Developer: Greg Lobanov
Rating: E for Everyone
Developer Greg Lobanov was inspired to create Wandersong during a 5,000-mile bike ride across the United States. Then in January 2016, Lobanov began a Kickstarter campaign to see his game come to life. After raising over $20,000 in February of 2016, Lovanov was able to fund Wandersong as well as hire sound designer Em Halberstadt (Night in the Woods) and musician Gordon McGladdery (Rogue Legacy, Viking Squad, Bunket Punks, etc). Wandersong is simply about a journey, meeting interesting and unique characters, and using music to enhance the experience.
Violence: Wandersong is an E-rated title and definitely stays within those bounds throughout the game. Wandersong contains mild fantasy violence with the occasional use of a sword against a boss or two. Otherwise, Wandersong is a delightful game which can be enjoyed by the entire family.
Spiritual Content: While Wandersong is an innocent adventure game, there is some spiritual content which can cause concern for Christians. Wandersong’s story is all about the end of the world; however, the protagonist, the little bard, can possibly save the planet if he learns and sings the “Earthsong.” While learning the Earthsong is delightful and fun, we are led to believe the world shares a lifeforce, an energy, a universal connection which to me promotes universalism. As Christians, we know this isn’t true; Jesus states in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” In addition to the Earthsong, during gameplay players will witness spells being performed, and will encounter ghosts/spirits, witches, and an angel who serves as an occasional narrator or guide. None of these promote an alternative religion, nor are they depicted realistically, but some players may still want to avoid such content.
Positive Content: Wandersong is an overwhelmingly positive game. One thing it does well is it shows players that despite crushing odds, we must keep moving forward. Another word for this is faith. We must faithfully push through and challenge what the world sees as the only course in life. We can see this struggle playing out in our daily Christian walk. It would be easy to abandon our beliefs and conform to worldly teachings and standards. However, like the little bard, we have faith. In faith we see the world differently; in faith, we see the world through Jesus Christ.
The story focuses on the journey of a little bard who, at the beginning of the game, wants to become a hero, and so wields a giant greatsword against a massive boss. But only seconds into the battle his sword breaks. The boss is centimeters away from killing the hero, which makes the bard do what any hero would do: he begins to sing. His song peaks the interest of the boss, who then reveals herself as an angel. The angel shares why she is present and tells the bard that the end of the world is imminent, but that with a voice like his, there is a slight chance he could learn the Earthsong, sing it and prevent the destruction of the world from taking place.
During this journey, the little bard befriends a young witch named Naomi. Naomi guides the little bard as he explores the world while trying to find the Overseers. The Overseers are unique godlike creatures who are becoming corrupted because of the end of the world. Yet they are vital to the bard’s mission because each of the overseers knows a part of the Earthsong. Therefore the bard must explore each of the Overseers’ realms, solve puzzles, and sometimes fight for a part of the song. The bard explores several regions during the seven acts of the game.
In addition to the angel, the Overseers, and Naomi, the little bard encounters a lovely and memorable cast of characters who will aid or hinder the bard from learning the Earthsong. One such character is Aubrey, someone who is also tasked with a mission of utmost importance, and whose role in the story I particularly enjoyed. Many of the conversations the little bard has on his journey are wonderful, full of witty dialogue, genuinely sweet moments, and laugh out loud scenarios.
Gameplay in Wandersong is simple yet fun. Wandersong isn’t a music game like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, but it is a game that features music in the gameplay mechanics. The protagonist works his way through the world by singing songs, matching musical patterns, solving a variety of musically themed puzzles, and winning the occasional boss fight. He believes singing can solve all the most difficult problems. His attitude towards life is refreshing and uplifting, especially given that he’s charged with saving the world.
However, controlling his songs can sometimes be a hassle. The bard’s singing is designated to the right thumbstick on the Switch’s joy-con or pro controller, which is fine. However, it’s handled in a sloppy way: if two notes are on opposite sides of the music wheel, you simply can’t roll the thumbstick to the next note; rather you must bring the thumbstick back to its stationary position, and then move to your next note. It’s not a game breaker, but it does affect immersion into the game.
Visually speaking, Wandersong is a delight to the eyes. The beautiful colors, cardboard cutout design, and attention to detail are top quality. To be quite honest I prefer to play games with this kind of style—one that is unique, whimsical, and true to itself—rather than the more realistic approach taken by many AAA blockbusters. The music in Wandersong is also a highlight, as it always fits with the surroundings and what is happening on screen. During my playthrough I found myself bobbing my head or tapping my foot to the music as I journeyed with the little bard.
Overall Wandersong is an excellent game, with many great moments, and a captivating story I feel people could benefit from playing. My fear is this game will be missed by many because we’re now in the middle of AAA season of the holidays. However, if you’re looking for a sweet game full of wonderful characters, witty dialogue, and a unique musical experience, then definitely play Wandersong.
Review code generously provided by Humble Bundle
The Bottom Line
Wandersong is an excellent game featuring great music, stunning visuals, and a story which grabs your attention from beginning to end.