Wandersong – Review
In Wandersong, we sing our hearts out to save the world from destruction. Did we hit the right notes? Here’s what we think.
What does it mean to be a hero? What does it mean to not be a hero? Wandersong starts by having you claim a powerful sword, only for your vocalist protagonist to not know how to handle it. Your little bard hero can sing, however, and that’s enough to impress the messenger of the goddess who’s responsible for destroying and rebuilding the world. For the rest of the game, you use the Bard’s singing ability to solve virtually every problem. You’ll inspire a grieving young person to play music again, you’ll relay messages from ghosts, you’ll rescue trapped birds, and you’ll even resolve a hostage crisis. Your singing is a curious tool, which you activate by dragging your mouse or analogue stick along a ring made up of musical notes. And yet, it’s not what makes the Bard special. It’s his nature that makes him special.
The Bard sets off on an adventure to stop the world from being destroyed, and to succeed, he needs to learn the Earthsong from a bunch of Overseers appointed by the goddess Eya. Getting to them is tricky and requires much travel across the world, so he is aided by the grumpy young witch Miriam. The Bard’s real secret ability, which I alluded to earlier, is his sheer optimism. The Bard always wishes the best for everyone, he’s stringently non-violent, he encourages and uplifts those around him, and he forgives. Despite all this, he still exhibits emotions that are all-too-human. He, too, can get depressed. He can get mad. He can resent people. Wandersong tests its protagonist over and over again, not just with creative platforming puzzles, but with emotional trials. He conquers these not by slaying monsters or defeating villains—instead, he holds on to hope and believes in the world and its inhabitants. He believes that the planet is worth saving.
In light of the game’s strong writing, it’s almost too easy to forget the puzzles. Towards the end of each act, you will undergo a series of puzzles necessary to reach the Overseer of that region. Unlike most games, Wandersong does not give you any abilities beyond your basic singing. The puzzles for each Overseer feature different gimmicks that you must manipulate with your singing. There’s one where you stand on a plant and have it grow in the direction you sing. There’s another one where you can manipulate the flow of time by singing in the right direction. You’d think that a game about singing would be heavily focused on rhythm game mechanics. Wandersong does have sections where you match your singing to incoming notes, but you are never required to match them perfectly. This was particularly great for me, given that I tend to be terrible at most rhythm games. Despite my wonky singing, the game never made me feel bad for it. It’s a forgiving game. It knew my heart was in the right place.
Wandersong is a very accessible game as a result. You can play it with your family, and I would even recommend you play it with family. It’s funny, the writing never misses a beat, and the emotional journey brought more than a few tears to my eye. A final mention goes out to the game’s consistently steady soundtrack, which was done by A Shell in the Pit. It reflects the environments, moods, characters, and events of the game. It’s easy to forget when you’re immersed in the game’s world, but then it’ll come to fore (this is a game about music, after all), and it will really elevate the moment.
Greg Lobanov’s indie game took me on an unforgettable adventure, and it taught me to celebrate successes and persevere through setbacks. Its characters will stick with me for a long time, and its messages will hopefully stick even longer. Wandersong is a game crafted with love, that depicts love, and that encourages you to love in turn. What better theme for a game about the power of music?
Developer: Greg Lobanov
Country of Origin: Canada
Publisher: Humble Bundle
Release Date: 27th September 2018 (PC, Mac, Switch); 22nd January 2019 (PS4); 6th December 2019 (Xbox One)
The PC version of the game was played for this review of Wandersong.
Thank you for reading this review of Wandersong! For other interesting articles on Into Indie Games, check out the links below:
- Into Indie Games Homepage
- How Do Indie Games Get Popular?
- Indie Dev Interview: Tony Pearce, Reality Gaming Group
- Truberbrook Complete Walkthrough
- Röki – Review
- Review: TONOR TC-777 USB Condenser Microphone
WHAT DID Into Indie Games THINK?
FIVE OUT OF FIVE STARS
Wandersong’s powerful writing carries a game about love and harmony, aided by accessible gameplay and a terrific soundtrack.