Review: Songbringer (PS4)

Review: Songbringer (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Songbringer
Format: PSN (811.3 MB)
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Double Eleven
Developer: Wizard Fu Games
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
I have a weakness for Zelda games, Zelda-style games or even games that slightly resemble Zelda. Songbringer does more than just resemble, its fabrics are woven from the same thread.

Nine dungeons are spread across an overworld while the protagonist Roq has the option to wield multiple weapons and items, including a magic sword and a boomerang hat. But here’s what makes this game so special: it’s unlimited. Meaning that every time you begin a new game, you are given a new world to explore, complete with new dungeons and new areas.

Yes, it’s procedural, but don’t let that dissuade you with thoughts of random nonsensical designs. My time spent on the planet Ekzera felt anything but random or computer generated. If no one told me that Songbringer utilized procedural level design, I would have been none the wiser.

As you run around and explore your new surroundings, you are introduced to different characters and your journey itself is guided by a pretty cool sci-fi/fantasy storyline. You are not alone on this quest, as your sidekick, Jib, a boy-turned-robot, treks along beside you and scans the environment and fallen enemies, giving you in-game cash and other goodies to help you along.

It’s not long after beginning your game that you find a small cave with a sword. It’s dangerous to go on alone after all. But here’s the thing: you can travel around the world without a sword and get along just fine. It even happens organically at one point. But who would want that? After all, slicing enemies can be so much fun, especially in 16-bit splendor.

But what is a Zelda-inspired game without puzzles and discovery? Not to worry, as Songbringer has plenty of panels to light, with a lighter, and cracks to blow up in order to reveal hidden entrances. There’s even a way to maximize your health meter by collecting teeth. One thing that stood out about this take on the genre was the story.

It’s not that it revolutionizes storytelling in video games, it’s just that it’s quirky and well-written with constant dialogue between Roq and Jib. There are some laughable moments and there’s even some intrigue as you begin to realize your place in the grand scheme. Again, one would think with procedural generation that story would take absolute back seat, but it actually doesn’t.

So not only do you get a new world every time you play, but that first playthrough gives you plenty to do, even if you chose to only play it once. Dungeons have different themes and styles and there are even hidden ones throughout the world. Not to mention that you can pretty much explore them in any order you want, something I loved about the original Zelda.

Visuals:
So we’ve got that pixel art that has been popular as of late. It’s not bad, and it harkens to the King’s Quest era of PC gaming. On a larger screen, I have to admit that it’s a little difficult to tell what’s what from time to time. Nothing is unplayable as a result, but still, I moved to a smaller screen and things made more sense.

I would love to see this on the Vita and I think it would look fantastic. I get the appeal and the style is consistent throughout. But particularly during boss fights, I found myself taking damage from things that I could barely make out because these enlarged pixels blended together too much.

Cinematics are also told in the same style, with some higher resolution artwork pieces used to represent the on-screen characters during story scenes. Animations are fluid and this applies not only to Roq himself but to all of the environmental elements, including the enemies. Even little things like puzzle pillars sinking into the ground animate with a consistency that’s seen throughout the entire game.

And then there’s the environments themselves. This is a procedurally generated world but you’d be hard pressed to feel that generic tiled environment that I’ve personally come to associate with computer generated worlds – particularly in these older looking games. Yes, there is some method to the madness, but the madness feels a bit more organic, like human hands had a say in the way locations and puzzles are laid out.

Audio:
This is the area where I was a bit disappointed. It’s not that it sounds bad because most of the audio effects are well designed in conjunction to the visuals. It’s just that the music is a little too nondescript for my taste.

It wasn’t terrible, and it was probably composed that way to harken to that PC era of Space Police and King’s Quest, so I get the allusions. It just left me feeling a little flat while trekking through an otherwise enjoyable experience.

Online/Multiplayer:
There is a multiplayer component here, but it’s rather simplistic. A second player can take control of your floating robot companion, Jib. In the single player aspect, Jib can scan objects and earn the ability to stun enemies. It’s a great multiplayer component for someone playing with a less experienced player. You can enjoy some co-op time without the stress on the second player to always keep up with the action.

That’s not to say the Jib’s job is frivolous. It’s serious business scanning objects to give Roq his health back or money to use in shops. It also helps in tight situations to be able to stun enemies, allowing Roq to vanquish some baddies at his own pace.

Conclusion:
The concept of Songbringer sells itself. It’s a Zelda style game that you can play forever. But even that alone could not save a game with weak mechanics or a feigned sense of replayability. And while I did not play through multiple worlds, at least not all the way through, I did start a few times over and experienced a new environment with every new world.

So the promise of a new experience with every playthrough is pretty real. It’s at least real enough that it’s worth your cash to go through one or two playthroughs. This one is highly recommended, particularly if you’re a fan of the action-adventure genre.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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