That’s the word that encapsulates Wandersong.
What is “fun” differs for everyone, but I mean to describe more what the game is going for. It’s a game full of charm and humor in a way that rarely gets used in this medium, and it all translates into (for me, anyway) fun.
So what is Wandersong? It’s a paper-craft style 2D adventure game created by Greg Lobanov where you play as a Bard who uses the power of song to solve problems and puzzles.
Mechanics are simple - movement is done with the left analog stick, jumping, interacting, and dancing are each assigned a button, and singing is assigned to the right analog stick. The game does have some platforming puzzle levels where the slightly spongy controls make things mildly difficult, but for 99% of the game, they’re perfectly fine.
But it’s the singing part that makes this a unique experience - it’s all about the music. With the right analog stick, the 8 directions you point align with the the musical scale (Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do). As you venture through the world, you will find ways to use the Bard’s voice to interact with or manipulate the world around you. It may be a call/reponse where you’re singing a tune back, or maybe the pitch (direction you point on the right analog stick) directs movement of something to help you bypass an obstacle. There are so many ways the Bard’s voice is used to make music in the world, and each new chapter introduces a new way to manipulate this mechanic.
The paper-craft style pops and is full of pastel and neon colors. Characters designs are charming, and there is a lot of dialogue to flesh out characters all the way down to NPCs. The humor written into interactions with any character make it so you want to run through each conversation (they eventually run out so it’s not an endless loop).
The music though - the music! The whole reason the singing mechanic works is because of this soundtrack. A Shell in the Pit has been working closely with Greg from very early on and it shows - the two are very complementary to each other, not a case of making a game and then adding music you think fits towards the end. It’s a bit crazy to think about the level of synchronization required to make both a video game and a music album at the same time, but that’s what happened here to great effect. I love the unique sounds that the soundtrack brings - I think I can hear accordions, ukuleles, mandolins, making for a very unique (and mostly cheerful) sound.
So on the technical side of things it’s solid, but that doesn’t explain how and why the game is fun. That all has to do with the creativity poured into every digital ounce - the character and world design, the storyline, the dialogue, the puzzles, the silly things you can do with the Bard and the ways characters react to him - it all adds up to a coherent vision that has been fully fleshed out and delivered.
This game isn’t for everyone. It’s definitely going to turn off a lot of people with it’s cute, cheerful aesthetic, and that’s fine. Those who want to enjoy a very low-key platform puzzle game with a very unique aesthetic and gameplay mechanic should definitely check out Wandersong.