Developer: Greg Lobanov           
Publisher: Greg Lobanov
A Shell in The Pit
Platforms: PC (Mac/Microsoft), PS4, Xbox One & Nintendo Switch
Released: 28th September 2018
Genre: Adventure, Platformer, Indie, Story Rich

The goddess Eya has grown bored and is planning to end the world and start anew. There’s only one chance to stop it, a brave hero foretold by legend – sadly you’re not that hero. In Wandersong you play as a bard, that I named Lute, who wants to save the world whether it believes in him or not. You might not have a big sword, but you’ve got passion and a song to share. Accompanied by the ever-pessimistic witch Miriam, you travel the world to find pieces of the mysterious Earthsong. This game is split into seven acts, each in a unique location for you to explore, with new mechanics to use and new faces to make friends of. The world of Wandersong is beautifully vibrant, crafted with bold colours and a cute 2D-style that feel like they’ve been plucked from a storybook. The world reacts to your presence (and more importantly your music) which makes it feel incredibly alive, flowers, leaves, and animals all dance along beside you. Unfortunately, the character sprites aren’t properly sized and have jagged edges when played on a large enough screen. This can be distracting but doesn’t take away from the overall experience and isn’t a problem if playing handheld. Beneath the cheery aesthetic and whimsical concept of Wandersong run deeper themes of self-worth, self-identity, and destiny. It is a game about fighting when there’s no chance to win, of being hopeful for the sake of hope itself.

Each part of the world has a distinct theme and different musical mechanics to explore it. You’ll be channelling ghosts one day and steering a ship with song the next. Discovering new abilities feels like a natural progression of the characters and story, rather than just ‘unlocking’ something. Through this, and a steady incline in complexity, it’s able to keep things interesting. Most of the game follows the structure of travel somewhere new, explore and meet people, solve the problems with music, and learn another part of the Earthsong. Wandersong does keep things fresh with a diverse cast of characters, a sprinkle of humour, and a lot of puzzles.

The most important tool you have on your quest is your voice which can be utilized through the song wheel, at almost any point during the game. The song wheel is basic and consists of different brightly coloured segments that each produce a different note. Not only do you use this to navigate the world but to solve problems, talk with people, cure monsters, and even name yourself. The stick on my switch sometimes felt too clunky to navigate this wheel precisely, but it didn’t take much away from the game.

Hidden throughout the world you will meet a mysterious figure named Mask who teaches you a new dance at every interaction. While not necessary for the story, it was nice to hunt him down during each arc. Once learnt, you can whip these dances out whenever you want. From an endless pirouette to caramelldansen, they will only enhance whatever scene they are used in. I really appreciated this feature when the story got particularly bleak, it’s hard not to feel better while dancing, and even harder when it’s a jaunty jig.

Puzzles come in two forms: copying a tune on your song wheel or using it to manipulate the environment. It manages to do a lot with these two concepts though. Copying a tune can happen as game of musical memory, a rhythm game or just a casual jam session. These puzzles aren’t the purpose of the game and so Wandersong is forgiving if you mess up in some way. The worst you will face is being reset to a nearby save point.  As a puzzle platformer newbie, I appreciated this, but some players may grow bored without a challenge here.

Wandersong promises a lot in its music-focused premise and does not disappoint. The OST weighs in at 160 songs spread over 3 albums, all of which was composed by A Shell in The Pit. Every song from the epic, to the melancholy, to the joyful are united by their gentle flowing sound and fit perfectly into the storybook world. Being able to sing along with the music really brought it to life, even if my timing was never perfect. Sound Effects were created by Em Halberstadt in close co-ordination with the soundtrack. Sometimes it’s hard notice the noises of the world but not because they aren’t worth noticing, they blend so well with the music that they can feel like another instrument in themselves.

Wandersong is a game where you aren’t the hero but that’s okay. It is an incredibly unique experience and one that sticks with you after you finish playing. The world is beautiful and uplifting, crafted by people who clearly cared about what they were making. It’s the perfect game when you’re looking for something a bit more casual or if you’re looking for a pick-me-up.  If any of this review sounded intriguing to you, Wandersong won’t let you down.

Reviewed by Maylee Flannery @MayleeFlnnery on 24th June 2020

Trump Banned, Aussie Games Industry and Free Stuff

Donald Trump gets suspended on Twitch for hateful conduct

Trump typically uses the Twitch platform to broadcast rallies online as well as other events. After Twitter had reported to Twitch that his channel has been suspended Twitch released a statement saying, “Hateful conduct in not allowed on Twitch. President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.” There were two instances that constitute hateful conduct, one where Trump calls Mexican immigrants “rapists” from a 2016 campaign rally that was recently re-broadcast and a comment from a recent rally where he accused a hypothetical “very tough hombre” of “breaking into the window of a young woman whose husband is away” to illustrate a point about what would happen if people couldn’t dial 911. Twitch says, “Like anyone else, politicians on Twitch must adhere to our Terms of Service and Community Guidelines. We do not make exceptions for political or newsworthy content and will take action on content reported to us that violates our rules.

The Australian video games industry is skying rocketing in popularity

Working in the games industry is quickly becoming one of the most desirable career paths for Australians. Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (IGEA) says that 91% of Aussie household have a piece of video game hardware, the industry in Australia could be worth $24 billion by 2023, and they project that esports alone could reach $3 billion in just three years. A recent report from Lenovo is showing that 1 in 12 Australians between the age of 16 and 45 now say their dream job is in gaming. Which equates to over 800,000 people. Not to mention that recently the coronavirus pandemic saw more than 1.2 million people turning to gaming for social connections. Unfortunately, the federal government isn’t showing any support of the industry. Ron Curry the chief executive of IGEA says, “With the current government, it’s culturally embedded in them not to support video games. Our brightest and smartest talent is leaving and going offshore. There’s a whole number of ways games could be used beyond pure entertainment and I think that’s the exciting part of the industry and where those transferable skills are.” Hopefully, we soon see a change in the mindset around the games industry in this country.

Humble Bundle raises over $4.3 million for the Fight for Racial Justice

The charity bundle was launched in early June and ended with close to $4.4 million dollars. Humble said in a statement, “In the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmuad Arbery, and tragically many more in the Black community, we’ve teamed up with developers, publishers, and creators to help support organizations fight for racial equality.

Unity’s Learn Premium suite for game developers is now free

Learn Premium is an educational platform for everyone and anyone who is looking to create using the game engine. Unity made the move to help folks stuck at home during COVID-19 however they have now decided to keep the doors open indefinitely to help those looking to better their understanding of the Unity engine. For those of you interested in learning more click here.

Mixer shutdown, development funding and Comic books

Mixer shuts down and fuses with Facebook Gaming

As of July 22nd Microsoft’s streaming platform Mixer will be closing and intends to move existing partners over to Facebook Gaming. This shock announcement means that anyone partnered with Mixer or who streams on Mixer will be transitioned to Facebook Gaming which started on the 23rd of June. Phil Spence the head of Microsoft’s gaming said in an interview with The Verge, “I think the Mixer community is really going to benefit from the broad audience that Facebook has through their properties, and the abilities to reach gamers in a very seamless way through the social platform Facebook has.” All this is designed to compete with Twitch of course by combining the audiences of Mixer and Facebook Gaming they might stand a chance against the streaming giant. For anyone who currently has outstanding Ember balances, channel subscriptions or Mixer Pro subscriptions you will receive Xbox gift card credits. The biggest news of course is what do big names like Shroud and Ninja do since being paid to make the big move to Mixer? It is rumoured that they’ll be able to return to Twitch if they so choose, let’s wait and see what happens.

Kowloon Nights a global video game investment fund has launched a $2 million fund for Black creators

This fund is called the Fairchild Initiative and will support creators and studio that work with PC and console projects. Kendall Davis an advisor for Kowloon said in a statement, “Kowloon Night was founded on the idea of empowering creators to create memorable games and stories, and the Fairchild Initiative carries the same ethos. I am proud to lead this initiative with a focus on empathy, infrastructure, and mentorship.” Any development studio that is majority-owned by black creators who are looking to apply for the grant or seeking further information click here.

Cyberpunk 2077 has been delayed again

Cyberpunk 2077 has been moved to November 19th in a statement released from CD Projekt Red saying, “Those of you who are familiar with the way we make games know that we won’t ship something which is not ready. “Ready when it’s done” is not a phrase we say because it sounds right, it’s something we live by even when we know we’ll take the head for it.” They go on to say, “Our intention is to make Cyberpunk 2077 something that will stay with you for years to come. In the end, we hope you understand why we did what we did.” To see the full statement see image below.

In lighter news Cyberpunk 2077 will be getting a comic book adaptation called Trauma Team the series will be published by Dark Horse Comics and is set to release on the 9th of September this year. The comic is said to follow the story of Nadia and emergency medical technician for Trauma Team International, and the sole survivor of a failed rescue mission. She then agrees to continue work on a new mission and she finds herself and her team in an even more dangerous situation.

Not E3 Announcements and PAX Aus 2020 Postponed

Summer Game Fest, IGN Summer of Gaming and of course PS5 Announcements

That’s right let’s recap some of what’s been happening with the replacement E3 events this last week. Due to the coronavirus pandemic E3 2020 was cancelled earlier in the year however thanks to the awesome power of the internet streaming vir Twitch, YouTube and other platforms has made game publishers and developers game reveals, announcements and revolutionary game changes easier to broadcast despite the physical setbacks.

Let’s run through some of the highlights so far

Star Wars Squadron was announced by EA and dropped the reveal trailer teasing you with; space combat, X-wings, Y-wings, A-wings and more.

PS5 unveiling which showcases a design not yet seen in any other console made by Sony. If you haven’t already seen the memes circulating might I suggest checking it out. Jim Ryan the President of Sony Interactive Entertainment has said, “The PlayStation sits in the living room of most homes and we kind of felt it would be nice to provide a design that would really grace most living areas. We think we’ve been successful in that.”

Just before Sony PS5 reveal Xbox dropped another promo for the Xbox Series X showing off new footage of games as well as some gameplay.

PlayStation also revealed many games coming to the future gen console, some of the big ones to highlight are:

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales as a stand-alone game. PlayStation blog post says, “The latest adventure in the Spider-Man universe will build on and expand Marvel’s Spider-Man through an all new story, Players will experience the rise of Miles Morales as he masters new powers to become his own Spider-Man.”

There’s also Horizon Forbidden West the sequel to Horizon Zero Dawn this instalment will feature Aloy yet again travelling farther than ever before where she will encounter new wildlife, beautiful scenery, and of course captivating narrative.

Ratchet and Clank are back in a new game that will feature a story about multiple dimensions.

Other games coming to the PS5 are: Resident Evil Village (Sequel to Resident Evil 7), Hitman 3, Demon’s Souls Remake, GTA 5, The Last of Us Part III, Destiny 2, Gran Turismo 7, and NBA 2K21. There are many many more and if you’d like to check out the full list click here.

PAX Australia 2020 has officially been postponed

The PAX team posted a statement on the 16th of June saying, “It is with a heavy heart that today we announce the postponement of PAX Australia 2020, due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 in Australia and globally. While we can’t move forward with PAX Aus 2020 in the way we normally would, we are finding new and exciting ways to connect you and the PAX community with your favourite content and creators. Stay Safe and be kind.”

(Full Statement Below)

PlayStation Pays Up, Freeplay and Gamer Grandma

Sony has been ordered to pay up $3.5 million after falsely advertising games to Australian customers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that Sony customer service representatives told customers that Sony wasn’t required to refund digital currency if it had been longer than 14 days since the purchase. Every time a user would try to purchase a game on the PlayStation Store an email would be sent asking the user if they would like to “Top Up” their digital wallet. Little did they know that these funds added were “non-refundable”. This notification would pop up when a user would try to purchase a game but had insufficient funds. Chair Rod Sims of the ACCC has said, “Consumer guarantee rights do not expire after a digital product has been downloaded and certainly do not disappear after 14 days or any other arbitrary date claimed by a game store or developer.” Sony has admitted liability and is expected to pay the ACCC’s legal costs as well as the settlement of $3.5 million.

Hamako Mori is the Guinness World Record holder for the oldest gaming YouTuber

At 90 years old Gamer Grandma plays her way into the record books, every day for 3 hours or more she plays games like Call of Duty, Skyrim, Grand Theft Auto or NeiR Automata. She then shares her experience on YouTube for her more than 320,000 fans. Hamako says that she is really looking forward to getting the PlayStation 5 when it comes out. She also says, “you can do whatever you want in a game, games is what makes me motivated in life.” Congratulations Hamako on your world record.

Freeplay Independent Games Festival starts on the 10th of June

Freeplay is the world’s longest running independent games festival based in Melbourne and brings in the likes of many independent game developers. With so much on from public events, exhibitions, workshops, and awards the idea behind Freeplay is to bring all from within the games community and alike together to celebrate the artistry of indie development. This year is a bit different with everything being hosted online but if you’d like to look at what the schedule and the full details click here.

Itch.io have a Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality

This special deal features over 740 games with the value of over $3,000 for just $5 all in order to raise money to help support organizations that are working directly with those affected by racial injustice, inequality and police brutality against black people. All the money raised will be donated to NAACO Legal Defence and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund. If you are looking to support this cause or maybe you are a developer interesting in adding your project to the bundle click here.