REVIEW: ‘Wandersong’ is a Whimsical and Heartfelt Adventure (Switch)

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Wandersong

Video games, at their core, are meant to be genuine, silly fun. But, as we continue to explore video games, we have begun to see them as more than just simple distractions from daily life, but as interactions that can greatly affect and positively impact humans. When I first came across Wandersong at PAX West in September of 2018, I gained a different kind of sensation. Compared to the many other titles I experienced, which featured action and dangerous adventure, Wandersong was dynamic and powerful but also wholesome.

The game follows a young bard, who only knows singing, who is suddenly informed that his world is coming to an end. He does not carry swords or weaponry of any kind. Initially discouraged, he is determined to use the power of his heart and his voice, to not just save the world from complete destruction, but to give life and hope to those who have lost it. Wandersong from developer Greg Lobanov and published by Humble Bundle.

Wandersong immerses players with an innocent, colorful, and engaging presentation. The characters feel like something made during one’s youth, growing up with arts and crafts and friendships. The characters are animated with a sense of fluidity and distinction that feels just right. Some may be reminded of the color palette of shows like Adventure Time when playing Wandersong. However, visuals can only go so far if the gameplay is not up to par, but it is with great praise that I say that the gameplay, and story,  in Wandersong are a passionate, heartfelt experience.

The gameplay for Wandersong is simple. players will use their voice and the colors associated with different sounds to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and find solutions to any obstacles they encounter.  By using the right analog stick, a radial menu of colors forms. Pivoting the analog stick in one direction will change the pitch and the color of The Bard’s voice. The puzzles and obstacles aren’t terribly difficult, but they do require a bit of effort, making the challenges engaging and fun. Wandersong encourages exploration of each stage at your own pace, leaving the fulfillment of the experience entirely to your discretion.

Wander Song’s biggest strength, and its most profound feature is that it features one of the most heartwarming stories I have ever encountered in video games. It is a story of love and its endearment in the darkest of times. The Bard encounters a variety of characters and creatures, each with a plight or struggle. The Bard’s voice will help to address the struggles the characters deal with, whether its helping pirates on the open sea or putting on a show to revitalize a town.

On the surface, this may sound as if The Bard is deduced to being an errand boy, but the heartwarming story that carries the player along dispels that notion. As The Bard, players gain a real sense of the weight on his shoulders, as well as the emotional weight of those he encounters. As you use his voice to heal and bring hope to others, you can’t help but feel the desire to press on with the adventure, despite the seemingly impossible task to save the entire world. I couldn’t help but want to help these characters in however which way possible, and somehow, I felt their heartbreak.

Developer Greg Lobanov spent five months on a bike, seeing parts of America not often seen, and meeting an assortment of people. His experience and other similar forms of media like Undertale, Miyazaki films, and Steven Universe became strong inspirations for the development of Wandersong.

There is plenty of levity and humor during the game to keep the narrative engaging, but the stories of the character and their perspectives of the impending doom are fascinating. During moments of sadness, there is strong uplifting that will warm anyone’s heart. There are incredible moments and emotional moments scattered throughout Wandersong that will resonate with you. For me, Wandersong taught me to never give up, especially on yourself.

Of course, for a game entirely focused around music, Wandersong features an incredible soundtrack by Shell In the Pit. In addition to The Bard’s vocalizations, Shell In the Pit provides a fluid, soft, but incredibly profound score that will inspire and enlighten, without the use of a dynamic orchestra. The music comes right when it is needed and helps carry the player along the adventure. The score is another incredible layer to a passionately made game that truly feels like a  story told straight from the heart.

Wandersong is more than a game but a whimsical heartfelt adventure that everyone should play. Many video games give players a sensation of fun, but then there are games that make a profound impact. Wandersong is one of those games. It will inspire you, give you faith, and provide healing. There are no other games out there like Wandersong and I hope that Wandersong sets an example for more games such as this to come into reality.

Wandersong is now available on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam.


Wandersong
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    Rating - 10/10
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TL; DR

Wandersong is more than a game but a whimsical heartfelt adventure that everyone should play. Many video games give players a sensation of fun, but then there are games that make a profound impact. Wandersong is one of those games. It will inspire you, give you faith, and provide healing.