Developer: Wizard Fu Games
Publisher: Wizard Fu Games
Released For: PC (Windows 7+ , Mac OS X 10.10+ , Linux) , PS4 , Xbox One
Reviewing: PC (Windows 10)
DRM and DRM Free Versions Available
Released On: Sep 1, 2017
MSRP: $19.99 Steam Link / GOG Link
Copy provided by developer or publisher
After requesting a code for “Songbringer” over a year ago with the thought that it was coming out in 2016, it not coming out it said year, and me working on a new novel, I forgot about the game and its entirety. When talking to the developer back in 2016, I opted to review the game in it’s finished and released state, rather than check out the beta version and possibly mitigate the experience of the game’s full release. It’s now 2017, the game is actually out, and with a little ding of the email notification alerting me to a new press email with a Steam code attached, I remembered the game immediately. It’s hard to forget that sword. After all….it hums.
Songbringer is a 3/4th perspective pixelated, science fiction, action-adventure game with light role-playing mechanics. In the game, you play the role of Roq Epimetheos, a dude in space who likes partying and making music. Cruising the galaxy with his buddy Jib, they explore space along with the rest of the crew of a ship called “Songbringer”. After crashing onto the world of Ekzera, it’s up to cool dude Roq and his robot friend to stop an ancient evil from doing ancient evil(y) things. Packed with pixelated sword-swinging, dungeon adventuring, and not-subtle-in-the-least Legend of Zelda inspirations, Roq will travel through a handful of dungeons, collect power-ups, upgrade his weapons, defeat bosses, and save the universe from *dramatic noise* the snake people!
Songbringer starts off with Roq crashed off his bike. After picking up the nano sword (or not), Roq will explore the worldscape with Jib. The player will go into dungeons, kill baddies, find some nice loot, and help save the world. As you explore the dungeons and follow the story, the game will hint at certain larger events playing in the background. It’s a fairly bog-standard story, but it works just fine. Roq and Jib have the occasional bits of back and forth banter. I was a bit worried the game was going to take itself too seriously or have the main character’s “dude” factor just become annoying. Luckily, the banter isn’t long between characters, and Roq’s dudeness is kept to a few lines.
Ultimately, “Songbringer” is Legend of Zelda in a pixel-art style with a more memorable visual appeal. You have different dungeons with a few themes, some mostly-passable puzzles to solve, and then a boss at the end of each dungeon. Roq’s main weapon (if the player chooses to pick it up) is the nano sword. You’ll also have the opportunity to find a hat, and some different flavors of bombs, as well as some loot, drops off of enemies and random items (if you attack them) found in the overworld.
Occasionally, Roq will also find currency to buy things from some cave stores. The things you can buy vary in usefulness, but it’s nice that there’s an option. What isn’t nice about the stores, is that there was an item for 420 diamonds, and I couldn’t buy it because the game wouldn’t physically let me pick up more than 255. I think it’s a glitch, but even if it’s not, the game doesn’t indicate in any way that your maximum wallet size can be upgraded.
There’s also the crafting, which is limited (again) in usefulness, and you can only craft things (from what I’ve played) on the ship Songbringer, which story-wise, you only can enter a quarter way through the game. I wish there was more things you could combine in the game.
The combat isn’t bad, and it felt quite rewarding (at times). However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have issues.
For one, the hitboxes. Because touching most enemies hurts you, it means you have to stay a good chunk back from the enemies, limiting the uses of the sword. This would be fine if Roq had any ranged weapons, but his ranged weapons just don’t do as much damage in comparison. What’s worse, is that the player has a “blink” ability that he’ll find which allows him to teleport a few feet ahead. This would be fine, but because Roq gets hurt by touching some enemies, it means causing you damage because you can’t directly control where you blink to in terms of visually seeing “where” you’ll end up once blinking. You can also sometimes lose Roq behind enemies or bosses, getting hit unnecessarily as a result.
These hitbox issues go double for the player. I died at the final boss a lot. Not because I didn’t do well, but because the player’s hitbox seems to change. Either that, or the attack hitboxes, meaning the actual attack’s hitbox, is changing. The final boss, in particular, uses a lightning attack that killed me despite clearly not being even close to the strike. Sure, the player has a shield Roq can find and then use if he stands still, but it takes a second to activate which again, means you can’t control when you’re being hit. This only happened with the final boss, but it was still frustrating. It doesn’t help that a lot of the bosses you fight, you fight in tight spaces, limiting the amount of room you have to dodge.
The game makes the final boss in particular practically impossible to hit at certain points. Because enemies don’t signal where they’ll move to, once a boss jumps in the air and disappears, they could land anywhere without knowing. What’s worse than that, is that the animation time for the bosses between starting the animation and the actual attack, not giving the player time to get out of the way. Again, it’s a minor issue, but an issue worth addressing.
These issues could have been prevented if ranged combat was more prevalent and useful, or if the player had a shield they could pull up at whim, and not just when they’re standing still. The combat ultimately boils down to mashing the attack button, and since there’s no shield and no secondary attack with any of the weapons, it means just mashing the attack button while being forced (at least in the beginning) to take some hits that could have been avoided if the former two things were present.
However, regardless of the issues, I still had fun and played through the game even with my frustrations. I’m not sure if it’s just because I don’t own Hyper Light Drifter, as I’ve been told the similarities in gameplay are similar, or because the combat was still good enough to keep me playing. I felt satisfaction from defeating bosses and dungeons at least, so I’d say that’s something. The worlds are procedurally generated, and it works. I wouldn’t say it adds replayability, but it works fine. There’s also a co-op mode that I didn’t try, and a permadeath mode which was fun.
Visually, the game looks great. Even being procedurally generated, the world looks fantastic to wander through. Great weather diversity, dynamic lighting, reflections, and more. The choice of colors is appealing, and the game just overall looks good.
Audio-wise, as said with other game reviews I’ve done, the music’s fine for the game it’s in. However, it’s not on the level that I’d buy the soundtrack. Take that for what you will. At the least, if nothing else, the bizarre tunes were nice to hear while exploring the dungeons. The sound effects are nice and punchy, and the music is technological and mysterious. Both fit the game just fine.
In terms of controls, I have a few issues. You can adjust settings between two different modes for graphical fidelity, there’s an option for an unlocked FPS, you can change the sound levels, and other basic things. You even have rebindable controls for both controller and keyboard, but there’s an issue, which is to say, you can’t actually see the controls. At one point, I wanted to look at the controls I set to make sure I couldn’t make them better. Only to find that you can’t do that. If you check to rebind the controls, you have to rebind all the controls, not just one button or function. It doesn’t even let you exit the menu until you rebind all the controls over again. It’s not (again) a huge issue, but it’s (again) noteworthy. Other than that, the developer gets plus one internet points for having a borderless window mode that’s actually a borderless window and plus a thousand internet points for having that set to default.
Overall, I had fun with Songbringer. I’ve been told it’s similar to “Hyper Light Drifter” in more than a few ways, and both are $19.99. Regardless, the game was fun and refreshing. I don’t know if the price tag fits the bill, but considering my initial experience lasted eight hours, I’d say it at least is worth it in terms of a raw ratio of hours played to price. But, I’d still be more inclined to suggest the game on sale, arguing that it’s the biggest letdown is the lack of combat and play style diversity, ultimately making each experience still largely play out the same, procedurally generated worlds or not.
- Beautiful Pixel Art
- Gameplay Mechanics
- Borderless Window by Default
- Enemy Variety
- Dungeon and Boss Variety
- Characterization And Personality of Characters
- The lack of Complex Puzzles
- Story Itself Is Simply Serviceable
- Hitbox Detection With Certain Attacks
- The Final Boss
- Lack of a “Real” Way To Defend Yourself Beyond Dodging
- Lack of Weapon And Play Style Diversity