The excellently-named Roq Epimetheos is part of the crew from the Songbringer - a group of intergalactic hard-partying funsters who scavenge the planets by day and party by night. After a bolt of lightning throws Roq to the nearby planet surface, he wakes up to find something mysterious is going on...
Songbringer very much takes its cues from early-era Legend of Zelda, specifically A Link to the Past, which is a pretty fine title to base any game around, if you ask us. While it might be a rather well-trodden path at this point, Songbringer changes things up by catapulting players into an ever-changing psychedelic sci-fi universe filled with all kinds of secrets and dangers. The art style is particularly pleasing, consisting of large blocky pixels mixed with some fancy lighting effects, reminiscent of what the ZX Spectrum might have looked like if it was made in 2018. A minimal soundtrack of bleeps and hums suits the overall theme and ties everything together perfectly. As far as presentation goes, Songbringer totally nails all the notes that it appears to be aiming for.
The overworld map of each playthrough is generated by a seed - whatever word or random series of letters players type in at the beginning of the game. While the story remains the same, the locations of shops, dungeons, and other characters will be different every time. While one would assume this would encourage experimentation with the seed mechanic, it's unfortunate that the environment doesn't really seem to change too much. With millions of potential seeds available, you might expect all kinds of different terrain, obstacles, enemies, colours and so on, but it's generally all grass, rocks and water.
The planet of Ekzera contains ten dungeons with items to be found and bosses to take down. Dungeon items are generally needed in order to progress through the game, but there are often other ways around if you think you might have reached a dead end. Certain items can be combined together, but these combinations are permanent so it's worth holding on until you're certain that you really want that ice sword. If you decide you don't like it, you're stuck with it right until the end. Although you always have the option to try something else in a different playthrough, of course.
The Switch edition contains all of the DLC that was previously released on PC and consoles, including a combat trial, an additional dungeon, and extra items. It's a massively enjoyable adventure, but we found we'd beaten the final boss 3 hours into our second run, and beyond trying out a few extra seeds for review purposes there hasn't been much to draw us back in. Songbringer still provides a wonderfully memorable experience though, definitely worthy of further investigation.
SONGBRINGER / DEVELOPER: WIZARD FU GAMES / PUBLISHER: DOUBLE ELEVEN / PLATFORM: PC, PLAYSTATION 4, SWITCH (REVIEWED), XBOX ONE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW