Song of Horror

a First Look by flotsam

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I am about two hours playtime in, and so far so very good.

After a short prologue which I won't spoil by telling you anything about it, having selected a character I have spent my time exploring the Husher Mansion. It's a creepy place, and not just because it's dark. The usual creaks and groans of an old house can be heard, but so too some thumps and other noises which appear far less usual. The fact that examining some items (a cupboard or a large table for instance) elicits an observation that you would be able to hide there, suggested rather ominously early on that hiding would be required at some stage. But there is nothing for it but to systematically move through the mansion, looking for clues relevant to why you have been sent here.

The Mansion is a many roomed and well designed place. Richly detailed and muted in colour, it warrants and rewards a thorough poking about. A map that updates as you go will assist, and usefully will make note of things like locked doors and places where a puzzle remains unsolved, once you have come across them. And also the places you have found that you can hide!

Which I have just done for the first time, and also stilled my beating heart. More a practice run this time, which the game does very well. The first time you encounter something new, like needing to listen at doors to hear what might be behind, or to hold a door and slam it shut to prevent something getting in, the game pops up a window explaining what it is you are doing and how to do it. So far I have only had to close a door once, but given I was initially pressing the wrong key and the entity never got in, I suspect it was never going to, the whole thing being an exercise in tuition. Ditto the hiding and the heart calming. That clearly won't be what is to come, but it's an excellent way to prepare you.

A suitable and not overly done soundtrack adds mood, and ambient sound rounds out the aural palette. Spoken word is minimal thus far, with my solitary musings being read but accompanied by an audible exclamation.

My exploration thus far has involved finding some items to solve several conundrums, and a straight out puzzle to get the lights back on (once all the parts have been taken care of). Which means I can rely less on my torch, except of course if the flickering lights fail. A safe remains locked, and a hallway door covered with a black fibrous material lurks at the top of the first floor stairs. The children's voices from behind a locked door and the vision of the small boy scuttling down the corridor remain to be further considered. Just perhaps not yet. The safe and the broken searchlight seem safer options.

The game plays in the third person and you move around using the W,A,S,D keys. I am always a little clumsy at times with this type of locomotion, pirouetting now and then or overshooting an objective, particularly when the camera perspective and the required movement direction changes. The mouse can be used to activate hotspots, but only once you are close enough and looking at them. Moving the mouse around moves your torch in a limited area, and your head moves to follow. A small indiscreet white diamond will indicate an item of interest; get close enough and "notice" it, and the hotspot will be live, at which point a mouse click (or the relevant keyboard click) will engage in the relevant action (look, take etc).

Use the I to bring up the inventory and J to pull up the document file. The mouse can be used to select items, and other identified keys will use or combine or more closely examine the item. It is a little bit more fiddly than some games, but once you settle in it works fine. You choose one of two difficulty levels at the start, and can fiddle with the settings and choose to display certain information. You can't map the keys (or not that I found). Save and exit at will.

There is seemingly so much more to come in terms of the horror in the title, and on what I have played so far I can't wait.