Written by Kevin O’Connell
Wandersong has been out since September but it passed me by until I learned about how Steam’s automated metrics had slapped some developers in the face and placed restrictions on multiple games thinking they were fake, meaning they had less exposure on the platform.
Despite that, the game still did quite well, especially on the Switch. In fact, part of the reason this game was flagged by the system as fake was because the reviews were statistically too good as everyone, including me, fell for this games charm and humour which is in abundance from start to finish.
At its core, Wandersong is a basic puzzle-platformer but is set apart by the game’s main mechanic where you use your character’s voice to fight, solve puzzles and obviously talk to people. With the mouse/right analogue, you control a voice wheel that selects different pitches which are also colour coded. Think Guitar Hero, just with less sick shreds and more singing in the shower when you think nobody can hear you. You can sing at any time, which I encourage as it is both fun and intuitive, and makes the game stand out from the horde of indie games on Steam.
I must also say the whole jumping and walking thing is an efficient means of traversing your environment. BUT, without question, the most important mechanic of the whole game is the ability to shake that booty.
Holding “alt” at any point will allow your character to dance. And I mean at any point. Whether you are on your way to your next destination, in the middle of a particularly heated conversation, or in the middle of a fight. Thankfully there isn’t a need to use the facilities. Throughout the game, you will unlock more dances from a character who seems to know more about where you’re going than you do. Like that stray dog who followed you stumbling along on the way home after a few too many coffees and you decide to keep him because he’s fun to have around, but it turns out he hates elevators and runs off. Both a good analogy for that character and a particularly sad experience in me and my old housemates’ life.
You might think there’s a reason they give you the ability to dance, to act as a buff to your voice giving it more power. There isn’t though. It’s clearly stated to you as soon as you unlock the ability that it’s practically useless. However, I’ll be severely disappointed in you if you’re not campily dancing along as you fail miserably to make the pitches of your voice match up with “Bohemian Rhapsody” a good 73% of the time, even though you will almost definitely be ruining the fantastic, mostly light-hearted soundtrack.
The game isn’t particularly challenging as most puzzles just require you to dig around a little and most fights are a matter copying the notes of your enemies, but it keeps a nice flow to the game since you won’t spend much time banging your head against a wall. The puzzles do enough to keep your mind active and add a bit of complexity stretching out the game a little more. While the singing sections you’ll come across as you learn the “Earthsong” are so easy to the point where I’m not actually sure you can fail them, I still found it entertaining because when right it genuinely sounds good, making me consider auditioning my right hand in next year’s local “Tralee’s got Talent”.
This isn’t a game you play to test your pro skills though. What sets Wandersong out from everything else is its characters and humour. Each new setting brings along endearing new characters, all of whom have their own stories, quirks and dialogue filled with gags and innuendos, even when it’s just a few lines. It reminded me of a lot of Undertale in that regard, which is apt as the developer stated in the games Kickstarter that Earthbound was big influence.
What I love most is the story. You’re not a hero with some mighty great sword blessed by the tears of a goddess. You’re just an optimistic idiot (no offence) who teams up with a cynical and antisocial witch tasked with learning the Earthsong and saving the universe. But nobody believes you can really do it. After all, you’re just a hopeful bard who can sing and badly, but proudly, dance. However, your voice is your weapon and with it, you can change the world around you, make friends who support you, and exercise ghosts with Pope like precision.
Even when the game gets darker it still slips in clever jokes, going on to highlight the importance of friendship and never giving up hope. I genuinely think that when you’re down this is a game that can pick you up, dust you off with a smile, then slap you on the butt to go explore the world and make the most from the hand you’ve been dealt.
If you have a Switch, this would be a fantastic little game to add to your collection as it perfectly encapsulates what makes many Nintendo games great, as it’s simple but heaps of fun.
It’s also available on PS4 and can be played on any PC more powerful than current gen refrigerators. You can wait for a sale if you want, but even at €20, it’s a great deal for one of the most emotional and lovingly crafted games of 2018. It’s a must buy game!
Have you picked up Wandersong or any new indies lately? Check out the rest of our reviews here.