Wandersong starts with bad news: the world is dying. The good news is that it is also packed with excellent people worth saving. Setting out from your tiny, colourful village, you solve puzzles and dispatch grumpy ghosts with music. It combines point and click adventure and rhythm games into an adorable experience full of great music and a surprisingly intense narrative.
There’s usually one solution to your problems in Wandersong: singing. At any moment, your bard can call up a wheel to sing musical notes. That core mechanic becomes a sort of Swiss Army knife with a ton of different applications. Need to reach that high ledge? Sing with a bird until they grant you the ability to do a high jump. Ghosts got you down? Play a sort of Simon matching game to send them scattering.
Big gap to cross? Sing and control the growth of magical plants until you can jump on their leaves. Wandersong uses a relatively simple mechanic”just move your analogue stick or mouse to sing a musical note”and applies it to dozen of puzzles.
The bright setting and light core mechanic belie a dark allegory for environmental destruction. Wandersong‘s world is doomed unless some brave soul can manage to learn how to sing the Earthsong and balance the natural order again. This seems like a dire quest for your heroic bard, but many of the game’s cosmic creatures take a large scale view.
They see the world as just one large piece of a universe where things are born and die constantly. And, really, if people are going to squander what they’ve been given, that’s their fault. But despite this somewhat pessimistic view, the game is full of memorable side characters to interact with and beautiful levels to explore. Of course these things are worth saving.
It’s a message that comes during times of dire news in real life. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported on Sunday that we have about a decade to get global warming under control. And while there’s no Earthsong to save us, stories like Wandersong are important appeals to our sense of wonder and heroism.
Sure, it’s just a silly singing game, but it has some topical things to say.
I’m still working my way through Wandersong — which you can play on PC, Mac, or Nintendo Switch — and am really enjoying it. The puzzles find fun new ways to use your singing, and the story is both silly and introspective. Plus, it has a cute chubby cat god-dude in it, and I want to be his friend.
This story was originally published on 11/10/18.