Since the Nintendo Switch release in early 2017, more and more creative, colorful games have been developed to fit the console. While many of these games also have PC releases, they complement perfectly the whimsical and fun aesthetic of the Switch. One of those games in Wandersong, a unique puzzle platformer with one hell of a musical heart.
Wandersong was developed by Greg Lobanov, a video game dev based in Vancouver, Canada. It was officially released to the public on September 27th, 2018 for PC or Switch.
The game follows a chipper bard with a kind heart. He may not know how to fight, but he’s a fantastic singer. When he finds out the world is going to end, he’s determined to venture out and try to do his best, with only his voice to assist him. Though he’s no use in combat, this heartwarming, heroic bard can charm nearly anything with his voice. And the powerful extent of his songs don’t end there.
On the way players will meet witches, pirates, yetis, rainbow spirits, and more. None of it can keep the upbeat bard down, though, which sets a lovely, wholesome tone for the rest of the game.
The highlights of Wandersong lie in its characters, music, visuals, and overall charm. Though its plot and gameplay aren’t inherently complex, the wholesome, soulful characters met along the way, and the music and setting that accompany you, make every moment worthwhile.
As far as characters go, making a bard the protagonist was a unique, brilliant decision. His upbeat attitude and kindness brighten a world on the precipice of doom. However, the cast of characters around him are just as good. They are all fresh individuals with novel perspectives of the world. And, regardless of its innocence, there is a bit of clever, tongue-in-cheek wit in all their dialogue that adds more than enough spice to avoid the world turning too sugary sweet. Their funny, warmhearted dialogue only makes the experience better.
With a bard as the main character, of course Wandersong excels musically. Every area has soothing, charming tunes playing in the background. While a player explores, the songs give warm comfort with each note. The music makes the game an easy, relaxing adventure to kick back and enjoy.
Finally, the visuals. Wandersong’s art is cardboard cut-out style, tying the wholesome characters and warm, soothing music together to create the perfect video game fairytale. It’s not juvenile, it’s just an experience that could be enjoyed by all ages. Who wouldn’t delight in an offbeat hero’s journey? The visual style cements its originality and the feel that this story could be the polished realization of a curious, musical child wondering why bards never get the spotlight. Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Little Red Riding Hood, Wandersong could easily become a fairytale classic told through a new, beautiful medium.
However, the game does have its flaws. Its gameplay can be sticky sometimes, its art can get a little messy, and sometimes game progression isn’t entirely straightforward. Particularly between the gameplay and clarity issues, it can make it harder to get through the entire game.
Let’s start at gameplay. Since bards aren’t known for their swordsmanship, our protagonist overcomes challenges with his singing. The game centers around figuring out puzzles and rhythm game-esque sequences. While it’s fun and utterly unique, when it comes to the rhythm singing, it can be very easy to blur the notes. Sometimes the bard has to hit a few notes in a very deliberate order and, because of how easy it is to accidentally hit nearby notes, it can become a little frustrating. And even once you get used to the controls, how quickly the cursor responds to your input can get sticky and wonky at times.
When it comes to the art, it is still wholly beautiful and adorable. There are just some bits of the game where areas and corners can be blurry. While hardly affecting the experience, noticing them can jostle one’s immersion.
Lastly, the lack of clarity in progression sometimes can cause players a bit of trouble. While early parts of the game are fairly straight-forward, as one goes deeper into the story, things can get a bit confusing. For example, without ruining any of the game, sometimes a player uses the bard’s voice to match the notes an NPC plays/sings, other times the player just sings a bunch of notes or a single note very loudly to disrupt/get the attention of someone. While it’s good to mix it up, it’s not very clear when to change musical tactics. This murkiness applies to more of the puzzles and interactions as the game progresses and can make things confusing for awhile.
However, the game is so charming, well-written, and thoroughly enjoyable that those flaws are easy to overlook. It’s too offbeat and clever not to still suck you in.
Conclusively, its an indie game and it definitely has flaws, but it’s such a unique experience with too much charm to ignore. The world, characters, and bard of Wandersong sing their way into your heart, regardless of the few flat notes. The experience is a fairytale song that anyone who loves bards, music, or fantasy should try out.