier with a controller, which is probably what Song of Horror is being designed for, but with the keyboard and mouse it’s a chore in futility.
All that said, is the time I spent with the demo bad enough to make me pull my pledge? I’m not sure, but it does make me question why they’re using such an archaic control scheme. Especially when they’re targeting the PC audience on top of consoles. The more I played the better I got at moving around but even after many deaths I still have a hard time getting my guy where I want him before succumbing to the sweet surrender of oblivion. I still have high hopes but unless they streamline the controls better the real horror will be moving around.
UPDATE: After the time of this writing they released an updated demo that does address some of the issues that I had with the previous build, namely the movement controls. Particularly in regards to hitting the hotspots just right. I’m still far from a fan of the static camera, though.