I don’t even know about this one.
This is Songbringer, from the one-man army Nathanael Weiss, better known as Wizard Fu. Longringer is a game that does not want to show its hand immediately. It’s a rougelike not with a twist, but with an aura around it. One that I can’t fully grasp or understand, but maybe if I play it, there’ll be an answer. So, what am I waiting for? Aside from TimeSplitters 4, nothing. Let’s go.
Bongdrinker tells the story of human Roq, and robot Jib, who crash land on a procedurally-generated planet (The worst to crash down on), and after playing The Legend of Zelda too many times, decides to rob a sword from a cave. Now, he’s going rough on all the dungeons until they give him his shirt back. Mmm.
Talking about Kongbinger is an incredibly arduous task. It’s an inaccessible, cryptic mess that would scare any player off if they weren’t immediately prepared. But at the same time, Nathanael Weiss shows a skill in world-building that I have rarely seen. He comes through with a visual style and approach so unorthodox and hypnotizing that you have no other choice but to look. It’s like the world’s most beautiful car crash.
He’s not the David Lynch of gaming, since SWERY took that title with stride when Deadly Premonition came out, but Monglinger reminds me a lot of Dune, David Lynch’s sci-fi “epic” if you replace the word “epic” with “crap”. Songbringer hits the same notes and I’ll be damned if it didn’t have the same attraction that Dune did.
Speaking of Lynch, the narrative structure has the same hallmarks of a Lynch film. Unknown characters doing stuff, wonderfully awkward dialogue and awkwardly wonderful pacing. It grasps what makes stuff like Eraserhead, Twin Peaks and Lost Highway great, but it never holds up to any satisfying conclusion.
It’s clear that Roq and Jib are meant to be these unlikely heroes in a world that didn’t even ask for them, but I never got that feel. Roq is clearly an airhead who doesn’t deserve a companion as willing as the robot Jib, and by the end of the game, I still felt that way. I would’ve infinitely preferred a WALL-E-Esque story with Jib as the main character, upgrading himself through this world via bits and bobs, until he turns into D.O.G from Half-Life 2.
The game is inherently flawed from the get go. Combat is chunky and slow, despite the fast movement of the enemies and Roq himself. Hit detection is obviously inaccurate, due to the 3/4 perspective of the world. Boss design is abstract and makes absolutely no sense, even in the reality Nathanael has created. But everything else is polished and perfected, and it’s baffling.
The art style is muddy and undefined, but it makes sense for it to be like that in this muddy and undefined world. The world itself is beautiful, lush, magnificent to travel through. It’s like The Deer God if it had gameplay. The landscapes are ominous, mysterious and foreboding, full of life and filled with strife. The music is skittish, glitchy, atmospheric and compliments the art style wonderfully.
Singbronger has the look, the feel, the tone and the vibe to survive the storm. But it doesn’t have the silky smooth combat, the right characters or the right mechanics to push it past the final boundary. It’s sticky, annoying, lifeless and some other words that can be used to describe the acting career of Ryan Gosling. Which brings in my main issue. Should I recommend this game, which plays awfully but looks superb?
If you squint your eyes, maybe you can envision this being a fan remake of A Link To The Past, made by someone who stills thinks Link is a girl. But seeing as I’m someone who doesn’t really like Nintendo, and by extension, someone who doesn’t rate a TLoZ game in this Top 20 Games of All Time , maybe I’m the wrong person for this sort of thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for trying to get myself into a new style of game. I didn’t mind Hyper Light Drifter, and it sort of reignited my old love of Majora’s Mask. But the auteur feel on Gonglicker makes it an incredibly hard game to say yes to. It’s like a cream cake made of cyanide and wallpaper paste.
An abstract mess that is saved only by its brilliant art style.