Songbringer

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
Songbringer Game Poster Image
Challenging gameplay, content stronger than visuals.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Encouragement, persistence, characters trying to be voice of reason in bad situations, surviving against odds.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hero of Songbringer, Roq, responsible for unleashing evil that threatens both him and the world. He undertakes quest to save the world, thus taking responsibility for his own actions. 

Ease of Play

Simple controls, easy to learn; challenge comes with puzzles and playing on permadeath setting (you get one life -- if your character dies, it's game over).

Violence

Violence is cartoonish; characters simply collapse when killed. Hero uses a sword, but magic spells (like fireballs) and the environment can also cause harm. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Eating cacti gives hero psychedelic powers to detect hidden objects. While implied as a drug linked to positive outcome, it may be harder for younger players to tell the difference between helpful, recreational. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Songbringer is a downloadable role-playing game (RPG). The hero of the game eats cacti to get psychedelic powers to see hidden objects. The violence with a sword and magic spells is cartoonish, and there are two modes that can be played: normal and permadeath (you can restart in normal, but if the hero dies in the permadeath mode, it's game over).

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What's it about?

In SONGBRINGER, Roq Epimetheos and his skybot sidekick, Jib, have landed his ship on an alien planet, and are out cruising about when their airborne motorcycle-like vehicle is shot down by lightning. Roq enters a nearby cave, finds a nanosword stuck in the ground, and pulls it out -- and unleashes an ancient evil into the world. It's up to Roq and Jib to travel the world, brave the dungeons, and vanquish the evil. Songbringer is a procedural RPG (no two-player experiences using different "word seeds" -- the name you create the gaming experience using -- are the same, giving this title solid replayability). There are no experience points and no leveling up your character, only finding new items that might help as you defeat the many enemies that seek to end the overriding quest. 

Is it any good?

This adventure role-playing game provides a clear statement that content outweighs graphics for an engaging game. Songbringer is reminiscent of an old 8-bit Nintendo game, with pixelated graphics and a simple control scheme. But if you stop there, you'll miss a lush role-playing experience full of surprises that's not only engaging, but also unpredictable, offering a different opportunity to explore the world each time the game starts. Nonlinear, without the burden of having to acquire experience to power up to the point where bosses are manageable, Songbringer is as much a mental exercise as it is a dungeon-crawl hack and slash. Roq can use the droidsmith onboard the Songbringer (the name of his ship) to combine elements he finds in the world to give him new weapons. For example, you can combine a blink orb and fire crystal to temporarily turn Roq into a fireball to fry enemies, or pick up a top hat that can be hurled to grab objects dropped in inaccessible areas. In many ways, Songbringer is about playing smart, and enjoying the ride. 

The biggest issue lies in the visuals and the way they can hamper perspective. Because of the top-down perspective, you may find yourself running into bits of the environment that can do damage while trying to just get a better angle on targeted objects, which can be frustrating. Taking damage in combat is one thing, but taking damage from a plant because the perspective is off is another thing altogether. Plus, the graphics may be off-putting for some players, and frankly, the bigger the screen, the worst they start to look. But overall, Songbringer is a delightful gem hidden beneath a rough exterior. Offering endless replayability options, this is a title that RPG fans should embrace. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), whether they are cacti, like in Songbringer, or the PEDs targeted by sports. What advantages and disadvantages do these cause, not only in gaming but in life?

  • Talk about the elements that make a good video game. Are graphics more important than content? Or does adventure and puzzle-solving provide more of a challenge than hack-and-slash gaming?

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