Strip a game down to its core and you will generally find a pattern of playing as a character who must vanquish their foes. Many games do this via different methods, such as weapons or mystical powers. But what if I told you there was a game where instead you could only use the power of song? No, I’m not talking about the next Rock Band game. I’m talking about Wandersong which just hit PC and the Nintendo Switch as of September 27th. A game where your main power is your voice. You play as a determined bard who has been just told by a spirit that the world is ending. With no powers to speak of, what could our unlikely hero possibly do?
The main story revolves around the bard and your rather short-fused companion, Miriam, the witch. Apparently, this universe has not been around forever and has a repetitive process of collapsing and recreating itself. This happens because the world does not stay pure and after every reincarnation, eventually loses its way. You might not be a typical hero but you have been given the extraordinary task from a spirit to help stop this eventual recurring doom by learning and performing what is known as the Earthsong. Only then can you restore the balance of the world by bringing it together again through the power of uniting the earth’s inhabitants.
This has a rather powerful message for a game about a silly bard singing his way through life. Don’t be fooled by the charming exterior, this game goes much deeper than one would expect. Yes, there is a plentiful amount of antics such as singing to ghosts, coffee-crazed pirates and lazy mythical cat-like beings. However, there is also a rich story to encourage others to not be afraid of their shortcomings, to value friendship and to never give up on what you believe in. The game does this elegantly by building you up as the potential hero of this story and then taking the title away from you when the aforementioned spirit finds the real hero. This real hero shows up many times throughout the game and constantly points out that you are powerless in comparison. Through every act of the story, you are brought through an emotional rollercoaster on what you as a bard can possibly accomplish. No matter the pressure, you keep pushing on with the help of Miriam and every other friend you make along the way!
Taking a look back at everything.I loved the story, but I would be lying if I didn’t say it started off rather slow. My main critique on its sluggish nature is that the gameplay is not very challenging and never manages to go beyond its initial promise. You have a color wheel that you control using the right joycon on the Switch. Each color represents a musical note and each scenario might have you utilize these controls differently. The main one they start you off with is a repetition of patterns. You begin by battling ghosts that are currently haunting your town by singing back the same notes they are singing (Almost like the handheld Simon game from 1978). Needless to say, this system is not the most mechanically stimulating and I wasn’t connected to the story yet so there was little to pull me in immediately.
However, the gameplay has a way of constantly changing and finding unique ways to have you continue the story. Various sections will change by having you use your singing to light your ways through dark passages, speed up/slow time, lighting stars to help you travel through space, and creating platforms that you can walk on. Each act would add new elements like these to keep the gameplay fresh, making it feel almost like each chapter was its own new game.
Visually this game reminds me a lot of Paper Mario (one of my all time favorites) so I am obviously a bit biased when I say I love the art style. Each element in the game has a cardboard-like figure and the world is based on layers stacking on top of itself, adding depth to what would otherwise feel very flat. The environment has a way of popping out at you and has a gorgeous assortment of colors for each location. The world fills you with an appetite for exploration with each unique area.
A game centered around music must have a delightful soundtrack as well right? Of course! The music is very fitting for each environment. Specifically, the first ghost fight has such an array of eerie elements that blends perfectly with the tone of the encounter. Admittedly, I don’t think there are any songs that are memorable. But having said that, they all felt appropriate and unique while playing, so it might just be a lack of repetition, rather than a concern of the soundtrack.
In the end, you also unlock the ability to replay any act and scene of the game. This way, you can relive all your favorite moments whenever you want. Being able to go back and find those hidden gems of conversations or just hear the coffee pirates sing their tale once again is something that just might drive me to pick the game back up later.
The game might have started slow but it kept pulling me in and feels like one that will not be forgotten.