Played on Windows
Also Available on macOS, PlayStation 4, Switch
Musical games have come in many forms. From DDR to Thumper, the idea is to memorize a pattern of music and repeat it to score points or eventually win is a common one. Rarely do games give players the freedom to make the music, and allow the narrative to move outside of a rhythm-based score system. However, Wandersong is one of those games, so as always, we ask how does it work out?
To be clear, Wandersong is more of a puzzle or adventure game with the main character being a bard, but seeing as the main character is bard, the player’s only real interaction with the world comes in the form of song, and so much of the game is based on using music or singing. Which makes this a musical game, even if it’s not a pure rhythm game.
Graphically, Wandersong is quite beautiful. There are a ton of pastel colors used to brighten almost every scene, and the graphics themselves feel like a 2d version of papercraft, though without overindulging the art form, such as was done in Tearaway.
The world is all done with rather simple looks and animations. Your character walks through the world and can interact with a number of objects and items, and everything is pretty clearly marked. It’s very obvious what entrances are open and where doors are but the world remains bright and colorful.
The world is so bright and vibrant at times. So much hope.
In addition, the game allows the bard to run around and sing, which can change the color of different items. While it doesn’t happen that often, it’s a clever choice to be able to change the color of a flower or animal as you pass it. It serves no purpose but I love the chance to add a little more personalized color to the world.
Wandersong has a lot of areas to see and explore and it’s wonderful that each “Act” or “Chapter” has it’s own look and feel as well as tasks, giving the player further reasons to keep exploring and seeing what happens next or even where it will happen.
I should even mention the most pointless part of Wandersong, and yet one of my favorites. The Bard can dance, there are actually two buttons on the controller dedicated to this, the Y and the LB on Xbox controllers for instance, and while it doesn’t change anything, it’s fun to have the bard dance in the middle of cutscenes or more. It’s a pointless little feature, but it’s one that shows how much care was taken in crafting the art style of the game and it brings a surprising amount of joy to my heart to see it.
The story for Wandersong has a solid start. Our bard finds a sword and then uses it to attack a strange creature which doesn’t work, but instead, he uses his voice to stop the creature. Then a mystical character tells the Bard that he can help save the world by gathering the Earthsong and use it to stop the goddess who is planning on destroying the world.
Of course, this sounds like the Hero’s journey, but the game actually spends a lot of time making this clear. Our bard is not the hero and only can use his voice as a weapon but his goal is to help save the world.
He’ll actually team up with an angry witch named Miriam and meet a huge assortment of interesting people, each with their own piece of the story. There are tons of hilarious little moments, whether it be spelling out your name for Miriam and her mother using notes or just wonderful but funny throwaway jokes.
These are all the letters you can start your name with. Surprisingly “King” was available.
For the first four acts, this story works well. The player is able to sing his way to almost any goal and the levels are relatively fast in telling their story and keeping the game moving. Obviously, the previous sentence foreshadows change but up to the end of the fourth act, which had an interesting schedule management part of the gameplay, I thought this game was perfect. I wondered if this would be a 5/5 game.
Sadly the fifth act/chapter, talks about two warring kingdoms, it sounds interesting but this chapter is easily the longest of the game, and the slow delivery of the story ruins much of the momentum of the game to the point where I groaned every time the game decided to continue with the chapter. I was satisfied with the story of the fifth chapter and thought I was done after about an hour but then spent another two hours there.
Sadly the rest of the game never returns to the crisp original form of Wandersong where it gave the player a chance to speed through the game. It’s never as slow as that particular chapter, but it’s kept somewhere in between, and it suffered for that slowness.
The game does have a good idea where the main character, the bard, isn’t the hero of the story. The game identifies that in a couple of interesting ways, going so far as to make the achievements in the game to refer to another character in its description. I, it’s a really clever system, however, while this is an interesting idea, ultimately, the game doesn’t follow this through towith the end. I won’t talk more about the ending of the game, but the only part of the story that really bothered me is that final chapter as prior to this chapterbefore it the game seemed to deliver a more interesting narrative before falling back on old tropes.
There are a few dialogue options that have to be chosen through the music wheel.
Still, I enjoyed half the game so much, and even with the momentum of the game failing about halfway through, I still have to say I enjoyed the writing and experience enough that I would still say to try this game out. Speaking of which there’s another segment that is just as strong.
I normally don’t talk that much about the music in games, but in Wandersong’s case, I can’t avoid it. The main character is a bard, and everything he does is through song. He can’t even answer a question without choosing a song and singing out a little melody, and each time it’s a wonderful little moment.
Much of the game is about getting these Earthsong melodies, and the bard has to learn a number of songs along the way. Everything is a unique and new melody and many pieces of music in the game are wonderful, but sadly, not everything.
There are points in Wandersong where the bard has to sing a song for someone so that they can translate between two characters and these songs are hauntingly beautiful. They make the game come alive and this isare when Wandersong’s music is at the strongest. Just hearing one of them you can feel the emotion and words even if they aren’t reading the text.
To play these songs you have to follow the symbol, and the music that comes out of it is amazing.
What’s strange though is that at other times, the player has to learn the “Overseer’s song” and when he learns that and sings it, it doesn’t sound anywhere near as good. The overseer’s songs are rather plain. The player isn’t penalized for missing notes, but even when they do perfectly, the end result doesn’t sound that great, and what is the strangest is that other pieces sound extremely well done, it made me wonder what was the change between the two setups.
Still, the music and the musical gameplay works extremely well here, and I love the idea that the bard simply uses his voice as his weapon for the entire game.
We’ve already talked a bit about the gameplay, the bard is able to sing his way past almost every obstacle, and does so by moving the right analog stick in a variety of directions, each of the eight principal directions sounds a different note. The left Analog stick allows the players to move around the level allowing some platforming to be done. The platforming does come into the game at times, but it is the singing that really makes Wandersong stand out.
I will say that how well the player can control the game will have a larger than normal effect on the enjoyment. I don’t mean this to be a question of skill, but rather the control mechanism. I’m an outspoken fan of the Steam Controller and have called it my favorite video game controller of all time, especially its ability to be remapped, but in Wandersong’s case, it’s a weak input system. I found the right pad which maps to the right analog stick to be hard to control. Using a mouse can be somewhat stronger, but I perfect controllers personally and ended up trying the Xbox Controller which I had a lot more success with.
That’s not to say the other controllers are poor inputs, but I struggled with them more than I expected. It feels like Wandersong intended for players to use an Xbox controller, which is fine, but trying to use something else can hinder a player’s enjoyment of the game.
Still, much of the game is about traversing levels and using your singing when necessary. The game doesn’t seem to have any failure states, so players can progress at their own rate, and while some challenges require repeating a sequence in a set time limit, players can usually progress at their own rate.
A number of puzzles are match the song or direction. (I’m crushing your head.)
Each level is a little different, however, and that keeps the game flowing. In addition, each chapter requires the player to visit the spirit world where each Overseer lives and each one plays with an entirely new mechanic creating an amazing level.
Almost every puzzle in Wandersong does come down to using your voice to control something, but the variety of options that Wandersong has for its puzzles is rather impressive. Wandersong has a small amount of platforming but overall it’s a fun experience to work your way through each level and use the same abilities in different ways.
Though with the type of puzzles presented, and the lack of a failure state, the player shouldn’t struggle that much, though there are a few platforming sections, a few jumps that might be a little challenging, but overall this a relatively chill and upbeat game which is a good change from the usual games that I’ve seen.
There’s also just match or give the opposite direction of attacks.
One last thing I want to mention is the achievements. I’m a huge fan of achievements in games, and Wandersong has a lot with 75 achievements on steam. That’s a huge amount, but there’s one flaw. Apparently, at some point an update broke the achievement system, so I didn’t earn an achievement for the first eight hours.
I wrote about this on the steam forums and found out that apparently to get achievements, players need to change the branch from the mainline to “old-reliable” it’s a strange step and I played the rest of the game on “old-reliable” and didn’t have any problems, but I would have loved to see the achievements working even in the mainline.
Wandersong is a fantastic game, if you want a positive uplifting game, Wandersong can provide that at least for a while. While the second half of the game loses some of the brevity and uplifting aspects of Wandersong, Wandersong is still an enjoyable game, and rather brilliant at times. There are pieces I wish were better, but none that ruin the entire experience.
I give Wandersong a
Final Thoughts: A fun and a lighthearted game that keeps a good pace, but it gets bogged down in the second half. Still, it’s a beautiful and enjoyable piece, with a great focus on music, with an unlikely character.
Stats 15 hours played ( replayed the first 2 hours) 65/75 achievements earned