March 11, 2019 at 2:35 PM #725
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
Don’t let this indie pixel art masterpiece slip past you!
Even with big budget, current gen games like God of War on the PS4 breaking sales records all over the world, I still find myself keeping a very close eye on the indie game scene. There is something very special going on with games like this that demand more gamers’ attention. They are games at their finest. They are raw, honest, fun, nostalgic, unique, and always from the heart of just a few (or even just one!) creative mind that wanted to make something awesome. They weren’t necessarily doing it to make a load of money. They were doing it because they wanted to share their vision with the rest of us. There is true value in that. And it’s absolutely fascinating how the mind works: You can just get done playing a big budget game that had millions of dollars and HUNDREDS of people working to make the graphics look as amazing as possible¬°¬≠.but then still be able to play a pixel-art game made by ONE guy (at least that’s what I read) and have just as good of a time¬°¬≠.and sometimes an even better time!
After falling in love with games like Hyper Light Drifter, Axiom Verge, Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight, Iconoclasts, and Crossing Souls¬°¬≠..I quickly realized that I was addicted to these types of games¬°¬≠and I craved MORE!!! So I would find myself late at night YouTubing ¬°¬įUpcoming pixel art games¬°¬Ī or ¬°¬įNew indie games of 2018¬°¬Ī or ¬°¬įBest PSN games¬°¬Ī etc. And That’s how I found Songbringer! And that’s the tragedy of indie games: You rarely see a single advertisement for them. You will rarely see the IGN review on their front page. At most, it might get a tiny little screenshot in Gameinformer that you might easily flip right past! So it’s hard to seek out something you don’t know exists! Like a diamond in the rough. But it’s very much worth it in the end! I had more fun playing Songbringer than I did some of the Triple A games made in recent years. And that is definitely saying something.
So how exactly do you measure the graphics of a pixel art game? It looks on par with a Nintendo game from the 1980’s, maybe even Atari in some ways. But just because Uncharted 4 looks better, doesn’t mean this game isn’t on its own wavelength of beauty. Don’t let the pixel art fool you. This game has design in spades. The animations are crisp, the movements are fluid, the enemy designs are groovy, the environmental effects are moody, the dungeons are beautiful and terrifying, the lighting effects are haunting, and everything put together just makes you eager to explore every nook and cranny of the entire world to uncover all its mysteries. The only thing keeping it from a 10 is some slippery controls at times, like entering a door you didn’t mean to enter, or stepping back onto an elevator you just got done riding down. But even those are extremely small gripes.
I was particularly in love with the weather effects. It seemed like the landscape had a different hue to it every time I played the game, especially with the night and day cycle that seemed to always be shifting in an alien way. That angelic statue near one of the main dungeons would look golden and pristine one day. But then fog would roll in, lightning would flash, it would start to rain, the sun would set¬°¬≠.and that beautiful angel statue would suddenly look demonic. Little droplets of rain will create hundreds of ripples on the water’s surface, shadows will stretch along the ground from the light of torches and lightning, and if you eat a cactus¬°¬≠.you will trip balls and start having hallucinations which makes everything go nuts (and sometimes reveal secrets in the environment!)
I was so excited to keep pressing forward with this game. I was always unlocking new abilities, new items, new areas, and secret rooms behind invisible/breakable walls. The excitement of discovery felt like the main theme of the game, actually. It felt like the original Zelda on acid. When in doubt, bomb the walls. When you’re lost, try that new item you just got. What does the cup do? What’s the point of that little fountain in the middle of nowhere? What if I dip my cup in the water and drink it? Oh crap, did I just get poisoned? Why did my character just pass out? Oh crap¬°¬≠.I just woke up in a new place! SO THAT’S WHERE THE FIFTH DUNGEON IS! Gah! Whoa¬°¬≠.there’s a big tree in the middle of the woods. I can’t cut it with my sword. I can’t bomb it. My robot has nothing to say about it. But I know in my heart it serves some kind of purpose. Maybe I’ll just meditate in front of it for a while¬°¬≠¬°¬≠w-whoa!
I also loved the enemy swarms in the dungeons. Some rooms had so many enemies in them, you almost couldn’t move. You just had to slash the hell out of everything until you could move again, and then blast the rest with bombs and charge attacks. Extremely satisfying. It’s also worth noting how perfectly balanced this game’s difficulty is. You will die from time to time, but it always feels like it’s your fault. And it’s never so easy that you can just blindly sprint through the dungeons and feel like you have everything under control. Enemies drop juuuuuust the right amount of health when you kill them, so will be topped off if you’re careful, but not in a drought when you make mistakes. When you’re low on health, sometimes the best thing you can do is eagerly murder large groups of enemies and know that at least some of them will drop health. I was always annoyed by those games where the enemies drop NO health pickups, or TOO MANY health pickups. Songbringer does it just right. There’s also always the motivation to collect gems. You have a limited wallet size (you get one upgrade eventually), so you will want to remember on your map where the shops were, because you might not have enough money to buy everything in one visit. And you will definitely want all the upgrades you can afford!
It’s simple, but more complicated than you might realize at first. Lots of synth tones and bleeps and blops, that sometimes come together in harmony, and other times just creep you the hell out while you are roaming the alien landscape. It’s very fitting for this type of game. Nostalgic little melodies will let you know you discovered a secret room, and creepy nightmare sounds will let you know the enemies are not pleased with you. The main character’s nano sword also makes very satisfying ¬°¬įvrroooo¬°¬Ī ¬°¬įvreeee¬°¬Ī ¬°¬įvrrummmm¬°¬Ī sounds when you swing it. And those sounds change depending on what kind of room you are in. It can have a vibrating echo if you are deep in a dungeon, and a crisper sound when you are on the surface of the planet. There is so much atmosphere due to the sound effects in this game, it is truly worth applause. And seeing as how it is a very simple pixel art-type game, you wouldn’t expect everything to come together so seamlessly.
Intriguing and otherworldly. The game does an amazing job of urging you to move forward to know more. You are a marooned soldier on an alien world, trying to find your friends, stay alive, and get back to your ship. But then you become very curious about this new world you landed on. What are the creepy shadow people? What is all the darkness? Who is that ghostly figure who seems to be leading me somewhere? What does my little floating droid have to say about those hieroglyphics? What is that strange obelisk that responds to my meditations? Who are those people floating in jars? Why can’t I interact with them yet? Do I need a specific item? Why won’t the tower let me in? I just want to keep playing to unravel these mysteries! An ancient war between two races? How do I fit in? There are just right amount of reveals in just the right way to keep you curious and also satisfy your curiosities. I wish it had lasted even longer.
REPLAY VALUE: (10/10)
I took my sweet time, did a lot of backtracking, and the game took me roughly 12 hours to complete. It was very interesting because it didn’t feel like 12 hours. It felt like 100 hours. I kinda want to replay it right now, to be honest. I also read that it is a procedurally generated world. So if I start a new game, the world map will be completely different on my next playthrough, and the dungeons will also be shuffled around. I even went out of my way to fill in every bit of the map¬°¬≠.and I still beat the game with only 97% map completion. And I think I only found 75% of the items! This game has got a lot of meat to it! You can combine items into uniquely powerful items when you meet a certain NPC¬°¬≠.so I would really like to experiment with different combinations next time (because after you do it once, you lose those items permanently). Personally, I loved combining my hat with the lightning¬°¬≠.because now it was a boomerang of death that calls down the power of Thor with every hit. It truly felt like every single room contained a secret, too. Some hidden wall. Some section of the ground you could bomb to find an item. Something meditation or a ¬°¬įcactus high¬°¬Ī would reveal. The game rewards curiosity and patience, and I loved every second of it.
If you are a huge fan of classic Zelda, dungeon crawlers, exploration, hack and slash adventures, and pixel-art nostalgia¬°¬≠.this game was made for you. I was very surprised by how much fun I had with it, and how it gave me more reason to keep playing than most modern games with a billion times the budget do. You can tell it had a lot of heart put into it. I wish more people would have found out about this game.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.