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Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story (XS)

Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story (XS) - Review

by Lee Mehr , posted on 29 February 2024 / 1,679 Views

While still maintaining status on its own, Riot Games pushing League of Legends into TV and other supplementary titles has provided some beneficial uplift.  "A League of Legends Story" not only acts as a moniker for the ubiquitous MOBA but also for neat middle-market genre experiments by different developers (The MageseekerRuined KingConvergence).  The next gun for hire, Tequila Works, incorporates much of its past 3D action-adventure/platformer expertise for Song of Nunu's protagonist duo: Nunu & Willump.  Does this well-established team continue the brand's success?

Even the in medias res opening knows Song's heart and soul lies in this incredible pair: a young boy and a magical yeti-like creature.  Both have assumed the task of exploring the Freljord to find the fabled "Heart of the Blue;" with it, Nunu hopes to reunite with his beloved mother, Layka.  This MacGuffin is important not only for the duo but also the ice witch Lissandra, whose motivations aren't immediately clear.  Her persistence in both searching the land and invading Nunu's dreams implies bigger things are at stake.

Even when considering the grander fantasy tale or League lore drops, Nunu and Willump's personal dynamic is Song's strongest glue.  Think of it as an approachable The Last Guardian geared towards a younger audience.  Every genre idea it juggles – and there are many – is trying to reinforce Willump as an elemental guardian with a personality.  The majority of platforming and combat occurs while on Willump's back, he shields Nunu from blizzard gusts during forced walking segments, and there's also a dedicated hug button.  On occasion, even the main objective will take a backseat to a dedicated snowball fight, transforming Willump from partner to mini-boss with a health bar.

The comradery found in this presentation informs gameplay.  As a crossover between the flying bison seen in the Nickelodeon Avatar series and a frost-enchanted yeti, it's practically a reflex for Nunu to hop on Willump's back most of the time.  While combat is relegated to perfunctory light & heavy combos with aerials mixed in, at least there’s some pizzazz when accomplishing a well-animated finisher.  Willump's ability to cast freezing snowballs comes in handy when platforming through the environment as well; shimmying up frozen-over waterfalls or skipping across icicle buoys remain constants to advance ahead.  This relationship is also emphasized when they're distant from one another, especially when Nunu uses his magical flute for short puzzle segments. 

Again, how the gameplay reinforces this unique bond earns credit, but it's a shame that no one mechanic stands out.  Song is essentially replicating the kitchen-sink game design of early-2000s B-tier 3D platformers.  Sure, the excitement in going from pummeling feral wolves to sledding on top of Willump's back to solving an image-match puzzle is nice for variety's sake; and yet, rarely does it incorporate something noteworthy.  With a few exemptions, little of the exploration or puzzle-solving captures the imagination.  There are some nice collectibles off the beaten path, which also give subtle stat bonuses, but nothing really carries heft.  Even the otherwise-functional stealth segment can tap into that playful character inherent to older 3D platformers, yet still not really stick with you.  As if each separate element did just enough before being blended.

Similarly, the duo's relationship carries the story.  Despite not having a more familiar companionship arc - two distant individuals growing to lifelong friends - their ties strengthen by Nunu learning more about the Freljord's past.  Tying Willump's history of being the last of his kind and a de facto historian succeeds in establishing context for your actions.  There's a bit more gravity in seemingly trying to right past wrongs rather than everything feeling like mere lore dumps.  The way that's blended in with what’s essentially an expected children's fantasy yarn lends Song a bit more potency.

Sadly, the B plot and other secondary factors fall flat by comparison.  Suggestions of The Big Bad stalking the pair for non-malicious reasons is obvious from the start, but those motivations make her final confrontation a major dud.  Although this description may be a bit harsh, the way things line up in the finale & end-credits sequence imply the final act is missing; it’s more than standard sequel-baiting.  Like Lissandra's obscured motivations, Song's story has a bad habit of setting up development that many will anticipate hours in advance.  That mismatch is frustrating too because a modest 6-hour tale (near-completionist run) feels suitable for a title suggesting to strive beyond misguided fantasy tropes. 

At least those narrative shortcomings are buoyed by pleasant presentation.  While certainly not destined for end-of-year visual awards, the soft-texture look draping the Freljord's frozen tundra compliments a childlike whimsy.  It sticks to League's visual template, but the added sense of scale and subtle touches provide genuine atmosphere.  Every voice actor also earns their keep, especially Adrian Raio's Nunu (English); he ranks among the best child actors I've recently heard.  Cris Velasco's score hits the expected Disney-esque notes for a Nordic-themed adventure, but there's also a bouncy energy to it. 

As a supplementary piece of League fiction for this beloved pair, Song of Nunu can be a nice middle-market title to check out.  From the viewpoint of an old-school 3D platformer, it's an otherwise typical-yet-quaint ride more committed to impressing with its presentation than its mechanics.  The modest smorgasbord of platforming, puzzle-solving, fighting, sledding, and so on rarely does more beyond going through the motions; that said, how Tequila Works reinforces Nunu & Willump's comradery adds something to those routine segments.  Those inventive nuances will do just enough to prevent engagement from freezing over, but not much else.

Contractor by trade and writer by hobby, Lee's obnoxious criticisms have found a way to be featured across several gaming sites: N4G, VGChartz, Gaming Nexus, DarkStation, and TechRaptor! He started gaming in the mid-90s and has had the privilege in playing many games across a plethora of platforms. Reader warning: each click given to his articles only helps to inflate his Texas-sized ego. Proceed with caution.

VGChartz Verdict


This review is based on a digital copy of Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story for the XS

Read more about our Review Methodology here

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hellobion2 (on 02 March 2024)

Looks like a game to get when it's on sale.

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