Song in the Smoke - PSVR Review

Song in the Smoke
by developer and publisher 17-BitSony PlayStation VR review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.

Song in the Smoke is an interesting tightrope act that blends different gaming elements together quite effectively. Exploration is a major component, and the survival aspects are well-balanced, creating an immersive if occasionally unpolished experience.

Right off of the bat, the prehistorical setting is one that resonated with me. It’s not quite fantasy in the typical sense (there are some odd creatures), but it has a primitive nature that lends itself to the lush vegetative visuals. Like many virtual reality titles, it’s best to take the visuals with a bit of a grain of salt. Look too closely and you start to see muddied textures and faux walls that limit truly open exploration, but if you’re willing to operate from a couple of steps back and take in the visual style, Song in the Smoke is engaging.

At its core, Song in the Smoke is a survival game. The crafting system is what drives most of the titles in this genre, and Song in the Smoke is no different. It’s not the most complicated system I’ve come into contact with, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Those who really love intricate crafting systems with a ton of depth might come away feeling slightly disappointed, but at least for my enjoyment it was just about perfect. You have a loop of finding things, making things, eating and sleeping while exploring stages for three Song Stones that are used to summon the boss beasts that are your gateway to the next level.

Because the crafting system is more about the number of items that can be made and not necessarily a series of “make item A, then use that and another made item to create item C, which then is used as a component to item W”… the pacing is assisted by not really having to worry about these deep, laddered crafting systems. That said, one of the cooler aspects of the crafting system is how it makes use of virtual reality to make things a bit more hands-on, from sharpening sticks or crushing herbs. However, this is a survival game at its heart and one of the biggest challenges you face has less to do with the actual tasks as your limited inventory. Keeping a camp fire going at night is not all that hard in and of itself – there’s plenty of viable wood about, but your limited inventory means you’re not carrying three dead trees on your back as you make camp.

The hunting, gathering and sleeping mechanic is a careful act to balance, because in these types of games I can often feel myself feeling frustrated with how artificially cheap the limited resources can feel at times. That was seldom the case for me in Song in the Smoke. While admittedly the survival genre is not my favorite, the fact that I enjoyed Song in the Smoke as much as I did attests to how I found the systems challenging, but fair the majority of the time. It helps that there’s no hard timer pushing you through the stage each day. This can lend a bit of a grindy element to the overall loop by the time you hit some of the game’s later stages, but I appreciated that I seldom felt rushed. I tend to be thorough in my games (I’m a grinder in JRPGs, personally), and I appreciated that Song in the Smoke allowed me time to really improve my camps. There’s a lot of repetition here, but because I was enjoying my time, I was alright with that.

While the sound effects were pretty solid all round, the music was largely forgettable. Visually the presentation is interesting, as I mentioned earlier. Character models can look a bit rough at times, with animals like panthers and wild boars moving a bit stiffly, but setting up camp on a high cliff and looking around the environment was pretty exciting most of the time. The rough edges aren’t just found in the presentation though, as the lack of checkpoints will have you manual saving often (or suffering the consequences). Hunting animals is another exercise that while fun, really puts a drain on your time and resources and while it’s obviously important, feels just slightly out of balance with the rest of the game’s tug-of-war as well. It doesn’t help that the combat feels a bit rough around the edges as well, with animals moving in strange, sometimes jittery fashion. The actual number of stages is rather modest, but given that I had a tendency to fully explore them all, that was not a real concern for me.


Song in the Smoke is an excellent survival game that creates a genuine sense of dread as you manage your resources and explore often unforgiving environments. The setting is interesting, and while the visual textures can suffer a bit at times and the actual combat was a bit off for me, the sense of discovery while exploring new places was an immersive thrill.

Score: 7 / 10



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