13 Days of Halloween: Game Review: The Song Out of Space (Xbox Series X)
From Pixel Noire and inspired by, but not explicitly stating so, H.P. Lovecraft, The Song Out of Space is a short (and we mean short) visual novel experience with point and click elements.
Two FBI agents are sent to a small town where a group of scientists working at a government laboratory have been murdered. Your job is to find out who is responsible and more importantly, why?
The Song Out of Space is a game that needs more time. More time to let the story sink in, more time to let the characters breath and time to let the nuances of the era mean something. The game is set during the height of the Cold War and tensions between the USA and Russia are at an all time high. Your boss believes the incident at the lab is related to the Russians and desperately wants you to find proof.
This puts undue pressure on the two agents he assigns, Ross and Kathy, who the player can choose to play as at the start of the game. Of the two, the more interesting character is Kathy as she is having to deal with rampant sexism and disrespect. While not so willing to just point the finger at the Russians. Whereas Ross is more likely to toe the line while attempting to change his own way of thinking when it comes to working with Kathy.
All of that detail and A Song Out of Space blazes through it in around 30 minutes. It’s baffling that such ideas weren’t explored more.
Instead, once at the town and once you’ve interacted with the Sheriff and his deputy (not so happy about the Feds being called in), A Song Out of Space concentrates exclusively on the mystery and the horror behind it. Thankfully, that part of the story is interesting and, depending on what ending you get, is delightfully dark and uncomfortable.
Gameplay is made up of asking questions until you’ve exhausted all dialogue and clicking on markers to interact with objects and/or perform an action. It’s extremely basic stuff and there are no puzzles to solve here. Enter a room, look at everything then go through the dialogue before moving on. There’s plenty to talk about but there are no detailed branching paths to enjoy.
Ultimately the lack of depth and the short length weights this experience towards the negative side of things. However, what really piles it on is how ugly the game is. The uber-pixelated graphics are downright offensive to look and strange art choices don’t help. It’s so unappealing to look at that it detracts from the chilling aspects of the story. How are you supposed to be sickened by a murder scene when it’s a mush of pixels?
A game with plenty of potential but that’s about it.
The Song Out of Space (Xbox Series X)
The Final Score - 5/10