PAX West 2018: Wandersong

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

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Developers finding ways to integrate music as a core mechanic in games is not something you see particularly often outside of rhythm games. Music may be a component, but it’s rare to see it as a central puzzle-solving or gameplay mechanic. There have been attempts to combine rhythm games with other genres, such as Soundfall which Josh played at PAX this year, or Klang which I played last year. Now there’s Wandersong, a music-based side-scrolling puzzle-adventure game that isn’t a rhythm game.

Wandersong | Field singing

The core of Wandersong‘s gameplay is based around singing in order to manipulate the environment, communicate with and/or annoy NPCs, and solve puzzles. By using the right stick on the controller you can sing eight different color-coded notes, which is used for such things as fighting enemies, growing plants in specific directions to get from place to place, getting birds to temporarily increase your jump height, and more. The demo included both puzzle-solving in the environment as well as a segment in a town, which is a more open area where you can interact with NPCs and take on their requests, such as getting a band together to revitalize a town’s nightlife for the teenagers or writing a jingle for a candy shop, which then plays as ambient music in the shop.

Wandersong | Oh my gosh

The graphics in Wandersong are bright and colorful, with certain elements such as flowers and falling leaves changing color in response to your singing. The character designs are varied and expressive, including the bard you play as. I found the writing to be somewhat reminiscent of the Paper Mario games, including both the style and the way dialogue boxes are shown, with undulating or vibrating text to help convey characters’ tone. It’s a cute effect, and helps lend more personality to the characters and the world. It’s good that the writing seems to be good so far too, since according to the creator I spoke with the game also seems to be quite long, with a large world to explore.

Wandersong | Ghost combat

Wandersong is a cute game with a bright, appealing visual style, good music, and a novel primary mechanic. The game’s staying power will naturally depend on how much it innovates with its puzzles throughout, especially considering how long it promises to be. Other than that, based on what I played, the puzzles are fun and the world is cute with lots of personality to it. It’s set for release later this month on Steam (Windows and Mac) and Switch, so it won’t be that long before we can see the full game and what it has to offer.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.