Sometimes, video games don’t make you solve your problems with violence, you know? Sometimes, all you need to do is sing – yep, it might sound strange, but that’s the concept behind the delightful rhythm-platform-adventure (that’s a mouthful) Wandersong.
Wandersong puts you in the shoes of a Bard who, after dreaming that the world is going to end, heads out on an adventure to make sure it doesn’t. How? By encountering the mystical Overseers and getting them to teach him the Earthsong, of course. Things take a sour turn though when the Bard discovers that he might not actually be the hero of this tale, and that his singing alone might not actually be strong enough to bring a stop to the end of the world.
It’s an incredibly quirky tale, but it’s one that’s so charming, fun and sweet that it’s difficult not to get completely absorbed by it all. There’s always *something* going on in the game and you’re constantly finding yourself in weird yet delightful situations – it might be helping rid a village of surprisingly friendly ghosts, forming a band to bring life to a town, or even helping reunite a monster with his boyfriend. All of these fun little scenarios are set up with a diverse cast of characters who’re all fun to encounter, whilst some great writing helps bring each scene to life. It’s a surprisingly emotional game too, and it touches upon as many dark themes as it does pleasant ones.
As mentioned, you take on the role of a pacifist Bard in Wandersong – this means you don’t try solving your problems through violence, but instead peacefully through singing. Singing in the game sees you moving the right stick across a simple wheel which is split up into colours, with each one representing a music note. You’ll come across plenty of different situations in the game which each require you to sing in different ways, whilst even simple tasks like conversations require you to hit a random assortment of notes to communicate with the NPCs around you.
Whilst you might spend most of the game singing, it’s the way in which your singing is utilised that’s most clever about Wandersong. You’re not just using it to show you can hit those high notes after all, but are instead singing in order to speak to ghosts, to lead little bugs through a cave, to use magic in a city full of witches, to lead eagles that are carrying you across a snowy mountain, and even to protect yourself from incoming attacks from a giant wolf. That’s just a few examples too, with the protagonist Bard proving mighty resourceful with his vocal chords throughout the entirety of the game.
It’s a quirky little experience, but it’s one that kept a smile on my face throughout. Wandersong offers gameplay that genuinely feels unique – it might be guilty of keeping things simple (it’s never much more than simply moving the right analogue stick in these situations) and the process of singing can even feel repetitive at times, but the sheer variety of your tasks ensures it never grows boring. Add to that some platforming and simple puzzles to solve, and you’ll quickly find that Wandersong’s adventure is a delightful one.
Visually, Wandersong adopts a neat style that actually reminded me a little of South Park with its cut out-like colourful vibe. It’s a lot simpler than South Park though and certainly a hell of a lot less offensive, with Wandersong focusing on offering pleasant sights that are more charming and wondrous than anything else. It’s a style that works and it certainly helps the game establish its own identity, so it deserves some praise for its aesthetic. The only real issue I had with it was that in certain environments character models seemed to have a glowing fuzzy edge which was a bit odd, but other than that it’s an attractive little title.
Developer: Greg Lobanov
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC, Mac