The Lion's Song Review
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Developer/Publisher: Mi'pu'mi Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC, Mobile
Price: $9.99 (Switch), $4.99 (Mobile)
Set in Austria just prior to the first World War, The Lion's Song is a narrative based game in four chapters that tells the tale of three artists (a musician, painter, and mathemetician) as they struggle to develop that greatness. The game is set in a traditional adventure style, though most of the gameplay is narrative conversation, not puzzle solving. Small decisions in one story develop into details in other stories. Eventually, all of the tales culminate in Chapter Four, where we see how the main characters impacted their families and community.
The titular Lion's Song is written in the first act, as the musician tries to find harmony in nature while dealing with the pressures of society. In Chapter 2, the artist is becoming popular with his innate ability to see several sides of his subjects, while he pines for the ability to understand himself. The mathemetician in Chapter 3 has great dreams and wonderful ideas, but has to deal with being a woman in a man's society, shunned simply for her gender. You see bits and pieces of each as you go, both forward and backward. You run across a little girl in Chapter 3 that you already know if you went one way in Chapter 1, and a random NPC in Chapter 2 turns into much more in Chapter 3. It really makes you want to go back and see what changes with your choices.
I really enjoyed seeing the "gallery" that shows how your choices effected the story, as well as the percentages of people online who chose similar. The game also lets you go back to certain parts of the story to change the choice and see where things go from there. Just like in real life, it's amazing to see how small choices make a big difference. Unfortunately, it's a bit frustrating to watch the ripples. Going back and changing something allows you to see a different scenario (such as picking a muse to paint), but the ripples aren't seen immediately following that. Each episode on it's own is rather short (half hour to an hour apiece, my first playthrough was on a lazy at-home day with nothing else to do and I went start to finish), so you could theoretically go back and replay the whole thing to see different scenarios, but one-at-a-time to see specific ripples could get tedious. I'm also curious as to how the "player percentages" change as you go through and alter your original choices.
I saw a bit of this game on the big screen but spent most of my time in handheld mode. One thing I noticed is that this edition is the PC version, complete with a cursor to move around and click with. While necessary for Big Screen, I wondered why there were no touchscreen options in handheld. When a list of conversation options show up at the bottom of the screen you can't touch to select; you have to actively move the cursor. Not that big a deal, but I do know there's a mobile edition of the game, so touchscreen capabilities exist. Touchscreen would help some of the more abstract clues as well. There are times in the mathemetician's tale where you slide left or right to show a particular theorem/picture that takes some guesswork, I imagined a simple touchscreen trace could have shown the same idea and made it more involving for the player. I would have loved to see a hybrid control scheme for the hybrid console.
Overall, The Lion's Song is a great experience for the first run-through, and is beautiful in the fact that the branching storyline allows people to have different experiences. The game does a great job of telling a beautiful tale of the development of artists and their impact on the world. While I wish the story diversions were easier to track, it doesn't change the fact that The Lion's Song is worth digging into and learning the impact and power of choice.
-Beautiful muted artwork and fluid animations make you feel like the game comes from the classic story game era
-Four separate tales that merge together in the end
-Choices seem natural. All choices feel like ones the characters would really make and part of their genuine personality
-Branching storyline allows the choices to make a difference
-Difficult to go back and see how choices change
-Abstract sections (like questions for art or abstract math ideas) make choices seem haphazard at times
-Wish I had a rewind button for second playthrough or a map of sorts to show branches
-Could benefit from more player control options
Special thanks to Mi'pu'mi Games for providing a download code for review.
Final Score: 3.5/5