Wandersong is warm. Nearly everything about the game feels as if the player is wrapped in a comfortable blanket. It’s cozy and can’t help but make you smile. The art style is vibrant and is reminiscent of an old Dr. Seuss book and the music is soft yet catchy. The story is straightforward yet engaging and the characters are some of the most likable in recent memory. It is one of those rare games that brings back the feeling of childlike wonder.
The game takes place in a fictitious world on the brink of destruction. While this statement seems to contradict the idea of a joyful game, even this aspect of the story has a lighter tone. The world was created by a goddess singing a certain song and that goddess is now ready to sing a new song. This process will wipe out the current world and replace it with something new. This is where the protagonist comes into the picture. He sets out to enter the spirit world, the place where the goddess resides. Once inside, he must stop the “Overseers” assisting the goddess and ultimately stop her from singing a new song.
The introduction of the protagonist in Wandersong quickly shows what kind of character he is going to be. He is a bard who seems to lack skills for proper combat. Within the first few steps, he grabs a sword and comes upon an enemy. To the player’s surprise, the controls seem almost locked and rigid as they attempt to swing this sword at the enemy. The sword inevitably breaks and the player is left with nothing but their voice. While being physically weak the bard must overcome adversity with his powerful voice. A gameplay twist that is introduced in a clever and cute way.
After the sword breaks, the singing mechanic is introduced. By cycling through a color wheel whether it be with a mouse or a controller the player is able to simulate certain notes. These notes serve various functions depending on the situation. the game introduces new ways to use the bard’s voice up until the very end. Sometimes they are matching notes with an onscreen prompt to do damage. Or using a sweet melody to reshape platforms in order to get across a ravine. The sheer inventiveness of how this simple mechanic is used in a multitude of different ways keeps the game from feeling repetitive.
Each level is a three-phase process.
- Receive info about the spirit world through NPC interaction.
- Go on an adventure to gain access to the spirit world.
- Go to the spirit world and defeat overseer.
The levels of the game are separated as villages. Each village containing a diverse group of people with a certain problem. The player shows up, does some talking around town, and is usually quickly swept up in an adventure with the locals. These locals are the highlight of the entire journey. The population of each town is so unique and charming that getting to a new town is exciting all the way until the very end. The people are funny and able to genuinely make the player care for their plights after talking to them for a small amount of time.
A standout among these groups is the misfit band of pirates attempting to cross a rough sea. The bard must use his voice to conjure up winds to steer the ship and avoid obstacles in the sea. This rowdy bunch of scallawags is hilarious from start to finish. They talk trash to one another and often make jokes at the bard’s expense. But when push comes to shove they always have each other’s backs and come to really respect the bard as well. These interactions make it truly feel like this is a crew of people who have been together for years.
This is just a small example of how the game uses interesting fleshed out characters to keep the simple singing mechanic feeling fresh. Moving platforms around and matching tunes never feels mundane because the player feels compelled to help these people in need. Character writing that strong is missing in some of the most dramatic AAA games and is a testament to how strong the script is in Wandersong.
The game is presented in a paper cutout style. The colorful pallet lends itself well to the games cheery mood. And the small details inside each village sets each one apart from one another. Yet again, the game takes some something so simple and makes it memorable with just a little bit of love and care.
The soundtrack is subtle with tunes rumbling in the background. Most of the music is coming from the bard himself so it makes sense that the soundtrack is a bit understated. It does manage to hit all the right beats, with cheery tunes playing as you walk around town while boss fights are accompanied by more dramatic melodies
While it’s easy to sing the praises of this game (pun intended) it does have one glaring flaw, the length. This game is entirely too long. As mentioned before it is exciting to get to a new town to see what new kooky characters await, however, it is also nice to finally be done with the previous adventure. Every chapter seems to overstay its welcome just a little bit too much and this adds up over the course of the game. It sours some of the more memorable experiences by not being able to wrap up when appropriate. Minor annoyances that are outweighed by how much this game does right.
Wandersong is a rare treat that sneaks up on you. When initially booted up it gives off vibes that it could just be another platformer attempting to ride a gimmick. The game quickly begins to shine through believable NPC interactions. It is obviously created with heart. On the surface, it seems like a silly game about singing at enemies. But underneath is a gem formed from inventive level design and relatable characters. It is a joy to sing through from start to finish and as stated before, it is just warm.
You can get Wandersong for $19.99 on Steam.