Wandersong wants to save the world through music. It’s a joyful side-scrolling adventure starring a bard and all the colors of the rainbow. After developer Dumb and Fat Games raised funds on Kickstarter, it planned to release it on PC and Mac. It’s now partnered with Humble Bundle to bring it to the Nintendo Switch as well in early 2018.
A long time ago, a goddess sang the universe into existence. But now she figures that it’s had a good run and it’s time to erase everything and start again. You play as The Bard, a cheerful musician who’s decided that they want to try to save the world. They wander throughout the land and attempt to find little pieces of what’s called the Earth Song, which will allow existence to continue. In their journeys, they solve puzzles with music and meet various folks from all over.
Greg Lobanov is the one-person team behind Dumb and Fat. He’s developed other games before, like the puzzler Perfection, but Wandersong is different from all his previous titles. It’s a culmination of all the skills he’s taught himself over the last few years as an indie dev.
“Wandersong feels like my first full circle thing, where I dug into the game design stuff for a few years and learned a lot, and now I want to come back and marry that with my original dream of telling cool stories,” said Lobanov in a phone call with GamesBeat. “In that sense, it’s a big thing for me, in my history.”
The inspiration for Wandersong came from Lobanov’s experiences on a cross-country bike trip. He wanted to capture the feel of that journey, and the result is a game that’s unabashedly about optimism and positivity. That doesn’t meant that it shies away from the negatives. The world is about to end, and many of the characters The Bard encounters are mired in their own problems.
“If everything was happy all the time, it would be a really empty experience, I think. I’m interested in making something that’s positive, but positive in an honest way,” said Lobanov. “There have to be challenges for you to look at and then find constructive ways to deal with them, to find what is happy about that. There’s a lot of tension in the story with really dark, scary, big things that are happening, and then this kind of carefree, happy response to that.”
Most of the puzzles in Wandersong utilize music. Lobanov isn’t a classically trained musician, so he had to teach himself. He wrote a lot of the music and also had help from collaborators such A Shell in the Pit, who has worked on titles such as Night in the Woods and Rogue Legacy. As opposed to games like, say, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, where you learn songs to use abilities, Wandersong takes a different tack. It encourages you to experiment, and The Bard can sing whenever he wants to see how that interacts with the environment.
“It ends up being like, ‘OK, if I sing this it does that, so how do I make it do this?'” said Lobanov. “Then you start singing different things and it does the thing you want. The puzzles are more about that. Once you understand how things work, just doing fun things with them.”
Lobanov has demoed Wandersong at a few gaming events such as PAX West, and it’ll be at Double Fine’s upcoming Day of the Devs gaming festival. He says that the response has been amazing so far.
“The reaction is unexpectedly overwhelming,” said Lobanov. “It’s really positive. When I think about it sometimes it makes me cheer up a little bit, just the nice things we hear from people. It makes me really excited for when the game comes out, to share it with people, because I think a lot of people are going to get a lot out of it.”