The Song Out of Space (Xbox Series S) Review

Close encounters…

The Song Out of Space – developed by Pixel Noire Games and published by Ratalaika Games – is a point-and-click narrative-adventure, with the focus on multiple replays to unravel all the plot permutations. With two characters, an intriguing story, and only 30-minutes required for a single playthrough, it makes for a compelling enough package. However, The Song Out of Space could do with some quality-of-life features and the visual style is… interesting.

Set in 1971, at the height of the Cold War, you can play as FBI agent Catherine Armstrong, a young woman with excellent scientific skills in a man’s world; or agent Stuart Ross, a street-smart veteran who goes with his gut more often than his brain. Twelve astronomers at a deep-space observatory in rural Washington State have been found dead and, given its proximity to a nearby military air force base, top brass want them to investigate for potential Russian involvement.

The choice of agents has a notable impact on dialogue, observations, and investigation paths – even if the sexist dialogue can feel unnaturally forced at times.

Armstrong and Ross soon find themselves in the small town of “Garden”, presented with one seemingly obvious suspect, belligerent local law enforcement, a selection of potential leads, and not enough time to tackle them all. Despite several possibilities, events get stranger still, and – sticking with its Lovecraftian inspirations – The Song Out of Space offers no conclusive ending. Several observations and inner thoughts are written in the past tense, framing the action as a retelling of events from some uncertain future. It’s a smart choice that keeps some events and interactions consistent, while the choice of character, investigation paths, and dialogue responses still allows for decent variety in each replay. A quick look at the trailer also suggests The Song Out of Space covers the first part of a larger story.

The actual gameplay is point-and-click simplicity. On consoles, the left thumbstick moves a cursor and you “click” on icons that indicate traversal, a casual observation, a detailed investigation, or dialogue triggers. Dialogue simply involves picking questions (or making accusations) from a list of options – though you’re typically limited to a few choices before the suspect refuses to cooperate further. You move systematically from scene to scene, along a branching and converging path, towards the finale. Given there’s no pixel-hunting or inventory to manage, The Song Out of Space can feel like a visual-novel, but offers more agency and variability. Unfortunately, for a game that requires plenty of reading, the English translation – and presumably any non-Spanish version – needs a review and update to deal with several spelling mistakes and missing letters.

To keep events moving forward, you can often converse with your fellow agent to discuss leads or reveal clues you might otherwise miss.

The potential narrative differences are obvious from the moment you select a character. Catherine Armstrong provides more detailed observations and potential accusations but, in an overtly misogynistic world, she struggles to draw information from male characters (especially when challenging their assumptions about her abilities). Stuart Ross, on the other hand, has few issues in dialogue but cannot interpret some clues. The Song Out of Space works around this by pairing them up in several key locations but they separate to pursue other leads and your options during those sequences are limited based on each character’s abilities and personality. Of course, repeated playthroughs provide you insight that better informs your choices during key moments but it’s a nice touch.

Unfortunately, like so many choice-driven narrative-adventures, unlocking all story permutations is made harder thanks to a lack of any visual timeline feature or the ability to restart from a specific scene. The best advice I can give is to make multiple saves and check the achievements or trophy list to get an idea of what you’re missing. Talking of achievements/trophies, The Song Out of Space is in line with most Ratalaika Games and it doesn’t take long to rack up the dozen on offer – if that’s your thing.

The visuals and simplistic user interface often had me thinking back to the earliest Police Quest games, but using digital photographs as a starting point ensures each location feels more real (oh, and spelling mistakes are a little too common).

By far the biggest issue with The Song Out of Space is the presentation – even taking into account the budget pricing. On the audio front, there’s no voice-acting but the ambience and synth music do a great job of creating an unsettling atmosphere. When it comes to visuals… I guess you could argue they’re unique? It’s a combination of down-rezzed photographs for backdrops, paired with stiffly animated, chunky pixel-art characters. It looks and feels cheap but effective and, honestly, it never detracted me from the narrative. Your mileage will vary.

If you can look past the rough presentation and forgive the lack of a timeline feature, The Song Out of Space offers a compelling enough experience that feels smartly developed on a tight budget. It’s the type of game you’ll play through twice in your first sitting, then start mulling over narrative diversion points and start planning a replay or two. If you’re looking for a bite-sized, point-and-click-style narrative-adventure, there are far worse ways to spend $5.

A review code for The Song Out of Space was provided to gameblur by the publisher.

The Song out of Space (Xbox Series S) Review

The Song out of Space (Xbox Series S) Review
6 10 0 1
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
    You can see everything on offer in 4 brisk playthroughs but it's the most compelling element on offer.
  • Gameplay
    6/10 Normal
    You point, you click, you make some dialogue choices, and then wait to see how events unfold.
  • Visuals
    5/10 Neutral
    I found them effective on a budget but it's hard not to call them ugly.
  • Audio
    6/10 Normal
    There’s no voice-acting but the ambience and synth music create a suitably unsettling atmosphere.

The Good

  • A brisk but intriguing story with multiple endings
  • Two playable characters offer unique story paths, investigative skills, and dialogue
  • Multiple playthroughs are required to see all permutations
  • The price of a fancy coffee

The Bad

  • No timeline to track choices or scene-restart feature
  • The visual style is going to be divisive
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