Adventure Corner ~ Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story
Welcome to Adventure Corner, a column where members of the RPGamer staff can give their thoughts, impressions, and pseudo-reviews for various adventure titles that don’t come under our usual coverage. Adventure Corner is aimed at delivering opinions on a wide range of titles including visual novels, point-and-click adventures, investigative mysteries, and so forth.
In this edition of the column we take a look at Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story‘s snow-covered boy and his monster journey on PC.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story
Since its launch in 2009, League of Legends remains one of the leading names in MOBAs. With this success, Riot Games decided to take a step forward by creating Riot Forge Games, which now acts as the publisher for the ever-expanding universe of League of Legends. Developed by Tequila Works, Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is a narrative-driven puzzle platformer set to join this expanded universe.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story follows the titular Nunu, a young member of the Notai tribe, and his blue yeti friend, Willump. The Notai people appear nomadic, with close ties to the icy tundra they live in. While the story seems to allude to more Notai existing somewhere in the world, no members outside of Nunu’s mother show up during the game’s runtime, which gives a strong narrative tie between Nunu and Willump, who happens to be the last yeti in existence.
The tale of Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story follows these two friends who become more like family as they search for the elusive Heart of the Blue. At night, Nunu dreams of his mother, who tasks them with this mission but doesn’t give enough information outside of a few landmarks for the two to find direction. As the two journey on their quest, it becomes clear that Willump knows more about the Heart of the Blue than he’s letting on.
Luckily, previous knowledge of League of Legends lore isn’t required, and there’s even a glossary to define some terminology as it comes up. That said, the narrative beats of Song of Nunu are overly predictable and delivered in a way that is more than a little annoying. While there are some well-crafted cutscenes, the game has multiple sections over its seven-hour run time where pushing forward on the controller moves the character ahead at a snail’s pace as the story continues. While this is fine in small doses, Song of Nunu relies on this mechanic multiple times within the same area, causing it to lose its luster quickly, and the game would have been just as effective without having the player interact at all.
Willump talks through different animal noises, such as grunts, whimpers, and roars, for he’s a yeti incapable of human speech. Nunu can understand him, however, and will translate these sounds for the player. Turning on subtitles reads more like the script given to the voice actors rather than text meant to help the deaf and hard of hearing. Nunu’s dialog contains phrases such as beat, referring to a three-second pause, and Willump’s grunts translate to emotional direction words like sadly. Neither do little to help those who genuinely benefit from subtitle inclusion. It’s a bizarre design choice that curiously made it to production.
Gameplaywise, Song of Nunu is extremely linear, focusing on puzzles with a side of combat and exploration. Nunu is equipped with snowballs he can use to shoot different glowing bulbs to trigger effects, as well as a flute that can be played to match notes very similar to instruments in The Legend of Zelda franchise. Willump, on the other hand, uses his claws to break ice, scale rock and icy surfaces, and battle against threats.
Puzzles, which are the core of the gameplay, utilize both characters’ abilities to decent effect. For example, Nunu’s flute can transfer ice from one location to Willump, who can then carry it to another. Playing it again at specific locations can release the ice and form things like arms for a statue or a bridge to cross along a path. The puzzles are done well, which can’t be said about the rest of the gameplay.
For the most part, Willump and Nunu navigate the world separately, with the player primarily controlling Nunu while Willump moves on his own to scripted locations. Again, at scripted locations, Willump will place Nunu on his shoulders, handing control over the yeti to the player. This is yet another odd design choice, as instead of the game giving players the freedom to play as Nunu, Willump, or teaming them up, it wrests this away to ensure the right tools are available, rather than letting the player figure it out on their own.
The game takes this removal of freedom one step further by resetting the player if they fail to do precisely what the game wants the player to do. During the adventure, there are certain points where Nunu goes bobsledding on Willump down a snowy hill. There are certain breaks in these courses where, with enough momentum, players can send Willump flying and cut to a further part of the course. However, as that threshold is crossed, the game kicks the duo back to the last checkpoint, forcing Nunu and Willump to follow the longer path and killing all the joy of finding a shortcut.
Unfortunately, gameplay is erratic and doesn’t give players enough time to get used to anything before being thrown into another gameplay type. A good example of this issue is that most of the game plays out with Nunu and Willump solving puzzles; however, later in the adventure, a stealth section, à la Metal Gear Solid, rears its unpolished head. With little direction or advice given, even though it’s the first time it appears in the game, thirty minutes later, it doesn’t matter as the game never has the player do a section like this again. Due to predictable story beats, odd gameplay design choices, and not allowing players to master most of the various mechanics in the game before the end credits roll, it’s hard to recommend Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story to anyone who isn’t already a fan of the source material.
Disclosure: This article is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.