When I talked to Riot Forge Creative Director Rowan Parker earlier this year, he made it clear the publisher wanted to do justice to your favorite champion. He acknowledged that Nunu and Willump isn't the most popular pick for your average League of Legend player, but I'm willing to bet you'll start to see more of the duo after Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story.
That's because Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story is one of the most beautiful and captivating adventures I've played this year. In part, this is due to the stunning visual design by developer Tequila Works, but much of it is accredited to the wonderful relationship between Nunu and Willump, which is enough to warm even the Grinch's cold heart.
Adventuring Through Freljord in Song of Nunu
I love a good 3D platformer, and Song of Nunu takes DNA from that genre and infuses it into a linear, but overall satisfying adventure. This is not the most complicated or feature-rich platformer, but what's there is a nice companion to the charming narrative and outstanding visuals.
Weirdly enough, Song of Nunu reminds me a great deal of God of War: Ragnarok. Not because of its chilly, Nordic setting (though that plays a little part in the feeling), but because of the way it approaches its puzzles interwoven with bursts of combat and narrative.
Let me get one thing out of the way: combat is about as basic as it can get. Light and heavy attacks can be used on enemies during encounters; though, you won't get much of a chance to use these attacks as I could probably count the number of battles on my hands.
The real meat of the gameplay comes from clever puzzle design. Typically, you'll venture from one area to the next and, like God of War, you'll encounter large and beautiful rooms filled with interactable objects or platforming segments. A lot of these puzzles leverage Willump's yeti powers or Nunu's small size.
In other words, Willump is the Kratos to Nunu's Atreus; while solving puzzles Willump and Nunu work together as a team. This adorable duo will often banter and talk things out to give players a small hint for these puzzles, but nothing that'll give away the solution outright.
For some puzzles, you might have to use the momentum of a swinging object to platform to the other side of a room or hit switches to orient objects in the correct way -- it's nothing super complicated, but puzzles have just the right amount of difficulty that you're left feeling satisfied.
Willump has the power to plow throw barriers and create ice platforms on water and freeze waterfalls, but Nunu is just a normal boy. Thankfully, he has a flute that has very special powers, indeed. Runes and walls have notes inscribed on them, and by playing those notes with your flute, Nunu can create magical effects.
The flute adds a little extra to the puzzle design by tasking Nunu to play a series of notes, though I found myself having a little too much trouble playing them. There's four buttons total for the flute, but these notes can be combined to create new sounds and the designs of the notes change.
For the longest time, I couldn't remember which note was which. The designs are a little too ambiguous and don't correlate well with the button each note belongs to. One solution would be to replace these notes with the D-pad instead of the bumpers and triggers, or perhaps make the designs a bit more recognizable. Or better yet, give us a reference sheet to pull from and memorize.
Song of Nunu's Winter Wonderland
I will now proceed to gush about the art style for Song of Nunu, because it deserves nothing less. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the look of Song of Nunu. It's one of the most well-executed visual styles for a video game I've played this year, which is high praise considering there have been a lot of good video games coming out.
Allow me to make another God of War comparison: By all means, a snowy and desolate setting should be boring and monotonous, but God of War and its sequel found a way to make areas feel fresh. Song of Nunu is much the same as it portrays the forlorn, chilly region of Freljord in a diverse and exciting way.
Each area portrays Freljord in a fascinating way as we learn more about its wildlife, monsters, culture, and more. Near the start of the adventure, I was blown away by the atmospheric scenery; ships stuck inside giant frozen waves and beautiful glowing plants inside caves are just the beginning of what you'll see.
While the platforming in Song of Nunu isn't all that complex, the prospect of seeing what new spectacle lay ahead kept me going. Mind you, Song of Nunu isn't cutting edge with its graphics, but the overall design and aesthetic is executed so well that it won't matter.
It's a bit of shame to have encountered some major frame drops as I entered new areas or turned a corner in Song of Willump. With a game as beautiful as it is, I would have liked a consistent 144 FPS, but I think there might be an issue with loading in new areas without loading screens. That caused significant drops for a second, leading to some stuttering.
Willump and Nunu are the Stars of the Show
The handful of characters you'll meet -- including the eponymous duo Nunu and Willump -- are full of life in their animations and mannerisms. Nunu is a curious child brimming with life, though Willump was definitely the larger focus for this game. He's portrayed with so much detail and life, that I just fell in love with the big ol' guy.
When Nunu is walking on his own instead of on Willump's back, the yeti might take a rest while you're solving puzzles. Sometimes he builds snowmen or creates cave paintings as you're catching up to Willump. There's a lot of different silly animations to see. These animations didn't have to be in Song of Nunu, but these mannerisms speak to the care put into development.
This is a narrative-based adventure, so I was pleased to find a story that fleshed out Nunu and Willump's character a great deal. I certainly didn't expect a yeti that can only speak in goofy yeti noises to be such a heartwarming character. Of course, you'll come across other champions from League of Legends lore as well, which is always a treat for fans.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story Review | Final Thoughts
Song of Nunu doesn't reinvent the wheel, but it certainly excels on what it sets out to do. Indeed, with its outstanding art direction, it presents a worthwhile and heartwarming tale of a boy and his yeti while fleshing out the League of Legends universe just a bit more.
Song of Nunu: A League of Legends Story was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 7 hours of gameplay - all screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Outstanding Art Direction
- Simple, Yet Fun Puzzle Design
- Nunu and Willump are a Charming Duo
- Remembering Flute Notes is a Pain
- Some Frame Drops