In the distant year of 2019, I reviewed the initial release of Song of Horror, and now I find myself continuing the journey of Daniel Noyer after his traumatic experiences in the first two chapters. A Twisted Trail is the 3rd of 5 planned instalments, but as you may well imagine, it is not that different from the first two, so if you really enjoyed them, you will also like this one, and vice versa.
Saving you the trouble of clicking on a link and reading something else, I find Song of Horror to have some very good ideas, some great atmosphere, but limited success with the execution, where interesting gameplay features become more tedious or irritating than either fun or spooky.
What I will say about Episode 3 is that I do like the setting a lot – it’s a fancy university, after hours, where everything is dark and shadowy. It’s a setting we don’t often see among the slew of haunted houses, and I found it a delightful departure from established tropes.
You have the choice of three characters: Daniel Noyer, of previous episodes, and newcomers Omar Nassiri, a university professor, and Grace Richards, a student of missing central-mystery character, Sebastien Husher. As with the previous episodes, the gimmick is permadeath, where if one of your characters falls, they stay dead, and you must select another one to venture out into the scary world. If all characters fail, then its game over.
However, even this interesting “lives” system has been nerfed. See, the game has been designed to continue one story across multiple episodes, with all the deaths you cause as part of that. However, it cannot adjust for Daniel dying, because he is the protagonist, so if he does die, you get an instant game over. It leads to a person deliberately always choosing him last and seems to undermine a core foundation of the game design. It’s a strange decision at best.
On average, the game runs quite well, with fewer bugs or crashes than in Episodes 1 or 2. The puzzles, which I found deliberately obtuse to the point of irritation sometimes in previous episodes, now are easier to figure out, but, as a result, are more clearly puzzles than ever before. What I mean is, the game wants its puzzles to be organically part of the world, but often cannot quite figure out how to achieve that, so offscreen NPCs leave each other extremely strangely written letters or notes or clues to direct the player.
Here’s my version of a typical Song of Horror puzzle. You find a letter with the following written on it:
“Hey Bob, you remember that key I use to open all the rooms? Well, I’ve hidden it in the GREEN room, under a FLOORBOARD two metres from the WEST of the door. It’s in a locked box that needs a CODE. The CODE is the same as my wife’s BIRTHDAY. Incidentally, my wife works here and is listed on the STAFF WALL. Remember how my wife has the same SURNAME as me? Your Friend. Bob MACMILLIAN.”
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit mean, but such a puzzle really isn’t that far off from what you often get in this episode, include the very first major puzzle. It’s just so immersion-breaking to have something so clearly video-gamey in front of you during any challenge.
In the episode’s favour, I did find the monster system less irritating than before, although I also feel it still needs some improvements. It becomes an annoyance more than a threat, but less so than Episode 1 and 2 where it seemed to exist just to stop your fun.
Song of Horror: Episode 3
I find myself mildly invested in Song of Horror’s story, and I want to see where it all ends in Episode 5, but I still find this horror title plainly average in general, with hints that it is headed for improvement as the episodes progress. Honestly, I’m more interested in what this studio makes next, having learnt from this admittedly ambitious title.
- Interesting and engaging setting
- Bug fixes and improvements
- Overall playing experience better than Episode 1 and 2
- Unengaging puzzles
- Monster system still flawed
- Strange nerfs to permadeath system
Sound and Music