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PS4 - PSVR Game Review

Pack shot



Song in the Smoke


Format: PS4 - PSVR
Publisher: 17-BIT
Developer: 17-BIT
RRP: £24.99
Click here to buy -
Age Restrictions: 12+
Release Date: 07 October 2021

Battle strange beasts and brave the elements to stay alive in Song in the Smoke: an expansive and mysterious VR survival game set in a world outside of time. Song in the Smoke puts survival in your hands. Enter a dangerous world and craft weapons, make clothes, build fires, and brew potions to defend yourself against vicious predators. Block, parry, and strike back with your club, attack from distance with your bow, or use your wits to sneak past the lethal creatures that call this land their home. The hunted also becomes the hunter. Use your senses to stalk prey in virtual reality: track their smell, follow their footprints, and plan your strike. When you’re ready, show off your skill with intuitive and responsive VR controls that let you execute the perfect shot. Travel between wildly different environments as you follow the guidance of your ancestors, and uncover the secrets of Song in the Smoke...

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Song in the Smoke is a survival and crafting game with a very simple quest

I've been eagerly awaiting the release of Song in the Smoke for some time now. So when I finally got to play it I was very conscious of the fact that I was going to be up against time constraints to get a review out. Thankfully we received the review code a week before release so were able to take the time to really get to grips with everything, and believe me it's quite a learning curve.

Now, it could be because I've been playing The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners again because of the recent 'Aftershocks' DLC drop, but my first impressions of Song in the Smoke was that it was similar in design to Saints and Sinners, only without the bells and whistles... But those thoughts soon melted away as I began to become immersed in this new world.

The game only works with the move controllers, which shouldn't be an issue as everyone who has PSVR has surely already invested in a pair of these. But it's worth mentioning as there will be some players out there who are still having issues tracking them down.

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The environments are beautifully detailed

It's a survival and crafting game with a very simple quest. In each area there are three singing stones which you have to find which then open a portal to the next area. The opening level acts as a basic tutorial running you through the basics which you'll need to start playing the game proper. You'll know when you're near a stone as you'll hear ethereal singing. You also carry a map of the area and you'll need to check that from time to time to look for the areas you've not visited before.

You start the game with a choice of character (male of female), but it doesn't matter which you opt for as all you're really choosing is what your hands look like and what your caveman style grunts sound like. You start with nothing, but as you move around you'll come across clearly signposted areas that teach you a little about the game and what the controls are. But the instructions are deliberately minimal. The game lets you experiment in order to find things out for yourself and that was a huge part of the charm for me.

So, combining certain things you find in the environment will create other things. Bash two items together and you've got another, new item. Some items then become tools to create even more items.

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Danger lurks in the shadows

You'd be forgiven for thinking you're back in prehistoric days, but you'll stumble upon the remains of heavily armoured warriors and strange apparitions of people occasionally appear out of nowhere, making you question what on earth is going on. Again, the slowly unfolding story is another element that keeps you coming back for more.

As you wander around you'll need to keep hunger at bay, sleep when you get tired and keep warm. In the early levels this isn't such a huge problem. In fact I'd advise doing everything that the tutorial guides you through. It's very easy to not bother lighting a fire and instead just fall asleep anywhere. In later levels you'll need to light a fire that will last all night as this keeps any enemies at bay. Saving can only be done at the campfire and it's easy to forget. So you can play for several hours, switch off and then when you return to the game you realise you didn't save your progress.

Likewise, it's easy to not bother eating - the health you lose when your food runs out is not overly harmful in the early levels. In fact I'd strongly urge you to restart the game from the beginning once you have the basics down, because most of your learning curve, not to mention mistakes, will take place in the first environment after the tutorial level. It's here you'll really start to understand how things work in this world.

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The slowly unfolding story will keep you coming back for more

In all honesty, like a lot of PSVR titles, I really enjoyed playing a game I normally wouldn't have touched if it had been a standard, flat, PS4 title. This review was completed before the game went live on the Playstore (and uploaded as soon as the embargo time and date allowed) and the studio has stated that a massive update to fix known bugs will be available at the time of the game's release. I'm hoping it fixes a number of really annoying issues. Firstly using the pestle and mortar to mix potions was just too fiddly. Almost every time I picked up the pestle the herb would fly out of the mortar, meaning I would have to chase after it. Constructing fires is also a bit fiddly - not helped by the appearance of your menu to the right of the fire. As a right handed individual it was a little cumbersome to pick things up and place them in the fire. It would have been better placed to the left of the fire, or not forced open. It would have been much easier if you had control to open and close it at will as you can in the rest of the environment.

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Keep the campfire burning at night to keep beasts at bay

But the biggest issue I had was that in the first level walk through you are supposed to make your way to an area that gives you a quick tutorial on creating a bow and arrow... I overlooked this area as I was too busy tracking down the stones. I then went through the portal to the first level proper. Even when restarting and finding the bow and arrow area there was a constant sign that appeared in front of my face telling me what to do. Sadly this also blocked me from being able to aim at the target. In the end I had to walk far away from this area and then head back to fix this issue. It really would have made much more sense to have had the bow stage somewhere that you couldn't miss, because if you do miss this you'll find the first level almost impossible to complete.

The crafting, eventually becomes intuitive. So if you find it a little cumbersome and boring to begin with, then stick with it, the unfolding story and the challenge to unearth each singing stone I found to be fun and challenging and this just keeps getting more enjoyable the more you move through the game.

Beautiful environments, music that heightens the game's emotional connection and a learning curve that sees you feeling genuine achievement when you complete a simple task, means that Song in the Smoke is an essential purchase.


Nick Smithson

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£25 Playstation Network Card