Songs For A Hero: Definitive Edition | Review | Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Dumativa Game Studio
  • Publisher: Dumativa
  • Release Date: 08/07/2021
  • Price: £16.19 / $14.99
  • Review code provided by Dumativa

Introducing: Songs For A Hero Definitive Edition For Nintendo Switch

I love musicals. Over the past few years, we’ve seen musicals succeed on the stage and the big screen alike. Hamilton, Six and The Greatest Showman have all served to illustrate the point that there is still a huge demand for well told stories you can sing-along to. What’s great about musicals though, is that they can turn up in places you would least expect. And, in so doing, introduce a whole new audience to the delights of musical theatre. Two of my all time favourite musicals, are not movies or stage productions, but rather television series that hijacked the musical formula to deliver an outstanding one-off episode packed with memorable hits (Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Once More With Feeling and Scrubs: My Musical). But could this award winning formula ever be applied to a video game successfully? You can imagine my delight to learn that one video game had achieved the impossible and had seemingly managed to interweave songs into the narrative of a player driven experience. “How on Earth would that even work?”, I hear you cry. Well fear not dear reader. I am here to let you know whether the platforms are alive with the sound of music, or if this just another rocky horror show. Take a look at our review of Songs For a Hero below.

The hero sets out to seek his glory, but there’s nothing original about this story

A noble if unoriginal quest.

So the plot then. Well, Songs For A Hero is not going to win any awards for originality on this one. The story is… there’s a princess… and you have to go rescue her. That is the long and short of it. After defeating a boss, you are treated to a couple of lines of dialogue, from the aforementioned princess. Which hint at the possibility there is more going on here than meets the eye. But yeah, it’s not the deepest most engaging story I’ve ever played in a video game. Funny thing though: the game does not suffer at all from the lack of an incredible plot. In fact, one of the core concepts of this game is to humorously lampoon traditional video game tropes (in a heartfelt way I might add). The fact that the plot mirrors that of early Mario and Zelda games is just another extension of this.

Forget about those plot holes, let’s talk about those controls

Songs For a Hero excels as a platformer, as I learned in this review. The controls are responsive and jumping feels completely natural. If I did plummet to my death during a level it was always due to an error on my part, so I never had the luxury of blaming my failures on any awkward or unintuitive control mechanics. You start the game with the time-honoured pairing of sword and shield at your side, but as you progress, you will add additional weapons and tools to your arsenal. Long standing favourites such as the boomerang and hookshot make an appearance towards the end of the game, which add a real sense of variety to the gameplay.

Other mechanisms, like the ability to pass through walls or dash across chasms are also unlocked at a fairly consistent rate. What I really love about each ability is the fact that each one is mapped to its own dedicated button on the controller. At no point are you ever forced to pause, select the appropriate tool from a menu, then restart play, only to have to repeat the process a few seconds later. Many games (including big hitters like the Legend of Zelda) could learn a lot from this approach. There are upwards of 12 buttons on a modern day controller (not including the control sticks). Why aren’t we using them more?

If there’s one thing I should convey, it’s the perfection of the gameplay

I had so much fun playing through this game. The levels are pretty easy to begin with but become more challenging and longer as you progress (some of the later levels take roughly 20 minutes to complete). The object of each level is simply to progress to the end. To do this, you will need to avoid/kill a multitude of enemies and pull off some fairly advanced moves to get from one platform to the next. The level design reminded me of Donkey Kong Country (minus the bananas and barrels). There’s even an honest-to-god mine kart level thrown in for good measure. Mid-level flagpoles are used liberally to save your progress should you succumb to death, which I very much appreciated. Throughout the levels are various pickups, which add an additional level of challenge for those who are either willing to risk it or clever enough to find it. Coins can be traded for potions to recover health or buff abilities. Tokens can be collected to recover lives and additional health/energy containers can be looted from hard to discover chests. At the end of every stage you will encounter a boss, which offers the perfect level of challenge. Taking each one down is no easy feat, but still completely achievable after a few tries, even if your reflexes aren’t what they used to be.

What I really, really love about the gameplay though is the unique hook of this game. Pretty much every location you explore, every enemy you encounter, every item you find and every event that transpires, is sung about in verse, in time with the catchy background soundtrack. Now whether this is a good or a bad thing is likely to split opinion. There will be those who just came to play a good platformer and absolutely hate this. It is easy to see how the constant narration of your actions, sung slightly off-key, might become grating, even annoying, after a while. Indeed, my own wife had to literally reach for the earplugs on one occasion to drown out the incessant crooning.

However, that never seemed to happen for me. I quickly realised that I’d been doing the very same thing, for years, while playing regular platformers. If you are also the kind of person that likes to make up little tunes to the background music, while engrossed in a game, then I firmly believe you’ll appreciate this too. Occasionally, the lyrics of the songs will offer some assistance as well, by pointing out an enemies weak-point or by explaining the conditions that need to be met to progress through a locked door. The only criticism I have is that the singing is only ever carried out by the hero himself, with the exception of a few lines sung by the princess during the epilogue. It would have been great to hear the occasional retort from an enemy or boss while the hero quips his way through the levels.

The graphics will really leave you impressed and the soundtrack is simply one of the best

Snakes on a 2D-plane.

The visuals in this game are entirely pixel based but they look absolutely fantastic, even when playing docked on the big screen. Enemy sprites are big and beautiful, especially the bosses which makes them look all the more intimidating next the diminutive hero. The lighting is also utilised brilliantly in some of the darker levels to add a real sense of depth and animation.

I’ve already mentioned how integral the songs are to the gameplay. It is therefore of great benefit that the melodies that they are sung to are just so damn catchy. Another brilliant feature is that the songs are themed around the type of level you are playing through. A level that takes place in the jungle will have a distinctive African rhythm for example, while a haunted castle has a more malevolent vibe.

This concept is expanded upon wonderfully in the two accompanying DLC levels, Samba for a Hero and Songs for the Dead, the latter of which transforms the hero’s voice to sound like the dodgy lead singer of a Metallica cover band. Neither of the DLC add-ons are particularly substantial but it’s very nice to see that they’ve been included gratis in the definitive edition. The entire game is scored in both English and its native Brazilian Portuguese, which is another welcome addition.

Conclusion: One of the best games I’ve played in a while, it’s guaranteed to make you smile

Where have I heard that before?

I was absolutely blown away by this game. Not only is this an accomplished platformer, but I also consider its attempt to bring musicality to video games a complete success. What Songs for a Hero has achieved, with its tongue firmly lodged in its cheek, I now want to see replicated on a triple A budget, using professional singers. Sure it’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea but if you like your games with lashings of humour and a liberal sprinkling of satire then you’ll be very pleased with what Dumativa have put together here. Old school platforming, fantastic level design and a considerable amount of charm, combine to create a must-play experience like no other. Do not let this one pass you by.

PROS

  • A unique and well executed singing mechanic that is used to great effect.
  • Fantastic level design.
  • Well balanced difficulty curve.
  • Charming artwork.
  • Great sense of humour that mocks traditional video game tropes without feeling sarcastic.

CONS

  • Would have been great to hear other characters besides the hero singing.

Verdict
Songs For a Hero is my kind of game. This title is one that deserves much acclaim.

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