Some of the best times that I have had playing video games have been while playing fast-paced, high-twitch games like Halo, God of War and Grand Theft Auto. These games are a staple for me and they keep me coming back for more long after I have seen the ending credits roll. However, there are times when I want to play something a little more laid-back, something more introspective that allows me to kick my feet up on the coffee table and just enjoy a good narrative without all of the mind-numbing explosions and online chatter.
I recently stumbled across a game entitled The Lion’s Song from Austrian game developer Mi’pu’mi’ Games that is just such of an experience. Set in early 20th century Austria, you jump into the role of a fictional artist or scientist that is gifted with exceptional skills in four individual stories as they encounter particular moments in their lives that challenge them on a profound level.
The Lion’s Song is a narrative work of fiction that is crafted as a series of four self-contained point & click stories that take place at a time when science and technology is just beginning to improve the lives of ordinary citizens. Like many games from developers TellTale Studios and the like, your choices have definite consequences and will affect the way in which your story unfolds. The four chapters of the game follows one of the four different characters that possess exceptional creative skills that are unmatched by any of their peers.
The stories that take place for these characters revolves around their search for honest human connections, their struggles to find unfaltering inspiration and the best methods for cultivating their creative abilities. You will have to dig deep and consider your choices more carefully as you navigate the stories because the decisions you make now will impact future chapters and games in the series.
If I haven’t made myself clear, the story in The Lion’s Song is superb and is the foundation that holds the other features of the game very solidly. One feature that you have undoubtedly noticed by now is the analogous art style that is used in the game. The dark shades gives the game a feeling of despair and uncertainty as well as a feeling that you are looking into a window in time.
Scenes in the game are simple by design and are crafted in a familiar pixellated art style that immediately invokes the imagery of the early days of video games. At the same time, there are enough elements there to allow for a decent amount of discovery as you try to determine where you need to click to progress the story.
There are no voice-overs in the game whatsoever as the dialogue is subtitled at the bottom of the screen for the most part. Some background chatter between characters will appear above their heads as text at times but most of that is superfluous to the main story. In addition, the music that accompanies the different scenes is often haunting and to the point and is never done in a haphazard fashion. What really stood out, however, are the ambient noises that help to shape the world that you are inhabiting for the duration of the game.
I cannot stress enough that you should use a good pair of headphones in order to take in all that the sound designers have on display in this game. You don’t want to miss out on hearing the clip-clop of horseshoes as they travel over a cobblestone road, the background hum of polite chatter in an art museum or the sound of the rain as the wind blows it through tree branches outside of the window of the cabin you are staying in.
Overall, the only issue that I can mention is the short duration of The Lion’s Song in total playing time. It will only take you about an hour to an hour and a half to complete each chapter (game length is about four to six hours in total to complete) so that may be a turn off to some people. However, one cool feature that impressed me is the fact that the game tells you the percentage of players that decide to go one way or another so that you can see how your decisions compared to other people playing the game as well.
In addition, you can choose to go back to that point in the game and change your decision in order to see how the story progresses from that point on with a different outcome. This adds only a slight amount of re-playablility to the game, to be honest, and will only appeal to those gamers that are completionists and who want to see every nook and cranny in the game. Most of us will be done after the first play-through, unfortunately.
Playing this game on the Switch in handheld mode is probably the best way to play it, even though it is available on PC, iOS and Android. Like I mentioned above, if you are looking for action in your game, you must look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for a game with an excellent story, a fairly decent ability to draw you in and keep you wanting more, and one that enables you to consider real-world, life challenges then The Lion’s Song is the game to play.
The big budget studios today don’t seem to know, or have just forgotten, that sometimes, bigger isn’t always better. With every game coming out being one that is intent on bombarding your sense with continuous flashing lights, explosions and combat, it’s nice to have a gaming experience that is more cerebral in nature while allowing you to step into the shoes of characters that are easy to identify with.
This review is based an a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Overcome struggles with creativity, human connections and inspiration.
Gameplay - 6/10
Challenge - 9.0/10
Design - 9.0/10
+ Great story and setting.
+ Art assets are striking and on point.
+ Sound effects and music are top notch.
- Total game time is very short.
- Lack of any "action" will deter some.