Hi, I have no self control so I played videogames all summer!
To make my summer not a complete waste of time, and to ease me back into doing some work, I thought I might write about them and critique their overall design in the lead up to uni. We’ll start off this post with two games that I’d most recommend the most for ye who can’t be bothered to read though my garbage writing, and then we’ll get to the games I didn’t like as much as we go along.
Wandersong is a 2D platformer game about a bard who hates violence, instead of solving all his problems with a sharp weapon, he solves them with music, words and love.
The premise is great, there aren’t very many pacifist fantasy games that I can think of, likely because fantasy is heavily based on our medieval era which was quite a violent time in history. You could argue that the pacifist bard is a bit of a stereotype, and you’d be sort of correct in that, except there isn’t a lot of popular media that really puts bards in the spotlight, save videogames/TTRPGs, where combat is normally a core aspect of gameplay, and true pacifism is actually quite difficult to pull off. Either way, Wandersong wears anti-violence on it’s sleeve, and where lesser games might rely on more vanilla/well traversed gameplay to try and make the player fell comfortable in this unfortunately unique premise, Wandersong invents it’s own gameplay mechanic and utilises it in the most creative, meaningful and unique ways. On top of having some basic platforming to do, the main chunk of interesting gameplay comes from Wandersong’s music wheel, which is a coloured wheel where each block of colour represents a note, and once you hit that note, the game world reacts to it.
Image of the Bard in Wandersong using the music or note wheel to sing with a bird Bird singing with the player The way it works early on is that everything in the world you can interact with is colour coded to the colours on the wheel, by playing that note on the wheel, you interact with it, simple enough. Even after 9 hours of gameplay (which is how long the main story is), I still found the wheel interesting enough to not get bored of it, yet familiar enough with it that I still felt it was intuitive, probably because Wandersong continually evolves how the wheel interacts with the world as the story continues along. I won’t say much more on gameplay other than I think it’s recommended to play with a controller, but it is still playable on PC with a mouse and keyboard, albeit with a bit more fiddley-ness.
The story is absolutely fantastic too, I don’t really want the spoil much though, so I won’t elaborate too much, but it questions traditional heroism and violence and other stuff along those lines, and it does that without being too preachy or being to in your face about it (it also feels very personal and modern in a weird way, despite the setting). I thought it was A* effort and A**** execution in the writing and story department.
My only real criticism is the game’s visuals. It clearly wants to go for a simple flat graphics and vector-y kind of style to compliment it’s main colour wheel gameplay, and to a degree it succeeds, but there are quite a few moments where the colours just feel off, and the foreground doesn’t play nice with the backgrounds. For example, a number of times I thought that the character’s faces blended too much with the background, or maybe I couldn’t really see one of the colours on the wheel because of the environment, things like that where it’s not huge, but it just feels slightly less polished.
90% of the time though the game looks pretty good, there was clearly a very small team working on this game, they clearly put a lot of love into it, and it clearly shows
Wandersong is available on Steam for PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Playstation 4 and is absolutely worth it! A**
Keeping on the theme of spreading love and positivity, I thought I’d share Kind Words. This is a very very very very very simple game about sending anonymous short letters to strangers on the internet. That’s pretty much it, and it’s great.
When you open the game you two basic options, you can either write a response letter to stranger’s requests, or you can write your own request for stranger’s to write a response letter to. There’s no usernames, no identifiers, it’s purely anonymous so you can be as honest as you’re comfortable with, all they will see is a letter signed with a random (and changeable) letter, i.e. “- H”.
Once you’ve replied to a request, the recipient can only respond with a collectable sticker. There’s quite a few stickers to collect, and once you have them they have little 3D models that can be placed around your virtual room.
The other half of the title, “(lo fi chill beats to write to)”, is more just a joke/reference to a popular 24/7 YouTube livestream called “lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study to”. The game does have a soundtrack with about 3 or 4 lofi/chill songs, but I find that its quite repetitive and will normally mute it since I like to take my time when writing a response/request letter.
It’s a very therapeutic game, with a supportive and wholesome community, and I can’t recommend it more, it’s pretty cheap and will run on basically any computer made after 2003, so if it sounds like your kind of thing then there’s no excuses to not try it out.
Kind Words (lo fi chili beats to write to) is available on Steam for PC and it absolutely worth it!