Developer(s) – Greg Lobanov
Publisher(s) – Humble Bundle
PEGI – 7
Released in 2019 to an overwhelmingly positive reaction from gamers and critics alike, Wanderson is a 2D platformer centering around music; puzzles are solved with music, new areas are uncovered with music, and abilities within the game are taken advantage of through music. Developed by Greg Lobanov with the music and sound put together by Em Halberstadt and Gordon McGladdery, it’s one of those games that is a true labor of love and is evident within every aspect of it. I interviewed Greg Lobanov sometime before the initial Kickstarter program was successfully funded:
And I’m glad I did; looking back, I’m thrilled that this game has since garnished the critical and commercial acclaim that I felt it deserved before release, and the game did not disappoint by any means.
Graphics – 8/10
Firstly, the conceptual design of the game is nothing short of beautiful. Each area is vibrantly colorful and a pleasure to beyond, be that whether the game takes the player into dark caves, skyward temples, and peaceful towns. Each area has a different main color palette, similar to the original Yoshi’s Island, and works flawlessly to distinguish each area as the player visits them. Influence from several cultures and periods in human history is also evident in the architecture of the game, such as Indian culture and even modern-day culture, and overall simply adds to its visual diversity.
Gameplay – 8/10
As I alluded to, the gameplay involves the player taking control of a young bard and must progress through the game by singing. Singing is at the core of the gameplay; the player sings to move platforms for jumping across, to manipulate wind traps to move ahead, to advance the story, and to solve puzzles among many other things. It’s definitely one of the most interesting and innovative platformers to have been developed in recent times, and to me, even outstripping many other indie titles in terms of gameplay, including Journey and Flower. There’s much more to play for in this game than in many indie titles to have been developed throughout the eighth generation; players will not be disappointed going into it.
Controls – 10/10
The control scheme has been handled as well as any other platformer; in that respect, there are no negative issues to be addressed. I’m actually quite impressed with just how singing and dancing are incorporated into the game’s control scheme very effectively to allow for a lot of things the player must do in order to progress through each area of the game. There have been indie games released, such as The Swapper and Contrast, that have had innovative gameplay mechanics but have arguably not been used to their full potential to provide as great an experience as what could have been; but Wandersong delivers on that spectacularly.
Lifespan – 7/10
What the game also delivers in a big way, compared to many other indie games, is lifespan. Taking around 12 hours to complete fully, it’s definitely one of the longest linear 2D side scrollers I’ve played in a long time. Side scrollers that long don’t normally get released unless it’s by a mainstream development company. It could be argued that it was to be expected given the somewhat lengthy development cycle this game had, but it still excels compared to many other indie games that have taken just as long to develop, if not longer.
Storyline – 7/10
The story follows the young bard, named by the player in-game, who embarks on an adventure to learn what is known as the Earthsong, which according to prophecy, is the only way to prevent the upcoming end of the world. Along the way, the players will meet a massive cast of characters, each with their own stories and situations to be resolved, which all add so much depth to the story. A lot of the different situations in this world can be seen as very true to life and it does incredibly well to connect with gamers. This game actually has a better story than a lot of other indie games that focus on story sacrificing gameplay in the process. With Wandersong, there is a clear equilibrium between the two.
Originality – 10/10
Simply put, there is no other game like Wandersong. I’ve never played a game whereby music and singing are so integral to how the player must progress through it, and enjoyed it as much as this. Games like Parappa the Rapper and Guitar Hero are obviously titles that make use of music within the gameplay, but Wandersong does even better to integrate it into gameplay, making for, as far as I’m concerned, better titles than the two formers. Platformers have been coming and going since the 80s, but never handled in the way as what it is in this game.
In summation, Wandersong is an excellent game from start to finish. Any platforming fan needs to give this game a try; it’s innovative, enjoyable to play, beautiful to behold with a wonderful soundtrack to listen to along the way, and again, I’m happy for Greg Lobanov and the team to have gotten the recognition they deserved for it.