Wandersong - Review

Author: Mattia "Zave" Ravanelli
Date: 2020-07-30 22:12:43
Get ready for a great adventure, because this awaits you in Wandersong. The project, curated and developed for three years by a tiny team led by Greg Lobanov, is undoubtedly one of the 2018 surprises in the indie field. At least.

Wandersong is the story of a bard, determined not so much to sing the deeds of others, as to use his own voice to give a second chance to a universe destined, apparently inescapably, to collapse. Everything must die and then be reborn, the heavenly powers try to convince him. But he, nothing, obstinate as much as the smile he wears (almost) always printed on the face reminiscent of a puppet, continues to want to believe he can make a difference.

These are the premises of a game capable of surprising in various ways and of practically never losing a beat, despite the journey of our hero ("Bowi" in the case of my game) requires several hours of play. More than we usually are used to expecting and demanding from independent production. Yet "small" Wandersong really has nothing: a very rich and adorable cast, style to sell (despite some negligible stumbling blocks) and game ideas that continue to be thrown into the cauldron until the last moment.

The first minutes of play grappling with Wandersong immediately put things straight: the young bard, with a threatening sword in his hands that he rotates relying on the right stick of the controller, tries in vain to prove threatening, if not really effective as a hero done and finished. Nothing to do, the way of the blade is not his. A few moments and that sword disappears, ideally replaced by the uvula: the same right stick is now intended to modulate its singing, at any time, even while running or jumping.

For the whole evolution of the story, singing will always and only be the means to interact with a world that for aesthetics and delicacy recalls the classics of "card games", from Paper Mario to Tearaway. Divided into acts like a play, Wandersong appears in fact as a fictitious representation, with scenographies carved and mysteriously supported. Yet everything manages to give the illusion of being in another world, much more extensive and multifaceted than one might imagine at first.

With singing, climbing plants are activated which act as platforms and fundamental gears are rotated to solve some puzzles. With singing we face some large and large monsters, which will not be many, but which provide ingenious and really different attack and defense schemes. With singing ancient magic formulas are recalled and, inevitably, we go on stage for one or more performances in favor of the people. Indeed a people, because there are many who occupy the regions of the mysterious world of Wandersong.

Rural towns and pirate ships, tropical islands and metropolises oppressed by megalithic factories, civil wars and university campuses for witches, towering mountains and mysterious creatures: inside the game of Lebanov and his companions there is a story to be discovered and experienced. And when you don't sing, jump or talk. The most typically platform game stages are generally well designed and executed, but far from surprising, after all that is not Wandersong's "figure". On the other hand, when you start chatting with your neighbor, you will discover exemplary writing for lightness and delicacy.

Particularly convincing is the construction of the scenes, supported by a highly inspired direction. Effective and fun shots, full of small ingenious ideas that strongly emphasize the extreme care taken by the development team to make every moment of the game as refined as possible. Without ever forgetting that there are not only texts to read, but a game to be faced. And as anticipated the aesthetics first and the dialogues then do not detract from the many game ideas. Which can rarely be said to be revolutionary (but there is some good starting point) and who, however, always know how to take the player off guard, keeping the experience interesting until the last moment.

(If you want to avoid any type of spoiler, pay attention to the image gallery below, taken from the Wandersong review phase)

At that last moment we arrive after having now grasped the general sense of the game and its message, after falling in love with its little yet vast panoramas, when now also the many characters in the second or third floor have placed the curtains in the middle of the heart . Only a few small inaccuracies in some advanced stages of the game, however not decisive, "dirty" the general image of Wandersong. It is not enough to not buy it and not to get carried away by the power and elegance of its song.

I played Wandersong on Switch thanks to a code obtained from the developer. I completed the adventure in more than ten hours (for 19.99 euros of "receipt"), facing it mainly in TV mode on a Samsung KS7000, but also through some portable sessions. In the latter case, a bug blocked the game several times in the same scene, not reappearing once Switch was put back in its base and connected to the TV. Updating the game's day one solved the problem.