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Video Game / Song of Horror

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Song Of Horror is a Survival Horror game by the Spanish studio Protocol Games. They sought funding on Kickstarter in 2015 but failed; undeterred, they spent the four following years working on the game until the first two episodes were released on for PC through Steam on October 31st, 2019. Episode 3 followed on Friday the 13th December, 2019, and the last two episodes came out in March 2020, while the "Complete Edition" hit PS4 and Xbox One on May 27, 2021.

The story begins with the vanishing of acclaimed writer, Sebastian P. Husher, along with his family. Worried, his editor sends an assistant to investigate, only for said assistant to also go vanishing. What follows is a chain of events that lead to the discovery of a horrible, incomprehensible... being, simply known as "The Presence" that seems to be behind it all.

The game plays primarily like an old-school Survival Horror game such as Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil, or Silent Hill. However, instead of traditional combat, while exploring each location the player will instead be randomly attacked by the Presence, which attempts to kill you in various quick-time events. The key hook is that The Presence is also the A.I. that the game runs on, which switches stuff up every now and then depending on how you play the game, ensuring every play through is different.

Song Of Horror contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Hospital: Episode 5 happens in the abandoned and derelict Jeremy Hartwood Mental Hospital, the institution where a young Ariadne LeGrant-Amsberg was treated. It is unfortunately also touched by the Presence because of an experiment Dr. Prestegard performed on the patients.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Every character has four stats, and all of them start with an S: Speed, Stealth, Strength and Serenity.
  • Amicable Exes: Daniel is this to Sophie. Although they divorced, they still appreciate each other and Sophie doesn't hesitate to try and find Daniel after he disappears, and then accompanies him on his quest to find a way to escape the Presence.
  • Ancient Egypt: A seemingly throwaway paper in the library in Episode 3 explains that pharoah Akhenaten founded a new religion and ordered the formerly badly lit temples to be open-air and well-illuminated. The same paper mentions that sun-disk Aten (Akhenaten's newly appointed top god) is opposed to a "dark, anthropomorphic figure" that bore arms in a radial manner.
  • And I Must Scream: Being trapped Elsewhere, in the domain of the Presence, is this. You find yourself in a maze of dark creepy rooms and hallways, surrounded by voices or in complete silence, with no way out of the place. No wonder Sebastian Husher decided to kill himself when he was trapped in here.
  • Ankle Drag: Sometimes, the Presence will catch the player character by the legs and try to drag them into the abyss. The player can fortunately forcibly escape the Presence's grip by mashing the right buttons.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In the Silence survival event, when you have to control the character's breathing to go unnoticed by a prowling Revenant; mess up too many times, and it'll jump closer until it finds you and you die. In the very first instance of this event, the Revenant doesn't kill you, so you're free to make mistakes while training.
  • Anyone Can Die: If one Player Character dies, the story continues from another character's perspective. However, you only have 13 characters across all five episodes, with each episode having a limited selection of them available. If all available characters in an episode die, the episode has to be replayed from the start. The sole exception is Daniel, the main character; dying as him forces you to replay the whole episode.
  • Artifact of Death: The music box which is the catalyst for the Presence's current manifestations. It was built when Argos LeGrant foolishly wanted a device to make his family listen to the "supposedly cursed" music that laid waste to the St. Cecilia's Abbey.
  • The Assimilator: Those taken by the Presence seem to become part of it, which it then uses to hunt down more victims. Towards the end of the game the Presence starts manifesting as a tidal wave of hundreds of clawing and grasping bodies.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: René is the only character with a weapon, in the form of his policeman's service pistol. However, it's not terribly useful as the Presence is an eldritch force and isn't something you can just shoot. All it really does is save René from a couple of instant-death traps (caused by interacting with a trapped object), and become a threat to you if he gets turned into a ghost, since he can now shoot the other player characters dead.
  • Big Fancy House: Sebastian P. Husher's mansion is a rather big manor which constitute a level by itself, having several dozen rooms scattered over four floors from the basement to the attic.
  • Bleak Level: Most of the episodes take place in ordinary locations that are Unexpectedly Abandoned, but episode 4, "The Last Concert", goes to lengths to show the ruin that the Presence can bring. St. Cecilia's Abbey has been left untouched for 85 years since the concert that played the Presence's song, and the place is a derelict ruin left to rot in the snow with all the mummified corpses of the inhabitants still inside. It's even worse when you gain access to the monks' quarters and find the grisly shrine created by the abbot, who was driven to abandon his faith and worship the Presence. Even the appearance of the Revenant for the level is grislier than most, sporting a torn-off arm and a dislocated jaw.
  • Blob Monster: The Presence starts off as a largely formless black mass, which is what allows it to evolve to better face your characters.
  • Broken Bridge: Like most horror games, characters need to find keys or other tools to open up new areas for exploration. The only notable exception to this is the first episode, where the characters will refuse to go upstairs until the entire ground floor has been explored.
  • Brown Note: Anyone who listens to the music box is fated to die. Or more specifically taken by the Presence to the Elsewhere.
  • Camera Screw: The game uses fixed camera angles to create a cinematic feel, much like the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill titles. However, this can sometimes impair your character during the chase sequences, as a camera angle suddenly shifts to a perspective where it's difficult to find the hiding spot in time.
  • Chiaroscuro: The game's art style is deeply biased towards tenebrism. The locations don't exactly want for light sources, but simply put, scattering doesn't exist — shadows are sharp and deep anywhere not being directly bathed in light. Coupled with the periodic flickering of most lamps and fires, this creates an atmosphere that seems murkier than it actually is. Even in the still-image cutscenes, the shadows are drawn in inky black that contrasts sharply with the off-white of the paper surface. Notably, this is absent in the prologue when the evening sun is still out, so the darkness may be a symptom of the Presence's taint.
  • Closed Circle: Averted. Aside from Daniel, there isn't anything stopping the characters from just leaving when things get too creepy except for the needs of the plot. This is lampshaded when you investigate an emergency exit in Episode 3.
  • Creepy Cathedral: St. Cecilia's Abbey in Episode 4. It is haunted by the Presence since 1913 when a concert featuring the cursed music took place. You visit its ruins decades later, witnessing several monsters lurking within its walls as well as discovering the story of the monks within who were killed or driven mad by the Presence.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: Sometimes, the photos you pick up can change to something much creepier when you look away and then back. Sometimes they can also change depending on the order you see them in.
  • Creepy Crosses: The Christian Cross appears, but never reassuringly because it is scratched in a haphazardous way into the walls, or in the ruin of an abbey tainted by the Presence.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Presence stays away from any concentrated light and can be driven away by emergency lights, spotlights or flares. Shining a light from a strong lantern at the wraiths is the only way to defeat the Requiem.
  • Devil, but No God: If you consider the Presence as the Devil. It definitely exists and acts, with no apparent good counterpart, not even faith in God. One of the earliest cases in the plot of the Presence's manifestations is in a Christian abbey, and the monks' faith does not hinder the Presence in the slightest. Additionally, Alexander, one of the playable characters, is pious and often prays in moments of distress, but he's just as vulnerable as any other character.
  • Distressed Dude: Daniel spends the entirety of the first episode trapped in the house and the four characters have to rescue him.
  • Driven to Suicide: The victims of the music box's curse have a tendency to kill themselves. It seems less like a direct effect of the curse and more of a means to escape the Presence. Since we never see a character that committed suicide return as a Revenant, it seems to work.
  • Downer Ending: Daniel is taken by the Presence and becomes one of the countless lost souls trying to escape.
  • Dwindling Party: A game mechanic. Your characters suffer from perma-death and won't be available by the next episode.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Presence. We never find out much about it even by the end, and its motives are completely unknown, though it seems to be implied to have been around at least as long ago as pre-history. What we do know is: it hunts the people who have heard the song it likes; it exists in another dimension; the people that are spirited away by it are used to find other people who have listened to the song; and according to the ending, it transcends time and the victims outright become part of it.
  • Eldritch Location: The place known only as "Elsewhere". There are no maps of it, and they range from rooms within projectors to endless hallways, to pitch black basements.
  • Evil Tainted the Place: Anywhere that the Presence's song has played will remain haunted by its manifestations, no matter how many years have passed, and even people that have never heard the song can be attacked and killed by it for so much as being around these locations.
  • Face–Monster Turn: Should a player character die, there's a chance that they will appear as a hostile ghost in the chapter they died in, where interacting with them will either result in their ghost killing you, or the ghost giving up their personal item for you to use. René is a special case where the player absolutely must leave the area if a sound of a gun being cocked is heard. Failing to leave right away will result in another player character's death.
  • Fake Trap: A lot of things will kill you if you interact with them, so you have to be very vigilant, but in Episode 3, there is a door that is suspiciously ajar. Normally, you wouldn't want to open it, lest you be attacked. However, if you don't go in and take the item inside, one of characters is guaranteed to die in the next segment.
  • For Want of a Nail: If you're unable to find the bolt cutters in the first half of episode 3, the character selected for the next half is guaranteed to die. If it's Daniel, the only on required to remain alive, there's no point in even going; you may as well restart the entire episode.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Some of the characters not only know each other, but were closely related: Daniel and Sophie are an outright divorced couple. Even so, none of them won't react much in-game if the other one dies to The Presence. Justified in that when a character is killed by the Presence, no one else is around to witness it, and the game takes place over a short enough span of time that no one has time to realize any of the killed characters are missing.
  • Guide Dang It!: The fuse puzzle is widely considered a massive roadblock early in the game, as how to solve it is extremely obtuse. Most people just spend half an hour brute forcing the solution. Fortunately, most of the game's other puzzles are much more manageable.
  • Haunted Technology: The Presence will affect any footage, from microfiche readers to reel projectors, which can lead to jump scares where a nighmarish face suddenly appears. In Episode 3, this property is exploited in order to reach a "parallel version" of the archives.
  • Hearing Voices: One of the possible manifestations of the Presence is for the characters to hear a continuous whisper, accompanied by a shadowy wind.
  • Hollywood Torches: Not literally torches, but rather candles. St. Cecilia's Abbey has been abandoned and crumbling for many decades, and yet the candles are all lit and burning merrily by the time Episode 4 takes place. It's implied in notes that Sebastian Husher lit the candles, but he himself admits there are a number of them that he doesn't remember lighting up.
  • Infinite Flashlight: The game outright instructs the player that they're free to use their character's light source as they see fit, since it'll never run out. Be it an electric flashlight, a short candle or a Zippo lighter, all of them last indefinitely.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Invoked with Alexander, who carries a hip flask and can restore some of his Serenity by taking a swig from it.
  • Inspired by…: Protocol Games themselves admit that each episode is inspired by a different survival horror classic. Thus, episode 1 traces its roots to Alone in the Dark, episode 2 to Silent Hill, episode 3 to ObsCure, and episode 4 to Amnesia: The Dark Descent.
  • Jerkass: Josef Michael Merino, one of the professors in Husher's university, is a certified jackass. The first puzzle of episode 3 only happens because of him hiding the janitor's access card and making an unnecessarily cryptic riddle out of its location, for no reason other than being a prick. From the player characters' dialogues when examining Merino's things, a caricature you can find and a big "FUCK YOU MERINO" graffiti'd on one of the walls, he's not very well-liked. Grace in particular despises him.
  • Mirror Monster: Some ghosts can only be seen through the mirror and some can even attack you through them. It's not a coincidence that most of the mirrors you run into are either shattered or too grimy to reflect anything. A mirror is also the only way you can see the Presence's wraiths during the Requiem minigame.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: The university seen in chapter 3, along with the usual symptoms of the Presence's presence, have very odd spatial and temporal anomalies. In the Art History department you can find a newspaper from August (the game's events take place in late September), and in the newspaper archive, a meeting room seems to have been vacated minutes ago, but if you play as Professor Omar Nassiri in this section, he will remark that the last time the room was booked by the people the stuff on the table belongs to was two months before. Despite this, both places, like all others, look like they've only just been vacated in a hurry.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Ariadne LeGrant-Amsberg is this. She's essentially a quiet withdrawn old lady who poses no threat but she's eerily casual about the Presence. This is because she's lived with the Presence since she was a baby and thus this represents her normal.
  • Notice This: The items you can interact with are marked by a white diamond symbol. When you get closer, it changes to a more specific icon (a magnifying glass, a cogwheel, etc.) depending on what you can do.
  • Ominous Obsidian Ooze: One of the signs of the Presence's coming is a black ooze beginning to cover the walls of the level. Your player character thus has to quickly find a hiding place to escape it. In other situations, it has to be burned off using intense light.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: In-universe. The Presence was initially summoned by a cursed music box and anyone hearing it is doomed to stalked by the Presence.
  • The Pen Is Mightier. Discussed by René if you examine a mechanical pencil while playing as him. Once in the past, he was almost stabbed by a perp brandishing one.
  • Press X to Die: Examining some objects will instantly kill you with no warning. Such objects are thankfully relatively rare and their lethality is foreshadowed, even if vaguely.
  • Press X to Not Die: The game has its share of moments that require you to mash buttons to keep your character alive. One of the first instances you're faced with involves slamming a door shut while The Presence tries to force its way into the room.
  • Reverse Grip: Characters that use flashlights as their light sources all carry it in reverse (tactical) grip. Understandable for René, who's a police officer, and Alina, who routinely works with wiring given her job, but Grace (an arts student), Lydia (a shrink) and Daniel (a publishing firm employee) also do it.
  • Right Man in the Wrong Place: Most of the player characters have ties to the events of the main plot (i.e. Daniel's ex-wife, his boss, a servant at the mansion, the daughter of one of the original victims, academic colleagues of Husher, etc.), but some are completely random bystanders who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In Episode 1, for example, Alina Ramos is just a security system technician who shows up to service the security alarm at the Husher mansion, and René Artigas in Episode 2 is a beat cop who has no reason to suspect anything supernatural is going on in the neighborhood. If she survives Episode 1, Alina will straight up go back to her day job instead of trying to delve further into the mystery.
  • RPG Elements: Every character has Speed, Stealth, Strength and Serenity stats, which vary somewhat between them to keep things interesting. This is alongside them often using different light sources (they can have either a flashlight, a candle or a lighter) and possessing unique abilities, like Etienne's notes, Alexander's flask or Sophie's scented candles.
  • Sanity Slippage: The Serenity stat represents how many hits to their mental state a character can take. Some also have their unique ways of restoring it, from Alexander's flask to Sophie's scented candles.
  • Schmuck Bait: Attempting to save Husher's wife and son, or later in the game any other known victims of the Presence, will immediately get you killed, as they've already become part of it. The only exception is Daniel, who you manage to rescue alive and still mostly well at the end of Episode 1. Some Presence victims, such as Julia, will also give you a gift instead of attacking you, though there's no clear indication whether or not a Presence victim will be hostile or not.
  • Shout-Out
    • Episode 1 - The Husher Mansion has several references to Fatal Frame:
      • The Piano in the den is made by a company called "Himuro".
      • The box of matches is branded "Type 90" and its art design is identical to the films for the Camera Obscura. note 
      • Husher's library has a replica camera sitting on a shelf, referencing the Camera Obscura itself.
    • Alina works for the Monolith Security Company, whose logo is the Marker from Dead Space.
    • The "Record Sheet from Newspaper Archive" features the names of multiple characters from the Resident Evil series: it's written by Jill, addressed to Becca, mentions Professor Wesk, Chris and William. The only name in it that's not a shout-out is Husher's.
    • Looking at the mailboxes, one of the tenants in Farber's apartment block is named Cheryl Mason.
  • Smashing Survival: In two quick-time events, you have to button mash to not die.
    • The Presence will at times try to force itself into the room your character is in through a door. To avoid guaranteed death you have to reach the door and repeatedly mash the A button to build up strength, then hit RT to slam the door with your built up strength. The temptation to build up full strength is contrasted with the Presence's efforts, making it a necessity to strategically slam the door at less than full strength to buy time.
    • In a later episode, the Presence will come in through the floor and try to drag you into the abyss, and you're forced to mash the required button to get out. At times, one of its hands will grab hold of one of your arms and you'll have to either hit a certain button beforehand to dodge the grab, or mash that same button to break free.
  • Spooky Photographs: Two examples.
  • Supporting Protagonist: Daniel is the real protagonist of the game, but there's a very good possibility that you will be spending time as other characters so that you won't have to restart the chapter if one of them dies.
  • Take Up My Sword: Both in story and in gameplay.
    • Every time one of your characters dies, they'll leave behind a bag with all their stuff so that the next character can continue.
    • Dr. Berenice discovered how to lift the curse, but she died before she could accomplish anything. Daniel ends up using her findings to get rid of the music box by dropping it off in the Presence's realm.
  • Tempting Fate: Argos LeGrant procures a copy of the titular song from the destroyed abbey of St. Cecilia, where the cursed concert took place, deriding the curse as superstitious garbage. He then decides to give it to his family so that they could play it every day. Yikes. It doesn't take much guessing to know it didn't turn out well for him.
  • Torture Cellar: In Episode 4, you discover the Abbot's quarters. He was driven mad by the Presence and compelled to make a shrine to it by killing and mutilating people, cutting off their hands specifically and nailing them to his walls.
  • True Companions: Daniel's ex-wife Sophie and his boss Etienne are willing to risk their lives multiple times for his sake and accompany him on several episodes.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: If Daniel, the protagonist, dies, the whole episode restarts. Any of the other characters can die and a different character, including Daniel, can take over in their stead.
  • Weakened by the Light: Any physical manifestation of the Presence is dissolved by light, and this is a core part of a number of puzzles. Downplayed in that the light has to be bright enough for that, such as a spotlight or ceiling lamp — candlelight or a regular flashlight won't cut it.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Besides the many different ways to be killed by the Presence, you can also get killed from more mundane mistakes, such as climbing out the wrong window of the attic and falling off the roof, or messing around with an old hand grenade.