A few days ago I was casually checking out a few of the trailers PlayStation had uploaded to their YouTube channel. One game instantly stuck out to me with its bright colours, emotional soundtrack and imagery, and extremely cute aesthetic – that game was Wandersong. It appears Wandersong came out last year on the Nintendo Switch and PC but this one completely flew under my radar as I had no idea what it was until I got my hands on it.
Created by one man (Greg Lobanov), with the help from A Shell in the Pit and Em Halberstadt for the music and sound design, Wandersong is an adventure about hope, determination, and believing in yourself whilst everything around you is literally crashing down. I’ve always said that music makes a movie or a game more emotional; a game which has music as its core component becomes the embodiment of emotion. What we have here is a tale which will have you smiling, laughing, crying, and becoming emotionally attached to each of the characters we come across. How did I not know about this game until now!
The story of Wandersong is one which we’ve seen before, games such as Mass Effect have technically portrayed it in their own way. The entire universe was created by the goddess Eya, brought together and born through her mystical music. However, every epoch she begins to sing a new song, this would be a fantastic event if it wasn’t for the fact that the moment the song is presented the universe is reset. That’s right, everything is destroyed and a new era begins with a new universe.
Our tale begins a few days before the catastrophic event, a silly bard is visited by an angel who warns him of the upcoming event and sends him on a journey to recover all of the parts to a melody which is only known by the planet’s Spirit Guides. Once all pieces have been learnt, the Earthsong will be complete – this is the only defence possible if the inhabitants wish to stay alive to see another day. So, branded as the ‘hero’ of our story, off goes our ever-cheerful bard on his long and perilous adventure across the land as he helps out many people, makes a bunch of new friends, grows as a person, and becomes the hero the planet needs… or does he?
The X factor
I love the bard. He’s always so optimistic and cheerful, even when everything around him is absolutely terrible – he’ll find something happy to think about and encourage others to join in. This is a trait I’ve always wished I could do but I usually go into a sulk if something annoys me, I couldn’t bounce back anywhere near as fast as he does. As such, our happy hero just loves to sing and dance and he’ll even be our little monkey and do it on cue! Simply hold down Triangle or L1 and watch as he dances non-stop regardless of the situation. What’s that? Someones just died? Allow me to ‘dab’ and stomp my feet as I shuffle my way over to you to investigate… I found this to be quite amusing and it would be out of place if it was anyone but our happy-go-lucky buddy.
As I mentioned previously, music is the core component of Wandersong and in particular, singing. Simply push the Right thumbstick or the D-Pad and all eight directions equate to a different note on a scale (holding L2, R2 or both together changes the pitch as well). Not only is this mechanic used within certain events as a QTE-style mini-game in which you mimic the songs you learn and play them back, but its used throughout the game.
Have you ever walked outside and wished you could sweep up your leaves by shouting at them? The bard can. He also uses his angelic voice to ward off ghosts, control growing plants, sing replies back to the people he meets, command small animals, and even reflect projectiles. You’ll be singing a lot in Wandersong, as you’d expect, and as you progress and begin to sing the song of a ghost who resides within you, things can get quite emotional if you play along to the beat and read everything which is being said. Personally, I would love it if they released a few audio tracks of those parts but with vocals over the top as I was going “awwww” almost the whole way through it!
With a little help from my friends
The bard (you pick his name, that’s why I’m referring to him like this) is on a magnificent and very important mission, but he’s not in it on his own. You’ll soon be paired up with your polar opposite – you’re all happy and smiling pretty much all the time, whereas she is a grumpy, depressing, self-centered witch called Miriam. Although, if anyone can cheer her up and break through her hard exterior, I’m sure it’s the bard! She’ll help transport you around on long journies as well as offer to blast a few enemies for you, something the bard isn’t really too keen on doing as he hopes to unite the people and not destroy them.
As well as Miriam, you’ll become buddies with sea pirates, mermaids, spirit fairies, townsfolk, and even ghosts! By the end of the game, our little unknown bard will be deep within everyone’s hearts and minds as he helps to bring a ray of hope and happiness to each and every person he interacts with along his way. One thing I absolutely love is the post-credits ‘catch up’ segment. Obviously, I don’t want to talk about it, as it’s a bit extra once you complete the game, but it reminded me a little of The Legend of Zelda OoT and MM on the N64.
What a big sword you have!
After playing the game for a while, you’re introduced to a new character who instead of sings, she swings… her sword! Using the same mechanics as singing (the Right Stick), you swing your sword or charge it up with electricity and fry your opponents. I’m not going to go into who she is or why she has a magical sword, but it was a nice change from the singing. However, we don’t really get to use her as much as I’d hoped for. Also, the only trophy I can’t unlock in the game relates to her using the electricity attack 25 times. It just won’t unlock for me – I’ve emailed the developer so I’ll update this if/once it’s resolved. **update – being investigated by the dev **
Hitting things won’t solve everything:
Wandersong contains a decent amount of puzzles along with its exploration, talking to NPCs and platforming. Some of them are simple, like games of ‘Simon’, some will test your memory as you sing the colour of certain objects, and some are combat related yet you’re the support-class and helping out the attackers. The whole 12-15 hours I played was really enjoyable and entertaining. Each new location had a vast array of interesting and well-detailed characters (even with their simplistic design) and a new obstacle to overcome.
I particularly loved the caves with the bugs which you can control to move objects around and trying to traverse through a pitch-black cave with only the colours of your voice to light up the way and reveal pitfalls and ledges. Each area had it’s own style and culture which was evident by the way people talked and acted around you, as well as the various structures in the towns and villages. Considering Wandersong started life as a Kickstarter campaign, I’m very impressed with how the final product came out as I know quite a few projects which didn’t live up to their expectations, yet Wandersong would have been above and beyond my expectations had I backed it originally.
Okay, not everything was perfect as I have a few issues which I experienced. These may just be me being picky and may not affect other people, but they did affect my enjoyment a little bit.
First of all, the controls. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this, but pushing ‘up’ on the Left Stick makes our little guy jump. This wouldn’t be a problem but as it’s an analogue stick, it’s very easy to accidentally push slightly up as you’re trying to move left and right. Not a big issue, but later on when you’re walking on walls, jump makes you fall off – which I did quite a few times. In moments like these, I would use the D-Pad, but that’s for singing, the same as the Right Stick, so that option wasn’t possible. Other than that, the game controls pretty solid – I had no issues with the platforming as you have three jump buttons, Cross, ‘up’, or R1.
Ignore the above, The developer just pointed out, as I failed to notice, you can actually remap all of the controls! You can also turn off pushing up to jump AND you can set the D-Pad to move your character instead of sing if you wish. So, if you find that you’re also accidentally jumping when using the Left Stick, simply go to the controls menu and disable the option at the top!
My second ‘issue’ is the sound. Now, the sound, in general, is awesome. I loved the music and the overall sound design throughout the game – that’s not my issue. If you weren’t aware, the DS4 controller has a built-in speaker. The developers have been intuitive and made it so the bard’s voice comes through that as you sing. So if you’re in a cave with enemies, you’ll whisper your song, yet if you’re outside then he’ll shout. That’s fine – but there is no way to adjust the volume or opt to have this feature disabled. You can do in the PS4 settings itself, but I would have thought the game should have the option to adjust the volume/toggle it on or off. Although, if your controller dies whilst playing the game, once you charge it and reconnect, the speaker is now disabled until you close the game and reboot it (for some reason).
That’s it, just a few things I noticed which doesn’t really affect the game at all,
just controls that are a bit too sensitive and an immersive speaker with no option to disable if you need to be quiet. Other than that though, the game looks gorgeous. It’s a very simplistic 2D ‘Paper Mario-style’ design yet it looks freakin’ beautiful. The colours are so bold and bright, the characters all look just how their personalities play out, the various artistic effects are really well done, and the emotion delivered in both sight and sound is beyond anything I’ve seen in a while.
Speaking of sound, I love the music within Wandersong. It’s bursting with emotion and wonder as you traverse from location to location. This is emphasised by the aforementioned segments where you basically sing the song of a ghost delivering her final message before passing on and all the songs you sing to enter the Spirit Guides’ realms. There are some truly emotional scenes within Wandersong, each one will grab you by the heartstrings and yank away!
So, what did I think about my ~15 hours experience within Wandersong from beginning to end? I honestly didn’t want to stop playing! Which you don’t have to as upon completion you gain access to a stage select. This means you can easily go back and relive moments you enjoyed or collect the few missing trophies you may have. The whole atmosphere of the game was beautiful, from it’s very witty and whimsical writing to it’s colourful and imaginative visuals, if I could live in one game world then it would be Wandersong with the bard as my best friend.
The whole puzzle aspect, with the eight different vocal steps which relate to various colours, reminded me a lot of Hue, a game which had a similar colour wheel but instead of songs, it was purely to select a colour to overcome certain obstacles. I thought the puzzles were really well done and every problem you came across had a simple premise behind it so that you could easily work out what you needed to do without the game constantly telling you how to solve the problem like most games do these days. One thing I was a bit upset about is that Wandersong only has twenty trophies, which are all bronze. No Silver, Gold or Platinum. Regardless, I still highly recommend it, even if you’re someone who only goes after games with a Platinum.
If you’re like me and had never heard of Wandersong before, I strongly advise you to check it out on the PS4, Nintendo Switch or PC. It’s an experience you won’t forget and an adventure you’ll never want to leave.
As long as our little bard has hope and determination, nothing can stop him from saving the world within Wandersong. The attitude of our protagonist is a lot to be desired and makes me almost envious of how he reacts to such a massive task which has been placed upon his shoulders. With only a young witch as a companion, can these two really overcome the end of the world with the help of their new friends they make along their journey or is it curtains for everyone?
Seriously though, the music is a delight to listen to, the narrative is very witty and humorous (as well as serious when it has to be), and the visuals are amazing eye candy with all the colours and visual effects used. The controls can be a little sensitive in some places (but can be reconfigured) and the DS4 speaker needs to be adjusted outside of the game, but overall I would have been extremely proud if I was one of the lucky ones who backed this project initially on Kickstarter.
- - Really energetic and care-free protagonist who is instantly lovable
- - Great use of the DS4 speaker and well-implemented puzzles which revolves around singing
- - Visually very colourful and bright, with lots of details in its simplistic design
- - Really gets you with the emotional music and scenes in certain parts of the game
- - The written narrative is extremely witty, creative and enjoyable from beginning to end
- - No way to turn down or off the DS4 speaker option within the game
- - No platinum, just bronze trophies
- - No way to physically reach in and give the bard a hug!