Patreon button  Steam curated reviews  Discord button  Facebook button  Twitter button 
3DS | PC | PS4 | PS5 | SWITCH | VITA | XB1 | XSX | All

Songbringer (PC) artwork

Songbringer (PC) review

"Random fact: I kept misspelling this game as 'Sonbringer,' which made it sound like a pregnancy simulator..."

Songbringer (PC) image

Now and then I play through a title that doesn't evoke any tremendous emotions or opinions, but it still leaves me feeling refreshed. It's like the game offered exactly the kind of content I needed at the time, giving my palate a nice cleanse. That's how I came away from Songbringer, a faux-retro love letter to The Legend of Zelda that sports one major change to its premise: it remixes its overworld depending upon the seed you select when you begin a new game. I've seen more products sporting the seed feature lately. One Way Heroics presented my first peek into the concept, as a "roguelite" adventure that remixes its layout with each new play. Chasm also utilized the idea, except with Metroid as its inspiration.

In each example, including Songbringer, a major schematic change leads to key locations and various rooms or screens appearing in a randomized order. For instance, one Songbringer seed might place its first dungeon in the upper left-hand corner. In another, it could materialize somewhere right of the map's center. In other words, you explore the world afresh every time you select a new seed, no longer relying on your familiarity with a map to guide you. Of course, you can also choose the same seed again and let your memory lead you to success.

By this point, most of us should acquainted with modern pixel graphics. This one makes the best of today's 2D visuals by providing a presentation that looks appropriately rough around the edges while maintaining rich colors and animation. A still screen might look cute or quaint, but seeing the game in action is all the more impressive. It moves more smoothly than you might suspect, bolstered by fantastic lighting effects that tell you its art style was the right call.

Songbringer (PC) image

As you might suspect, the game revolves around exploration and discovery, as well as puzzling out where your next destination lies. Since all of its dungeons pop up on the overworld from the outset, you don't need to complete them in a hard-set order. You might visit the first stage, take on the third, and skip all the way to the sixth. Granted, you may not be able to complete all of the challenges in a given level because you don't possess the equipment needed to accomplish feats like melting acid spikes or passing through solid objects. However, this doesn't stop you from, say, going to various accessible fortresses and trying to acquire as many special items as possible before going through the campaign in earnest. The only thing you must consider is that defeating bosses hooks you up with further goodies, so there is at least some sense of order involved.

Combat also becomes a huge focal point, especially when the protagonist begins the madness by obtaining an alien sword that fiercely cuts up the opposition. As the story advances, you gain other items that aid you in battle, some of which must be combined with other pieces of inventory. For instance, you can pair the sword up with an item that bestows ice attributes unto it, causing its projectile beams to freeze foes. However, you must consider that the element remains permanently paired with its host. You can't decide midway through the campaign that you don't want an ice sword anymore, so you must be certain about its creation. Granted, you will need the ice ability at some point, but other belongings could provide freezing capabilities just as well. Let's say you'd like to make coldness more of a secondary technique rather than your main attack. Your best bet lies in mixing the ice with your top hat (which you can throw through the air like a boomerang). That decision leaves your sword available for other attributes, including acid.

Overall, there's something about Songbringer's journey that comes across as not merely a quest for heroism, but also a blend of soulfulness and discovery. The heroics are there, to be sure, but they share the spotlight with a spiritual awakening. You crash land on an alien world and your main objectives involve getting out in one piece and locating your peers. However, with progress you realize that something more nefarious is transpiring on the world and that you need to stop it for the good of the galaxy. The game doesn't immediately thrust you into this heroic role, but slowly eases you into it through tempering mental abilities. One of the first skills you obtain in your travels is meditation. This sounds like a wonky ability to earn in a Zelda-like world, but using your mind has its perks. Not only does this activity reveal secrets, but it can heal you when there are no enemies around. This is key when you're dealing with dungeons loaded with creatures or taking on side quests that consist of multiple horrendous fights with small breaks between each encounter.

Songbringer (PC) image

And yeah, you will need all the mental awareness you can get to pass through late-game dungeons. Songbringer does at least a fair job of escalating situations by progressively filling chambers with hordes of robots and extraterrestrials. You find yourself hacking away at whole crowds, dropping bombs to take out massive throngs, and eventually using a dash maneuver for evasive purposes. Sadly, this game's level of violence becomes nearly mindless by its conclusion, where you enter a dungeon room brimming with minotaur-like monsters that pound on you from every angle imaginable. The altercation, like many others around this time, devolves into button mashing and relentlessly placing explosives while hoping you either secure enough healing items dropped by the dead or that your hit points remain intact long enough for you to survive.

Layouts for each stage also get trickier. The first shebang provides a straightforward search with one or two walls through which you can blast to recover helpful goods. Others, though, require a little more thought, meditation, and constant fighting to unveil their secrets. Sometimes, you'll need to move blocks in order to access portions of the chamber, or eliminate all targets to gain access to a switch, or complete a task in one portion of the dungeon so that you might access a locked door elsewhere.

Things eventually come to a boil as the plot reaches its climax, providing some dramatic moments that are kept down-to-earth (no pun intended) by the game's casual dialogue. Characters speak more realistically, if a little sarcastic, in this outing. You don't read much grandiose or melodramatic language or exchanges; people chat as if they're coworkers at a job. This is a terrific approach because while it doesn't lead to tremendous narrative depth, it comes across as more grounding. When circumstances become grimmer as the storyline escalates, the attitude remains and you don't get the sense that Songbringer was trying really hard to be a playable novel. This vibe is part of what left me feeling refreshed during my own playthrough, because the game took itself just seriously enough to give its plot beats fair context while not becoming so serious as to be worthy of eye rolls.

Songbringer (PC) image

Ultimately, I came away from the experience invigorated and glad I got to play it. Songbringer's blend of lush graphics, casual speech, and Zelda sensibilities come together to create a short adventure that's well worth having, even if it gets a little needlessly chaotic at a few points. Regardless, the adventure hits the right notes and provides the kind of material I'd want to see in a randomized, 2D Zelda clone.

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (April 17, 2023)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

More Reviews by Joseph Shaffer [+]
Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee (GameCube) artwork
Future Unfolding (PC) artwork
Future Unfolding (PC)

I never thought I'd see a mashup of 'Day of the Animals' and Journey, but here we are...
Shining in the Darkness (Genesis) artwork


If you enjoyed this Songbringer review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

You must be signed into an HonestGamers user account to leave feedback on this review.

User Help | Contact | Ethics | Sponsor Guide | Links

eXTReMe Tracker
© 1998 - 2023 HonestGamers
None of the material contained within this site may be reproduced in any conceivable fashion without permission from the author(s) of said material. This site is not sponsored or endorsed by Nintendo, Sega, Sony, Microsoft, or any other such party. Songbringer is a registered trademark of its copyright holder. This site makes no claim to Songbringer, its characters, screenshots, artwork, music, or any intellectual property contained within. Opinions expressed on this site do not necessarily represent the opinion of site staff or sponsors. Staff and freelance reviews are typically written based on time spent with a retail review copy or review key for the game that is provided by its publisher.