The assessment committee—consisting of one owl—was presented today with the case of Wandersong, which released on the 27th of September on the Nintendo Switch and PC. The game was played for roughly 13 hours by the Rulerofowls on the Nintendo Switch, finishing the game once and finding lots of secrets with a couple left behind for a later date , and will represent the game in front of the committee. Since ROW is the reviewer, his assessment place will be occupied by Nathan Drowl who was picked at random from the available owls.
- ND: This…feels weird; this chair has the shape of your owl butt and your laptop doesn’t actually work! Wait…you don’t actually take notes during this whole, freaking thing?!
- ROW: Well, I’m of the opinion that if a game—and by extension the reviewer selected to represent it—do its job right, you won’t need notes; I guarantee you won’t need any notes in Wandersong’s case!
- ND: That’s a pretty good segway; so, how do you start this again?
- ROW: Umm, usually we have some small talk about the game so we can lead into the positives, negatives, overall thoughts and specific recognition for what the reviewer feels like is necessary to provide a thoughtful and meaningful opinion for the game in question; since this is out of the question now, I’ll just start by saying this: Wandersong is my biggest surprise of the year, and so far one of my favorite games of 2018. I’m going to talk about why, but we should get everyone on the same page first.
- ND: Good, because I have no idea what this game is about!
- ROW: Well, Wandersong is not easily defined by genres; it’s an adventure/puzzle/casual/musical experience, with a heavy emphasis on its narrative merits and singing mechanics, presented with a beautiful looking “paper drawn and cut” art style. It follows the Bard, a young man who has been made aware of the impending “end days”, which leads him on an adventure around the world alongside Miriam—a young and grumpy witch—and dozens of other characters.
- ND: Sounds like a weird, short indie game for a younger audience, which can be enjoyed by everyone for its endearing qualities…
- ROW: Well not quite; it is definitely not short, finishing the game will take you around 12 hours, which is my only real problem with the game: The narrative could have been a bit more concise and effective in that way, but I get that decision as I will explain later on.
- ND: …That’s it? No other issues with it?!
- ROW: None that mean anything to the actual experience; sure there were some frame rate drops and a few janky animations along the way, but they were rare and inconsequential enough that it did not matter to me.
- ND: Even the narrative, beyond dragging for a bit more? From where I’m sitting, it feels like a passable hero story.
- ROW: It is that, but simultaneously, it is much more than that; it gets a lot deeper and more philosophical with its questions and explorations (and kind of Meta as well). It has a weird existentialism quality to it, without getting too dark or too dismissive of these considerations; in short, I was surprised by how much there was to explore through the characters in a philosophical way and by how much satisfaction and enjoyment I derived from the narrative, but also I wouldn’t flinch at the prospect of my 4-year old niece playing it. Actually, the fact that it drags on a couple of hours more, is a problem for me, because some of those emotional strings the game expertly pulled were a bit loose by the end, which made me wish for a more tight narrative approach.
- ND: Did it replace that tightness with anything meaningful, at least?
- ROW: Absolutely! Wandersong has got to be one of the best paced campaigns I have played this year; during the 12 hours, you rarely repeat a mechanic (and when you do, the context and execution is always different making it feel fresh) and I never felt I was doing the same thing, but in a different setting. Seriously, even the last encounter introduces new mechanics, which is the thing that absolutely blew my mind; the level of creativity and restrain shown is excellent! Not one mechanic felt unexplored by the end and not one mechanic felt like it overstayed its welcome.
- ND: Okay, now I’m interested! It’s one thing for the game to have a fresh art style, a good story, but it’s another to have all of that and some interesting and fun gameplay ideas!
- ROW: It does have them, but be warned: This is not a tight platformer or a rock-hard game; controls are alright and failure/challenge is something you’ll rarely encounter. However, it’s not the point of the game; it is more casual and relaxed experience and it makes sure you get immersed in that, making you feel like a happy, goofy bard along the way.
- ND: Well, the art style does that really well from what I can see…
- ROW: It’s more than that; they commit to presenting the details and making the world, characters and vibe of the game as playful and as endearing as possible. It’s the pallet of the world changing when you sing; the feel, animations, and voice of the Bard change as he does; singing and dancing your way through the world and through cut-scenes.
- ND: That sound interesting; you mentioned singing and dancing, so how’s that element of the game? Seems pretty important as well!
- ROW: It is very important and excellent as well! The music is addictively good, and purchasing the soundtrack is something on my “to-do-list” for the weekend. One issue I have with those moments is the scenes that have lyrics for the songs you perform, which are hard to keep track of while trying to hit the right notes, which is a shame, because the few glimpses I caught of those lyrics they seemed pretty good and relevant to the scene (obviously).
- ND: I don’t think there’s anything else we need to know; any last thoughts?
- ROW: Listen, I’ve bought this game on a whim, and as I’ve said it is probably in my top 2 games of the year list. I realize what I said to try and sell it, doesn’t sound like anything novel, groundbreaking, or necessary; but, just like most of our favorite games and experiences, they don’t seem that way at first, yet because they surprise us and because we took that shot and were rewarded, they feel more important and hold a spot in our hearts. In the end, selling Wandersong feels like someone selling VR with words: You can say all you want about it, the price and how inconsequential that experience SEEMS, will make it very hard to sell; however, when people try it, they change their minds and see the experience for what it is. A groundbreaking, loveable experience like non other…