Dance like nobody’s watching.
DEVELOPER GREG LOBANOV • PUBLISHER IN- HOUSE www.wanderso.ng
If you press ‘alt’ at any time while playing Wandersong, you’ll do a little dance. As you travel across the world, you’ll repeatedly run into a character who teaches you new dances – new ways to rhythmically gyrate. There is no reason for this. At no point are you required to dance. But you will – and I did – because in Wandersong you’re encouraged to just… go for it. To express yourself and have fun interacting with the world and with your character.
Wandersong is charming from the off. I was walking to-and-from the main village of the first act, and, without really needing to – without there being a puzzle to solve or character to impress – I started singing. Wandersong is a game about singing. Move the mouse (or the control pad’s right analogue stick) in one of eight directions and you’ll sing a different note. Throughout the game, you will use this central interaction in many enjoyable and surprising ways.
You’ll also use it because it’s there. Because Wandersong is delightful and let’s you embody a cheerful doofus who can’t help but sing.
That doofus is a bard who learns that the world is going to end soon, when the goddess Eya sings the song that will create a new universe. It’s the natural order of things, and while it sucks that the bard and everyone he knows will stop existing, there’s really nothing he can do – he’s not a hero, after all. Still, Eya’s messenger takes a liking to the bard, and suggests that – and this is a long shot – he could try to learn the Earthsong from the world’s Overseers. It probably won’t work.
As you move through the story, Wandersong reveals its deeper layers. It starts to subvert your expectations of this non-heroic bard’s heroic adventure. Your grand quest is filled in by the smaller, more personal stories that are the game’s true heart. It becomes a game about loss, acceptance, regret, friendship and the intimacy of colliding with another person’s life.
Much of Wandersong is spent traversing 2D environments, speaking to characters and delivering setpiece performances. Your objective in each act is to learn the song that will transport you to the spirit world, where you do some light puzzle platforming on the way to meet that region’s Overseer and collect their fragment of the Earthsong.
The spirit world’s platforming challenges – singing to make flowers extend up to higher areas, or to shape pulsating platforms, or to redirect the wind – were my least favourite part of the game.
This might be the most heartfelt platformer I have played since Night in the Woods. And while I don’t think its message is as specific or revelatory, it’s still a worthwhile and clever exploration, and a reminder that there’s joy in the act of play.
That doofus is a bard who learns that the world is going to end soon...
If there’s a problem to solve, the solution is usually singing.