Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
November 1, 2023
League of Legends (LoL) started its life in 2009 as a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) inspired by the popular World of Warcraft mod, DOTA. The title is now popular enough that its led to a whole bunch of tie-in media, like the popular animated TV series Arcane. There’s been a few games spun-off from LoL and Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is the latest, a game from the Spanish development team Tequila Works. Song of Nunu is a single-player adventure exploration game. Nunu and his Yeti friend Willump are set on an adventure across the Freljord, a frozen tundra, to try and find the Heart of the Blue. Does the Song of Nunu thaw the hearts of his enemies, or will he sing the blues til kingdom come?
In Song of Nunu, you control Nunu, a child from the Nomadic tribe called the Notai. His mother, Layka, guides him on his journey with his friend Willump, the last of the Yetis. The pair are travelling through the Freljord, one of the many regions within the League Universe, as they make it towards the Winged Mountain. Within the mountain is the Heart of the Blue, something that both Nunu and Willump don’t actually know much about. The only thing they do know is that it’s a mysterious artifact that Layka said is important.
Now, one of the major concerns most people will have about this game is, do they need to play League of Legends to understand what is going on? And luckily, with Song of Nunu, I can say that you do not. While there will be some winks and nods to the MOBA, you won’t be left in the dark. Tequila Works has crafted a Glossary section in your Notebook. Here you’ll find information about characters and creatures you meet throughout the game, like Braum, a hero who travels the Freljord hoping to make the land peaceful again. You’ll also get information about locations like the Freljord, and concepts you’ll encounter through your adventure like True Ice, a substance known to be the strongest in the land.
The game’s glossary is helpful for players who might not play the MOBA, or those who are forgetful or confused. There’s also a tutorial section within the menu and there’s collectibles scattered throughout the game. If you decide to stray from the path, you might find Murals, large paintings on rocks that depict an event or person. There are also missing Poros, cute creatures who you can feed Poro-Snax to. By feeding them, you’ll gain a little picture depicting each area you find it in. The last collectibles are songs. These are chimes that Nunu can recite by using his Svellsongur (a magical flute). Through the songs and murals, you’ll learn a little bit more about the Notai tribes and the Freljord.
Song of Nunu has a variety of gameplay mechanics to use throughout. One of the main mechanics of the game involve using Svellsongur to solve song puzzles. There might be rocks that display a pattern, or the pattern is hovering over the puzzle. Each pattern will depict a note you can use by pressing a button on the controller. Each one is easy to decipher if you do forget. Using the flute to solve these problems will allow you to continue on through to the next area. Another mechanic used throughout the game is throwing snowballs. This serves various functions, one of which is to freeze sections of water so you can make a pathway from one area to another. The other is the ability to hit objects like gongs to alert people or move levers. However, the main use of these snowballs is to have snowball fights with Willump.
“The score is beautiful, and it’s really one of those video game soundtracks that people can use when they need to focus.”
These snowball fights are hilarious, as Nunu pretends to be an MC for a boxing match. And they break up the exploration side of the game. But the controls on the Switch aren’t fantastic when it comes to handling these fights. Sometimes Willump will hit Nunu even though the snowball actually hit the ground. The inconsistencies killed my enjoyment of this non-optional, little mini-game.
The game also involves combat, though it’s quite easy to wrap your head around. Throughout the game, one of the frequent adversaries you encounter throughout the cold tundra are Ice Wolves. These wolves hunt in packs and are pretty ruthless. However, instead of controlling Nunu in these moments, you actually control Willump. Nunu will ride on top of his friend, as Willump attacks the wolves, and his attacks are pretty strong. You even have “finishing moves”, with cute and short cutscenes that also involve Nunu. Combat for some might be too easy, but Song of Nunu doesn’t sell itself as a “combat-heavy” game. Not so much a cozy game, but not a game where combat is a driving force behind it either. Similar to the snowball fights, controls are difficult to handle, especially when you’re in tight sections. If you are felled, it’s not a game over, as Nunu can revive Willump, though you don’t gain 100% of your health back. If you do happen to fall off a ledge, the auto-save function is very generous.
Tequila Works does have a setting under accessibility called “Story Mode”. Turning this option on allows characters to never take damage. Of course, with the limited amount of combat sections, it might seem pointless to have, but it can be crucial for some. Additionally, Tequila Works’ accessibility settings are one of the best I’ve seen. Disappointingly, you can’t remap the controls on Switch. But you can change what controller type you want to use. The other accessibility options in Song of Nunu are changing the size of captions, altering background and text colour, a colour blind mode, removing QTEs or changing it from rapid presses to a hold, assists with combat and climbing, as well as visual hints.
For a team of less than 100, it’s awesome to see some well-thought-out accessibility options that aren’t only subtitles and gameplay difficulty. Even having a colourblind mode is awesome, since a lot of games do tend to ignore that issue.
While playing, I did experience spikes of lag. While it didn’t happen all the time, it would happen in a lot of the more dense areas. Lag happened more while docked to the TV than playing in handheld. Other issues faced while playing included some puzzles needing a few restarts to finally get Willump to do his part. Another weird issue I experienced happened when collecting the last mural. Halfway through there was an audio glitch where Nunu is visibly talking, but no subtitles or sound. Unfortunately, I never got to find out what happened at the end of that collectible quest as you can’t replay the scene.
With that said, Song of Nunu is still a gorgeous game. There were moments where close-up shots of characters would show pixelated clothes or detail, whereas other characters were in higher definition. Though I imagine this to be a problem isolated to the Switch version. But, the game is downright stunning in some areas, especially when they’re trying to show off a particular scene. And it’s evident that the aesthetics and design choices fit within the style of not only the MOBA, but in others works like this one. One of the character details I loved is seen in the hat Nunu wears, where his ears will often move with his emotions. If he’s sad, the ears will point down – shocked, they’ll point up. It’s such an interesting detail and a fun way to convey emotion subtly.
The game is segmented into five chapters that end when the characters sleep. Nunu will dream about speaking to his mother. This is where you find out more information on what exactly Nunu is up to, and who his mother was. But, you’ll also notice that Nunu isn’t exactly alone in his dreams, as there’s something else listening into the conversation. These sequences often end with Nunu reliving the very same memory of his mother passing.
Through these dreams, as well as throughout the game itself, Nunu’s voice actor is phenomenal. Players can feel connected with him, even if you’re not a LoL fan. By the end of the game, I was barracking for the guy and wanting him to win and find the Heart of the Blue. Whatever that ends up being. Willump doesn’t have dialogue, often speaking in grunts and sighs. But the subtitles display the tone of his voice. This is helpful for those who might not understand exactly what Willump is saying. But Nunu understands him, like Han Solo and Chewbacca. Along with the voice acting, the actual sound design is beautiful. The way snow sounds as you step in it, magnificent! The score is beautiful. The Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra performed the score. It’s one of those video game soundtracks that people can use when they need to focus.
Song of Nunu is a good game, and while short, it never overstays its welcome. You can complete the game in less than six hours (give or take), a great game for lunch breaks or your commute. While some might be apprehensive about it telling a story too enriched in the League of Legends universe, Song of Nunu is approachable for all. It’s a game that’s great for people who like LoL or want to get into it, but might feel too scared to jump into the MOBA!
- Great work with accessibility
- Musical score is touching
- Compelling story
- Voice acting really tugs at your heart strings
- Puzzles couldn't complete due to AI routing issues
- Graphics and framerate issues at points
While Song of Nunu tells a story set in a pre-established League of Legends universe, players who have never played the MOBA won’t be lost in this magical journey. There are some issues throughout the game including glitches and framerate, but the musical score and voice acting is superb. A healthy amount of accessibility options also helps to ensure Song of Nunu shines for all gamers. It won’t change the landscape of the League of Legends brand, but it does elevate and diversify, bringing something non-fans and fans alike can enjoy!